A new Major League Soccer team in the Twin Cities? Why not. I have no interest in the sport myself, alas; if you ever see me at the new team’s match, watch my eyes, because I will be blinking a message in Morse Code along the lines of, “They have my family. I was forced to come.”
But my opinion is irrelevant. People like soccer. If someone wanted to bring Major League Sack Racing to town, and touted the excitement of watching people hop around in burlap sacks, I’d say, Knock yourself out! (Literally, if you trip and can’t break your fall.)
Same thing if someone brought Professional Jousting to the metro, and high schools started Jousting Leagues with NERF poles and bikes.
Anyway. Bring them all on, you think! The more sport, the better.
Then you pause. Then you remember what we’ve been through the past few years. Then you ask:
Uh — do they want a stadium?
OF COURSE, THEY WANT A STADIUM. Pardon the shouting, but really, have you learned nothing? We operate under the Oprah Winfrey Principle when it comes to sports facilities. You get a stadium! And you get a stadium! Everyone gets a stadium! The only question is whether we pay for it.
I know, I know: It’s cute that I called that a question.
My initial reaction to more stadium talk was immediate and instinctive: Just give it to them. No negotiation. No protracted arguments about who contributes what, no reassurance that the bonds will be paid off some time around the day when continental drift rejoins the American and Asian land masses, no happy stories about all the jobs that will be created.
I can’t take it anymore. I can’t go through this again. I cannot bear to read in the paper that the Stadium Bill Moves Through Committee, like an Accidentally Ingested Pine Cone Through the Digestive Tract.
Just do it (to coin a phrase).
If I was a government official in charge of dealing with a new stadium request, I would agree to a meeting with the stadium backers. I would begin the meeting by giving them a silver shovel for the groundbreaking ceremony, then I would get out the checkbook and ask how much they wanted.
“Uh, wow. Well. $250 million?”
“Here’s $300 million. Please take it. Just do it. Is there anything else? Is anyone trying to bring major league Unicycle Basketball to town? Because we can build another Target Center on top of Target Center. My nerves are shot. I’m not sleeping. Just take the checkbook. We’ll all just pretend it happened somehow and then there will be stories about an entrepreneur who got the contract to sell hot dogs at the stadium made from locally sourced slaughterhouse scraps and sauerkraut from urban farms on the North Side and everyone will feel good about it.”
The soccer backers look confused, and then the government official breaks into a grin.
“Just kidding! Heck, we knew this was coming. We built a soccer stadium in secret already, underground in some vacant lots. When you get the franchise, we’ll just winch it up to ground level. Here’s the keys. Catch!”
If they bring soccer here and build the stadium without public funds, then it will be a lesson: These things can be done without the league owners reduced to driving ’75 Dodge Darts and eating ramen.
But, if they do ask for public money down the road, you can’t blame them. They’d be remiss not to try. If you want to pitchfork-protest anyone, blame the legislators who could bark, “Hah! That’s funny. No,” but instead put a tax on soccer balls and come up with pulltab games (you can only scratch off the numbers with your feet or your head!) and otherwise shovel state shekels into another arena.
That said: Let’s just make a wild, mad, unsupported supposition, and assume some public money gets funneled into a soccer stadium. That means we might have some say over its design, no? To ensure that another sport doesn’t come asking for taxpayer money to build an arena, let’s take a good hard look at building the soccer facility to accommodate other teams.
For example: The soccer stadium may have real grass, which means dirt. It’s possible that 15 years from now, pogo-stick polo may be quite popular, and the impact of horses on pogo sticks would ruin the turf. A few horses have to be put down because a publicly funded stadium didn’t foresee that they could break a leg — well, there will be hearings.
We might see a new form of greyhound racing where the dogs are lifted aloft by drones and engage in aerial combat; this would suggest a roof is needed, and perhaps a retractable one if the rules permit wounded dogs to be flown directly to the vet.
How about Aussie Football? you ask. Well, we already have Australian Football, which is like ordinary soccer except it uses those laterally mounted, torso-anchored appendages called “arms.” It combines the exhausting running around of soccer with the airborne thrills of American football and the bloodletting of rugby, and it’s a mystery why it’s not more popular. Soccer purists probably sniff that using hands is like playing a piano concerto with your feet, but if you’re not a purist, you might note that soccer appears to be a game best suited for very lithe penguins.
The Australian Football League has not asked for a stadium, but they should get one. A big one. Why?
So the Gophers have a place to play when the TCF stadium is torn down in 2032 for a replacement.