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The Elbert Files: RAGBRAI and soccer


Midwinter musings about this year’s RAGBRAI route and Kyle Krause’s soccer stadium:


I’ve never ridden the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, but for many years retired Register writer Larry Fruhling and I were the crew for an odd gang of former newsies and friends. 


We were called Team Larry, and members spanned the country from Arlington, Va., to San Jose, Calif. One year, a Texas judge rode with us. A sizable portion of our mismatched group lived in the Twin Cities, including team co-founder Kathy Berdan and our legal counsel, who traveled in an Airstream trailer and was a Lebanese version of Hunter S. Thompson’s lawyer friend in “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.”


Larry and I drove the team van and played nine-hole golf on Iowa’s rural country club circuit. We also controlled the Team Larry kitty, which was spent on beer, gin and tonic – the official sports drink of Team Larry – cigarettes, ice and Pringles potato chips. 


When Larry’s health prevented his continued participation, retired Register photographer Warren Taylor signed on as my RAGBRAI golfing partner. Larry died in 2018 and Warren died last fall. Both were saluted at their funerals by bike-helmeted members of Team Larry.


But I digress. Back to this year’s RAGBRAI route, which stretches across northern Iowa from Sergeant Bluff to Lansing.


Most years RAGBRAI, which takes place the last full week of July, zigzags across the state on daily rides of between 50 and 80 miles with one day that has an optional 100-mile loop. 


This year, the loop is not optional. You either ride 100 miles or sag on one of the trailers that carry disabled or disheartened riders to the next overnight town.


The 100-mile ride is between Emmetsburg and Mason City. The actual distance between those cities is about 75 miles on U.S. Highway 18. The ride route will add 20-plus miles by jogging north and south along the way. 


There is one 77-mile day. The other five days are each 50-some miles. It doesn’t matter if the crow-fly distance between overnight towns is 27 miles (Pocahontas to Emmetsburg) or 54 miles (Sergeant Buff to Ida Grove), the RAGBRAI route is 50-some miles each day.


Good luck to all, and I pray there are no 100-degree days.


Soccer stadium:


Kyle Krause’s proposed soccer stadium seems a bit premature, not to mention underwhelming.  


Krause announced recently that he has secured a franchise with the United Soccer League for a professional team that will begin play in 2024. 


A $75 million stadium is part of the agreement, and Krause announced that it will be the centerpiece of a $535 million development on an EPA Superfund site south of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Construction is slated to begin later this year, he said. 


The stadium and commercial development will occupy 43 acres of a 200-acre toxic chemical site where steel wheels and farm chemicals were once manufactured. 


During the 1980s, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said the area was too contaminated by toxic chemicals for further use and placed an asphalt containment cap on the ground. The EPA also placed stringent rules on future uses, which remain in place today.


The city acquired the property last year and, with EPA approval, removed long-abandoned buildings.


Negotiations to sell the land to Krause are underway, as are discussions about what additional steps are needed before construction of the soccer stadium can begin, said city spokesman Al Setka. 


“There is a lot of enthusiasm for the stadium, but there is still a lot to be done,” he said.


I say the stadium is underwhelming because its 6,300 seats are fewer than either Principal Park (11,500), home of the Iowa Cubs Triple-A baseball team, or Wells Fargo Arena (15,000), which hosts professional basketball and hockey teams. 


Although the stadium will include skyboxes, its capacity is still one-third of Drake Stadium (18,000), smaller than two area high school stadiums – Valley, 8,000, and Waukee, 7,500 – and well below the 60,000-70,000 capacities of Iowa State and Iowa football venues.

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