The rapid growth of soccer at all levels in the U.S. is undeniable. Its popularity has tripled over the last decade, according to a recent Gallup poll, and Major League Soccer (MLS) is the fastest-growing professional sports league in the country. But soccer is still a relatively new sport in the U.S. and doesn’t yet generate the kind of revenue that football, basketball, baseball, and even hockey does. While that can make for a challenging business model, MLS is proving that there is a place for it in this country’s professional sports landscape.
The same can be said for the USL and its member teams. While the league has enjoyed a rapid rise to prominence and success, it has done so partly because it fills a need in sports and entertainment by providing a quality product at a reasonable price. This is certainly a logical and effective way to quickly build a fan base, but it also puts more of the financial burden on the individual ownership groups and in some cases, the municipality, to bridge the financial gap during those early years.
In most cases, the stadium will be the team’s largest expense. While some are able to play in an existing facility, it is rare that such a situation would be ideal. Others prefer to build their own venue. But that often costs tens of millions of dollars and takes more than two years to design and build. Some ownership groups and cities are in a position to take on such a project. But for others, it is a non-starter!
So why do communities, large and small, continue to pursue these expensive sports endeavors? The answer is because sports and entertainment play a critical role in the quality of life, as well as economic and workforce development, in America’s cities and towns. Having a professional sports team woven into the fabric of the community is an important part of that equation. But as important as it is, when a multi-million-dollar stadium becomes part of the expectation, it can quickly become a political battle. And if political leaders have to choose between a major stadium project and critical services like public safety, schools and other core services, they are likely going to choose the latter every time.
But what if there was an alternative to traditional construction that allowed stakeholders to build a community stadium asset in a fraction of the time, at a fraction of the cost, and without sacrificing quality or the spectator experience that fans have come to expect?
Modular, or purpose-built, stadium design can serve as a short-term or long-term solution and provides organizations with all the amenities of traditional stadium design, including a combination of premium seating and bleachers, VIP skyboxes and hospitality suites, party decks, locker rooms, restrooms, concessions, ticketing and other solutions that used to be limited to brick and mortar stadiums. A purpose-built, soccer-specific stadium can be built right on the ground in a matter of weeks, not months or years, and is compliant with local building codes. The modular design is completely customizable, enabling the client to define a desired configuration and seating capacity, with the flexibility to easily expand that capacity with the addition of more seating as the fan base and resulting demand grows.
Modular design allows cities and sports franchises that may not have substantial funding a chance to build a presence in the community and establish a reliable revenue stream in the short-term without the burden of financing a massive stadium project. And modular construction can even be blended with traditional construction to create a hybrid design, taking advantage of the best of both worlds, while limiting the cost.
Tim Miller, Director of Business Development, InProduction