The Wash is David Falk’s take on the world of soccer in The WA.
by David Falk
The obstacles are daunting, but that isn’t stopping the Tacoma Stars from launching a fully professional indoor soccer club onto the Puget Sound soccer scene. The club recently announced their return and that they would be partnering with the Tacoma Rainiers to run the business side of things.
Now comes the hard part. By hard, I mean seemingly impossible. Can the Stars help expand interest in indoor soccer at the local and even regional or national level? When the Sounders came into MLS in 2009 they joined a league slightly on the rise, thanks in part to the immediate and consistent attendance numbers of Toronto FC. Since then Seattle’s huge crowds and merchandise sales have been part of a major move forward for that league. In their own way, on a much smaller scale, can the Tacoma Stars repeat that for indoor soccer?
There are hurdles. Or, are they Rainier-like mountains? The current league, the Major Arena Soccer League, is coming off of a messy season that even had repercussions locally. Remember the debacle that was Seattle Impact FC? Despite what was reported as a pleasant, positive league meeting, things have quickly fractured again for the MASL, where flagship club the Baltimore Blast previously said they are leaving to form their own league via owner Ed Hale. Now it appears the MASL might opt to soothe various factions by allowing both franchised and non-franchised sides. (Read the roller coaster ride for indoor fans in this Big Soccer thread. Popcorn required.) The doubts remain: is the current MASL a workable model with some clubs in arenas and others in indoor soccer warehouses? With clubs spread out over the country? With millionaires and money-pinchers running clubs side by side?
An even bigger issue for the Stars is the current state of the sport itself. There was a time when indoor soccer was more popular than outdoor at the pro level in America, and because of this the “star” players were playing indoors. Tacoma knows all about this. How much memory mileage have the Stars and their older fans gotten out of the short time that Steve Zungul teamed up in the Tacoma Dome with Preki? Now indoor doesn’t have those kinds of stars, or the TV deals it might take to create new ones.
So what do the Stars have? They have a name, colors and logo with fondness attached. They have a city that has matured and even beautified itself over the years. They have the Tacoma Rainiers and their front office staff and a database of sponsors and ticket buyers. They have a sense of goodwill. They have good local people who want it to work and will work hard to make it happen.
Will that be enough? I guess that depends on your expectations. The Stars are indeed back at the pro level. Sure they will play in Kent rather than Tacoma, but it’s at least nearby. So that battle is won. Now we wait to see if there is a buzz. Then we watch to see if the MASL gets its act together. Then we look for signs of the Stars’ intent such as billboards, radio and TV exposure in the greater Tacoma area.
I am willing to invest in these new Stars as a fan, on an emotional as well as a limited financial level.
If I had lots of money, would I invest in an indoor pro soccer club right now? No. Not in Tacoma, not in Baltimore, not in San Diego. Not in 2015.
It’s up to brave folks like the new Tacoma Stars to win hearts and change minds.