The STATE of Soccer in WASHINGTON
In recent months there have been behind the scenes movements towards bringing indoor soccer to an actual spectator arena in Puget Sound. Can the old days of the Tacoma Stars come back like the old days of the Sounders have?
The Wash is an opinion column by David Falk. Go here to see other entries.
There is a plan out there to bring MISL soccer back to the Tacoma Dome. There is a different plan to bring the Tacoma Stars back into a spectator arena. In the meantime, the sport of indoor soccer remains off of the radar even amongst local soccer fans.
I was contacted by the leader of a group a few months back who had looked into the idea of putting a MISL side (the league is now run under the United Soccer Leagues umbrella, and has seen a bit of a bump in the east) back into the Tacoma Dome. The last time an indoor side played there was in 1992 when the Tacoma Stars were on the tail end of their life as a franchise. Even then the glory days of the mid to late 1980′s seemed like a lifetime ago. The leader wanted my opinion on how Tacoma might respond to a season ticket drive to get a team. I was not hopeful in my replies.
While the Sounders of Major League Soccer have been able to not only tap into the lore of the NASL Sounders but actually surpass it, could the same happen for Tacoma and its indoor history with the Stars? A quick look at the state of indoor soccer these days leads to an even quicker diagnosis: unlikely.
The indoor game is fragmented into leagues that run across the country, with scores of disbanded clubs, rule changes, arenas, indoor soccer centers, and underfunded ownerships groups. On the West Coast are the San Diego Sockers of the PASL, a club with great tradition behind the name but small crowds today by previous standards. In the midwest are the Milwaukee Wave. In the east are the Baltimore Blast. The rest are along for the ride, hoping to gain and keep an audience.
The MISL has been folded and revived many times. The PASL is trying to morph into a top league via the Sockers. The MISL has no presence in the west, though the Sockers could change that if they can get a couple of teams to follow them.
Then we have the Tacoma Stars. Like the Sounders they can point to a time when life was very good. A time when 15-20,000 fans regularly packed the Tacoma Dome. Now the Stars play in the PASL, at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila, where admission is free but most of the audience must stand due to lack of arena seating. The Stars have hopes under Marian Bowers and Todd Stauber that they can conduct their own Puget Sound indoor soccer revival. They have done preliminary research into playing at the Showare Center in Kent, where the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL play hockey. (The Stars will play the final two home matches of their PASL season this weekend at Starfire against the Anaheim Bolts.)
It’s a tough situation for the Stars, who should really be in Tacoma. The Tacoma Dome is just too big and likely too expensive, and the city of Tacoma has shown no official movement in efforts to “shrink” the venue and make it more desirable for smaller events / configurations.
If the Stars ended up in Kent they’d go head to head with hockey. Last week the Seattle Times broke news on the possiblity of a new Seattle arena and the return of the NBA and debut of the NHL in the Emerald City. The sports landscape could be incredibly crowded in the winter within the next few years.
Is indoor / arena soccer a valid spectator sport in Puget Sound, enough to warrant the use of an actual spectator arena? While I sure wouldn’t mind seeing someone give it a try, I don’t think I would line up to be an investor.
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