Kyle Krause, whose family owns the convenience store chain Kum & Go, announced on Jan. 27, 2022 that he had signed a franchise agreement with the United Soccer League (USL). USL is America’s tier-two men’s soccer league, just under Major League Soccer. The team will compete in the USL Championship level.
“We’re thrilled to bring a new professional soccer club here” Krause said in a press release. “This is a great opportunity to add another enticing benefit to living in central Iowa.”
The USL is the governing body for several leagues in the country, including the tier-two men’s league USL Championship league, the tier-three USL League One, the tier-four pre-professional USL League Two and the USL Super League — the tier-two women’s soccer league.
Des Moines already has a League Two team, the Menace, which is owned by the Krause Group, the Kum & Go parent company that also owns Italian soccer team Parma Calico 1913. The Menace are the reigning League Two champions, and they play at Valley High School in West Des Moines.
“I was not expecting a USL team to come to Iowa,” said Bradan Allen, a men’s soccer player at Drake University. “With the success of the Des Moines Menace throughout the years it was bound to happen. There are so many youth soccer players, and having a professional team for those players to aspire to be like is massive.”
Krause said in the press release they could not have brought a team to Des Moines “without the foundation laid by Iowa’s soccer community.” He said the support and success the Menace had was a “key factor” in creating the environment to “support a USL Championship club.”
In September of 2019, Krause started working with the USL to add a team in Des Moines. The deal was contingent upon the development of a home stadium, though. In three years, Krause raised $50 million of the targeted $75 million through donations and government support, which supported the franchise agreement finalization.
The 6,300-seat stadium will be at the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Pkwy and SW 14th St, on the demolished Dico Superfund site. The surrounding area will be known as the Stadium District and include housing, restaurants, offices and retail.
Dan Jansen, the development’s initiative manager, said the project will cost about $500 million and take 20 years, but they have been incentivized to finish sooner.
Jansen said the project has been slow because they have had to work with the EPA and the city to remove “polluted buildings” on the site.
Naomi Hamlett, the economic development coordinator for the city of Des Moines, said that while the city and Krause Group have agreed on the “general outline,” the final development plan has not been agreed upon, and the land is still owned by the city.
According to a 2019 feasibility study conducted by Johnson Consulting and paid for by Pro Iowa, a booster group for the USL project, the stadium would generate $10 million in spending and $3 million in increased earnings annually. The study also claims the stadium is expected to economically pay for itself in the first five years.
“The new Pro Iowa Stadium will be a crown jewel not just for the USL, but for soccer in the United States,” said USL CEO Alec Papadakis in a press release. “Krause Group’s experience operating soccer clubs here and in Europe will help this new franchise become a source of great pride for the people of Des Moines and the state of Iowa.”
The as-yet-unnamed team is planning to start playing in spring of 2024. Cait Suttie, the communications director for Krause Group, talked about the fan events.
“The public is [going to] watch this team get built from nothing,” Suttie said. “Every time we hire people, as we start to get players, those kinds of things, coaching staff, whatever, that will all be new and extended.”
Pro Iowa is creating excitement and a fan base by hosting watch parties for the U.S. men’s national team, helping build mini soccer pitches, giving out fan gear and allowing fans to help pick the team’s name and logo.
“Des Moines has always been supportive of the teams it has had, the [Iowa Cubs] and our various hockey teams … it is really exciting to see a new sport and a high level professional sport be played in Des Moines,” Suttie said.