Des Moines, Iowa - Izaah Knox is the executive director of the Urban Dreams human services agency, and he is on the USL Pro Iowa committee to bring professional soccer to Des Moines. His Op Ed, featured below, appeared in the Opinion section of the Des Moines Reigster on January 16, 2020. 

I grew up playing sports. Being part of a team and competing with and against others was one of the most powerful experiences of my life.

If I weren’t almost 43, I’d still be playing sports, because there’s something fulfilling and powerful about being on a team and working together to achieve a common goal. Some people think that the goal of competitive sports is solely to win. However, sports are so much more than winning and losing.

Sports build a community and foster pride. Sports teach valuable life lessons such as winning with character, losing with grace, working together and executing a plan. Moreover, sports have the unique ability to create human bonds that overcome the superficial barriers than can divide us, like age, political party, gender, race, socioeconomic status or religion. Barriers that, when broken down, create a place where we all can unite and be fulfilled.

Most importantly, sports teach us how to care about something more than ourselves.

This is why I find myself cheering for two proposed sports stadiums in our community: the joint Des Moines Public Schools and Drake University community stadium, and the USL Championship pro soccer stadium.

There are many reasons to support these projects:

  • I believe Des Moines Public Schools student-athletes and fans deserve the same caliber of facilities that their suburban counterparts have. They currently do not. It’s not even close. This new stadium will give DMPS student-athletes a level playing field.
  • For me, the concept of “home field advantage” is antiquated. Many schools share a field — I played at Kingston Stadium in Cedar Rapids, and our current Class 4-A state football champs, Dowling Catholic, share their home field, Valley Stadium, with their archrival.
  • The data shows that the more we can get youth, particularly at-risk and underrepresented youth, to participate in extracurricular activities and on college campuses, the more likely they are to see hope for themselves in the future. The Drake/DMPS stadium gives our community’s youth another accessible venue for competition, while the USL club and stadium give them something to aspire to.
  • Soccer has the most fans of any sport in the world. Soccer’s fan base is racially and ethnically diverse, spans all generations and is growing, just like our city. Attracting and retaining young and diverse talent in our city is vital to securing the future of Des Moines and Iowa. Venues for high-level soccer show a commitment to serving the cultural needs of our entire community.
  • The USL Championship League pro soccer stadium will be a fantastic asset for more than soccer. It will serve as one of the many incredible beacons in urban Des Moines, spurring development on the south side of downtown and providing another venue to leverage for cultural events.

The reason to support these projects that resonates with me the most is that both stadiums would create spaces for diverse individuals to gather and find commonality, community, and camaraderie through the transcendent power of sports. I believe that the potential to bring our community together means more than any single player, game, team or stadium. These projects are catalysts to making our community ever more welcoming and inclusive. Don’t underestimate the influence of soccer — it can improve our world.

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