Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Close Rival Would be Nice, but Omaha?

For those that missed it, Omaha's mayor is trying to get his city into the MLS expansion talks. Jim Suttle cites the cities United Football League team's attendance as a reason Omaha should be considered for MLS expansion. The Nighthawks have averaged 23,000 for their first two games, both sell outs, at Rosenblatt Stadium. Suttle says that the cities new baseball stadium, TD Ameritrade Park would be perfect for an MLS.

While it'd be nice to have a team closer than 8 hours, I just have to laugh at Suttle's comments. The Wizards playing at a baseball stadium the past few years, while better than the situation at Arrowhead, has not exactly been a shining moment for the franchise. So a team playing in one permanently would be even worse. The Nighthawks will move to the stadium in 2011, and it's field would go down the first baseline, so it's likely that any MLS field would as well. But a stadium designed for baseball is going to give a lot of bad views for soccer.

On top of the stadium issues, there's the fact that Omaha would be by far the smallest metropolitan area in the league. Even when you factor in the Lincoln metropolitan area just over an hour away, the area only has a population of 1.15 million people. Salt Lake City is the next smallest city with 1.13 million people, and that's not factoring in the fact that Sandy, UT, the location of RSL's stadium is about half way to Provo, UT, which adds another half a million to the potential fan base. So Omaha would easily be the smallest city, and at this point in MLS' development they are looking more towards TV markets that can help the league, which is why cities like New York, Atlanta, Miami, Phoenix, and St. Louis have been mentioned lately in expansion talks.

In the end though, outside of those issues, Omaha could still get a team, the biggest thing they'd need is an owner/investor willing to invest in the league. Get a person willing to invest the money into the team and it's certainly possible to get a team. As I said, it'd be nice to have a team close enough for a day trip drive, and a 3 hour trip to Omaha certainly fits that bill, but I just don't really see that happening. KC fans though will at least get that rivalry in some form as they'll have the Missouri Comets-Omaha Vipers rivalry this winter.


paul_bunyar said...

It's funny that none of these stories have included the possibility of building up Creighton's soccer stadium — although that would take quite a buildup since right now it seats about 6,000. That stadium has seats only on one side, so it could be expanded. Of course, I'm sure there are all kinds of issues with that being on a private school campus, etc.

Ron Bishop said...

I agree with paul_bunyar. Creighton's soccer specific stadium is quite nice and looks like it could be easily upgraded to 15,000+ I saw the USWNT vs Sweden in July and there were 6,500+ people. Both stadium sights are in the area of Omaha being redeveloped and within walking distance of new hotels.

'd like to see the MLS continue with a "pod" type of expansion - just like how there is a "Seattle, Vancouver, Portland" A Kansas City, Omaha, Chicago ( maybe St. Louis)" pod would be great for rivalries and road trips for opposing teams.

I think Omaha could be a nice expansion for MLS. Remember it would be a few years into the future. Omaha has a nice regional draw. Unlike "big markets" there is less competition for audience - think OKC Thunder or RSL. They don't have to be the biggest MSL team, just successful.

I think this does illustrate how fortunate KC is to have had a visionary like Lamar Hunt bring soccer to KC and then OnGoal to continue and expand soccer here.

Because I think Don Gerber thinks of the midwest as "flyover" country and KC would have a very difficult time starting a team nowadays