Funding soccer stadium this way would be no sin
On the Mark — By Craig Marks
If it gets the go-ahead from Summit County Council, voters will be asked to pass a “sin tax,” a 20-year tax on alcohol and cigarettes that would generate $100 million for a professional soccer stadium in northern Summit County. It’s an interesting idea, but I’m just not sure the timing is right. A plan to build a soccer stadium partially funded with public money might have made more sense earlier, like when we were still under British rule.
While professional soccer is making inroads in the States, it’s still far behind other sports in our hearts. But it may receive a big boost this week, with superstar David Beckham joining the Los Angeles Galaxy of Major League Soccer (MLS). Signed to a $250 million contract, he is one of the two soccer players even nonfans have heard of, the other being Buddy, the goal-scoring golden retriever of Disney’s “Air Bud: World Pup.”
But for Beckham to come to our area, he would need a place to play, and you can see what the stadium proponents have in mind at www.neoprosoccer.com. It’s an impressive-looking building, a little reminiscent of the Jetsons’ apartment complex. The Web site talks about the benefits to be realized by the stadium and accompanying retail and medical facilities, which, if realized, would be substantial.
But I can’t get beyond my doubts of professional soccer succeeding in the area. Our current major-league sports teams are keeping us occupied, and sometimes even they aren’t getting the attention they deserve. The Cleveland Indians had a great first half, yet needed fireworks and giveaways to bring people to their games.
Of course, the Cleveland Cavaliers drew very well, and they rewarded their fans with a season to remember. They lost in the finals, but after the great strides the team made during the year, a title would have been gravy. The most heavenly gravy ever tasted, but gravy nonetheless.
Which leads me to a counterproposal.
A constant irritant during the finals was a graphic ABC kept showing during pauses in action. It listed the last time each Cleveland sports team won a title, the most recent being the Browns way back in 1964. (The Cleveland Force indoor soccer team, which actually did win titles, was conveniently ignored.)
After, say, the 70th time ABC showed the visual, it took great inner strength not to launch a remote at the TV or perform some other act of graphic violence.
So, stadium backers, how about we forget the sin tax? Instead, I propose a “win tax.”
Here’s the deal: You’ll get your public funding, if, within five years, your soccer team does one teensy, weensy thing: Win it all. I’m not talking about making the playoffs or reaching the finals. I mean bringing home the cup, the trophy, or whatever it is you get for winning the MLS championship. Maybe you get a personalized mug — I don’t care. Just bring it to the county executive along with a notarized letter from the league president, and it will be redeemed for $100 million.
Yes, that’s setting the bar high, but that’s our prerogative. We’re not the ones looking for money — you are. When it comes to professional soccer, we can’t “Bend it like Beckham,” but we can take it or leave it.
So, kick the idea around, won’t you?