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Springs Small Ball Strain

Two minor league teams, The Colorado Springs Switchbacks and the Colorado Springs Sky Sox will be playing side by side in 2015.
Two minor league teams, The Colorado Springs Switchbacks and the Colorado Springs Sky Sox will be playing side by side in 2015.
Two minor league teams, The Colorado Springs Switchbacks and the Colorado Springs Sky Sox will be playing side by side in 2015.

The 2014 FIFA World Cup will have trickled down to its final few contenders by the time you see this read. The coveted title that every player from each country has yearned for since the games ended in 2010 will be closer to one country’s grasp. And the slew of fans who cherish FIFA will continue to grow in the United States.

Many Americans crave the World Cup more than ever and get the same jitters they do prior to the first kick off that starts NFL season. It’s not just the World Cup that Americans are interested in, however. The sport itself has become more prominent in this country.

Just a decade ago, it was widely reported Major League Soccer was on the brink of failure but managed to persevere through the tumultuous times.

With soccer gaining traction in the U.S., soccer ventures are growing both at the sports highest American level, MLS, and in its minor leagues in the United Soccer League. Building the brand of soccer in Colorado begins with the one word that MLS owners thought of when their dream looked bleak.

Believe. It’s also the symbol for the newly established Colorado Switchbacks.

The red cross in the team’s design seems so simple yet symbolizes much for the growing sport. The new USL team making its way to Southern Colorado strives to bring the power of belief to many fans. The addition of the new soccer squad will also bring another cash cow to the area.

Or will it?

The ideal situation of a pro soccer team moving to the southern region of Colorado is to entertain, bring more jobs and boost revenue in the area.

Last month, Colorado Springs City Council voted 5-4 in favor of playing in the soon-to-be refurbished Sand Creek Stadium. The minority of the council feared how the Switchbacks would affect the city’s minor league baseball team.

Four council members voting against the Switchbacks’ move adjacent to the Sky Sox have stated to KKTV, the city’s need to protect the Sox. And there’s plenty of reasons to shield them.

This isn’t the first attempt to bring another pro team to this part of the region.

A United Women’s Football League team, the Colorado Koalas, folded nearly as quickly as they were established. In fact, the Koalas sputtered and fizzled prior to the season even starting, according to Paisley.

The Colorado Gold Kings endured the longest spurt of the teams listed, lasting four seasons. The Gold Kings were part of the West Coast Hockey League until the team went black in 2002.

The reason behind the Gold Kings early demise? Former owner of the Gold Kings, Jeff Smith, said in a recent statement to KKTV that the economic environment wasn’t suited for the team.

Colorado Springs hasn’t had a great track record for minor league teams and the outlook remains uncertain for the Colorado Switchbacks. It would be flustering to go through a similar situation here and pour a bunch of money into a team that isn’t interested in sticking around.

The one team that managed to experience success–the Colorado Springs Sky Sox–is nestled in its cozy stadium and isn’t trying to relinquish any of that cash flow or fanbase it has developed for the past 27 years.

The Switchbacks may hang around for a few years and pack up and leave for another city or just become defunct. So, with the cameos from the other squads in the area, what’s one more botched effort?

A failure by the Switchbacks will be in the shadow of the Sky Sox because the two facilities will be side-by-side. The stadium for the Colorado Switchbacks is planned to be just 30 feet away from the Sky Sox’s Security Service Field. The longest tenured pro team in the state may share everything, including fans and money with the Switchbacks in 2015.

“We looked at many stadiums–this [located next to the Sky Sox] is hands down the best for success,” Ragain Sports President Nick Ragain told the Gazette.

The Sky Sox know about this prime location next to affluent Springs’ residents. That is why the team chose it. Is asking the Sky Sox to share a slice of pie, the Switchbacks never helped bake, asking too much?

President and General Manager Tony Ensor told the Colorado Springs Business Journal was modest, maybe overly so, about the profits his team sees each season. After 27 years of business in the same location, it’s safe to say the Sox are further in the green than anywhere near the red. With the way the Sox built their fan base, it’s no surprise they have great support.

The Sky Sox constantly give away tickets and have various promotions to assure bodies are in seats. USAA and military members receive tickets throughout the season. There are also promotions on specific days. During Monday games, kids eat free and Tuesday’s tickets are $2 along with parking.

Who knows what could happen to the several promotions, discounts and giveaways the Sky Sox provide all season should revenues start to trickle 30 feet opposite of Security Service Field.

The distance of the stadiums is an issue for the millionaires.  For those of us who have to make critical decisions at the gas pump from week to week, we’re concerned about who’s picking up the tab for the renovations to the stadium.

According to Mendoza, Ensor said, “We know where our niche is from a business standpoint–that is that we provide more value than you could ever pay for … so people feel like they have had an experience when they come out here.”

The experience fans grew accustomed to may or may not be modified if bodies head to the newer neighboring Switchbacks stadium. And while the facility certainly sounds as though it will sparkle, we have to address the elephant in the room: Who is paying for this stadium?

Startup costs for the Switchbacks stadium are approximately in the ballpark–pun intended–of $2 million: $1.4 million going towards bleachers, press box, stairs along the berm in the stadium and two light poles. The other $600,000 towards locker rooms, concession stands and restroom for the facility, according to Mendoza.

Colorado Springs City Council member Jill Gaebler assured citizens in the Gazette that we will “only provide up to 13 percent in future tax revenues, to be realized from tourists who visit our city because of these new projects.”

For those keeping count, that is approximately $26,000. A huge hike in taxes doesn’t seem likely at this point should Gaebler’s words hold true. Paisley also added that no city money would be used for the Switchbacks’ new stadium. At the moment, citizens are in the clear of paying the big bucks for the addition of another pro team in southern Colorado.

If you’re a fan of soccer or love your Sky Sox baseball, the financial strain and literal battleground issue is intriguing and worrisome at the same time. While the revenue both teams could bring to the city is tremendous, first, both squads have to find a solution on how both teams can thrive. Whether that is one team playing downtown or they’re side-by-side like action heroes, an already loved sport and a growing sport have the potential to make a huge impact on the region.

Hopefully, no financial impact on our pockets.

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