A push is underway to attract a USL Championship men's soccer team to Des Moines. Photo special to the Business Record

With the announcement that Des Moines could get a multiuse sports stadium for a United Soccer League Championships franchise team, project leaders will begin working to secure public and private money.

On Wednesday, leaders and representatives from the league announced the launch of a USL Pro Iowa campaign to raise money for the $60 million project. Kyle Krause, chairman and CEO of Krause Group, the parent company of Kum & Go convenience stores, and Greg Edwards, president and CEO of Catch Des Moines, made the announcement. City and Polk County officials weighed in on funding from their respective government bodies. 

“We’re enthusiastic about the prospect of a USL Championship soccer franchise coming to our community,” City Manager Scott Sanders said in a statement. “The proposed location south of downtown would build on the long-range development efforts behind our PlanDSM initiative. 

“We look forward to discussing possible public funding mechanisms with our regional partners that would not rely on taxpayer dollars nor have an impact on current and planned City programs and services.”

Polk County Administrator Mark Wandro said the project’s leaders have talked with the county about the initiative, but no funding or commitment has been secured. 

“They’re in the absolute infancy from the county’s perspective,” Wandro said. 

Jacque Matsen, marketing and communications director for the Iowa Economic Development Authority, said she’s not aware of any applications for funding for the project yet. 

Funding and other support are at the crux of whether the league could establish a team here. 

What we know from the announcement

Krause, who has owned the Des Moines Menace for 25 years, would be owner of the new minor league soccer team.

A short timeline exists to show support in Des Moines for the proposed stadium project.

Backers of the effort have until April 1 to show the soccer league that support, financial and otherwise, exists in Central Iowa for a team and soccer stadium, according to USLProIowa.com. If the proposed stadium moves forward, construction would begin in August; league play would start in March 2022.

“Des Moines is primed and ready to take soccer to the next level,” Krause said in a prepared statement. “Bringing Des Moines a USL Championship club — Iowa’s first professional soccer team — and a multi-use stadium will have transformative benefits to Central Iowa, further boosting civic pride and the economic vitality of our growing city.”

United Soccer League is a professional men's league that began in 2011 and has 36 teams. It is considered a Division II Professional League, putting it under Major League Soccer. 

Des Moines has three other minor league teams: the Iowa Cubs, a Triple-A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs baseball team; the Iowa Wild, an American Hockey League affiliate of the National Hockey League's Minnesota Wild; and the Iowa Wolves, a minor league NBA team affiliated with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

"The development of a professional soccer stadium completes Greater Des Moines' legacy as the number one minor league sports community," Edwards said in a prepared statement. 

Catch Des Moines' Destination Master Plan, expected to be released this fall, identified one of the city's needs as a soccer stadium located in downtown Des Moines, according to USLPRoIowa.com, a website developed to promote a USL team in Des Moines.

Development of the proposed soccer stadium, which would be located near the intersection of Southwest 14th Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway, would generate at least $9.9 million in total spending annually, a regional feasibility study conducted by Johnson Consulting shows. The stadium would increase tourism in Central Iowa and showcase Iowa by attracting regional and national events, backers said.

The proposed stadium with state-of the-art audio and video systems would include 18 suites, club seating and a fan zone.

Krause plans to contribute to the startup costs for the club as well as provide a "substantial funding mechanism" for development of the stadium, a spokeswoman said. Private donations are being sought as well as financial support from the state, Polk County and the city of Des Moines, she said. 

The land proposed for the stadium is currently owned by Minneapolis-based Sherman Associates Inc., which is developing Gray’s Landing, a project that includes hotels, offices and commercial buildings. The proposed stadium is also north and east of Hubbell Realty Co.’s Gray’s Station, an 84-acre urban neighborhood under construction that includes apartments, townhouses and single-family houses.

“This project has the potential to be a fantastic local, regional and national destination in downtown Des Moines for Iowans and our future workforce,” said Claire Brehmer, Hubbell spokeswoman. “We’re even more excited that it may be a neighbor to our downtown community, Gray’s Station. There are many projects — like water trails, the skatepark and more — coming to life, and the professional soccer stadium would be a great addition.”

About two years ago, a stadium for high school athletic events had been touted for the area, which is just east of the the Dico Inc. Superfund site. Des Moines city officials have also discussed building a new police station in the area.

An exploratory committee has been formed to determine other uses for the proposed stadium, a spokeswoman for Krause said. Other events such as football games, cultural events and festivals could be held there, she said.