MLS supporters drool over big names who might one day grace the league. We bicker over managers and, increasingly, about the front office deciders who make the juicy personnel calls. We love to go a few rounds over broadcast talent.
These are usually the domestic issues that keep the blogs and their comments sections busy, the top targets for debate among supporters and the chattering class.
But the wisest among us understand something that has been true since day one in Major League Soccer: Nothing is more important in the big picture than stadium development. Nothing.
Stadiums are the lifeblood of long term fiscal health. They convey a permanence of the brand, which is critical. And perhaps most importantly, although the value of this part is difficult to measure, clubs just are not taken as seriously when they exist as renters (rather than owners) in their respective markets.
There will come a time when the balance shifts, when national TV contracts become more important than facility development in driving Major League Soccer’ forward movement. But we aren’t there yet. Which is why Monday’s big announcement out of Los Angeles is so important.
The expansion Los Angeles Football Club have confirmed media reports on a planned, privately funded 22,000-seat stadium, providing the brick-and-mortar home – and a fancy one, at that – for the new club that is scheduled to begin in 2018.
A few thoughts on what this means for Major League Soccer:
– The early renderings, revealed Sunday night by the club via social media channels, look amazing. That translucent roof, the club name emblazoned regally atop, with the glittering lights of downtown L.A. in the background? Yeah, we’ll take some of that. It looks amazing.
That said, renderings have a way of evolving. Or devolving, as it were. The known unknowns and unknown unknowns of construction costs begin nipping at the budget and before you can say “LA rivalry,” the final product can look more “regular” sized than “super-sized.” We’ll see.
– The Los Angeles Times reports the cost of the facility, near the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, to be $250 million. By contrast, the San Jose Earthquake’s just-opened Avaya Stadium, slightly smaller in scale and on less expensive real estate, cost $100 million. The price tag or Sporting Kansas City’s high-tech park has been reported at $200 million.
– It remains unclear whether Minnesota or L.A. will enter first: MLS commissioner Don Garber had said previously that one would debut in 2017 and the other in 2018. Atlanta is also scheduled to enter league play in 2017.