The American Pyramid: Venue TBA - A Proposal

This article is a response to a piece that ran yesterday. If you’d like to read that piece, click this link.

I’m an idea guy, always have been. I like to dream and scheme. When a problem presents itself, I like to attack it logically, but with a healthy dash of “what if.”

So when facing this venue issue in amateur soccer, I have an idea. It changes all the time, as more people offer input, but this is the current idea:

A group-funded trust that buys land, builds fields, and operates them for local sides.

The Funding

I’m a big believer in ground funding, probably because of dabbling in socialism in college. Everyone tosses what they can into the pot, we all eat. Group funding has become a wonderful way to fund all sorts of causes, from new cars to medical treatment. So why not soccer fields?

What is daunting to most clubs or organizations looking to purchase or build their home field is the initial cost. How do they lay out funds for land, fields, bleachers, offices, changing rooms, parking, the list keeps rolling on. So let’s focus on what it would cost to the individuals who would pledge. I can’t speak to the finances of every person reading this article, but I can for myself. I am a middle class guy, not rich, not poor, got a mortgage and a car payment, but I still have enough free cash in the monthly budget to go out to eat 5 or 6 times, buy a soccer kit, a new pair of shoes, go to two or three soccer matches, etc. There’s some disposable income there.

So if I subtracted $25 a month, would it kill me? Not at all. If 10 of us did that, we’d raise $250 a month, $3,000 a year. What if a 100 of us did that? Add a zero, $2,500 a month, $30,000 a year. You can do the math. Protagonist Soccer Twitter account has almost 2,300 followers. Let’s say 10% of those followers committed to this. That’s 230 dedicated $25 a month pledges. That’s almost $6,000 a month, $70,000 a year. That’s an operating budget. And it doesn’t include a soccer club that pledges $100 a month or a well-off donor who tosses in $1,000 one time gift. If we all pull together, we could create the necessary funding.

The Trust

It would be absolutely important for the Trust to impartial, devoted to the idea of growing the game organically, and open to all geographic locations. The Trust would have to be made up of pragmatist types who want to stretch the dollars as far as possible, but who are also willing and able to dream big. The number of trustees could be determined at a later date, but at this point, 6-10 trustees would be a good starting point. The size of the Trust leadership could be voted on by the donors.

The Trust would be a non-profit group without a budget (unpaid). This is vitally important for the goals of the funding to be achieved. So many non-profits eat up funds by paying their managers salaries. The Trust will operate without pay, allowing funds to flow to goals of the project. That is not to say that funds won’t be used for business cards or incidentals, but it is to say that time, effort, and sweat will be a donation.

To ensure accountability, the trust will post monthly recaps with pertinent information for the body of donors. Once every five years, the trustees will be voted on by the donors. Each donor would receive a single vote and the winners of the vote would be elected to 5 year terms. If, for some reason, a trustee is considered to be not serving with integrity, the trustee group can vote on their ouster. That vote must be a super majority (75%).

The Concept

The funds donated are accumulated on a monthly basis. During this accumulation period, the Trust researches potential sites for soccer fields. This research will include studying demographic factors, local need, cost effectiveness, municipal funding, city permitting and zoning regulations, potential grant funding, local soccer leadership, etc. Three potential sites will be considered each year (or as funding allows). Each January, three trustees will prepare a presentation of the sites and these presentations will be made to the donor class. This could be done easily through digital means. Once the prestations have been made, the donor class will be allowed to vote. The voting process will be over the following 24 hours, to allow for research and considering by the donors.

Once a site is chosen by the donors, the Trust will begin to take steps to advance the site (which will happen in a long-term approach).

  • Securing supporting grants

  • Purchasing the land

  • Preparing long-term, segmented growth plans

  • Preparing the field(s)

  • Building bleachers

  • Installing fencing

  • Building office space on-site

  • Building showers/changing rooms/bathrooms

  • Lighting

  • Watering system

  • Parking

  • Supporting infrastructure (food, ticket booth, merch booth)

The Trust would also designate some funding in a trust to allow for operations costs and upkeep. Ticket sales, merch revenue, concessions, and any other revenue raised on site would be split with the “home” tenant and the operating cost fund.

Expansion Ideas

Once the site has been purchased, a local trustee will be chosen from the area to supervise the long-term upkeep of the facility. An alternative idea might be to sell the site to local clubs in amateur leagues (with stipulations to potential clubs and use those funds generated for future expansion). But the goal would be to involve local clubs in the upkeep. Partnering with a local club playing in a national league would be optimal. Aside from this club who’s field this would be as a “home field,” the goal of the project is to build or partner with a local league to use the site for matches, facilitating the growth of local soccer.

Aside from this relationship, we’d propose the idea of a dedicated group of volunteers, 5-10, who would work with the trust to obtain their referee licenses, paid for by the trust, with the understanding that they would be available for matches at the site, free of charge to the clubs. This would require people dedicated to growing local soccer, focused on the health of grassroots soccer, willing to donate their time.

Naming rights of the site would be offered to the donor class, voted on when deemed necessary. The name would be perpetual and unavailable to sell as long as the Trust exists. The only change allowed would be if the donor class designated it necessary and, even then, never for monetary reasons.

What’s Next?

There’s no clean answer to that question, it honestly depends on the desire and inspiration of all of us in the lower league community. How much do we want change? How much do we want growth? How serious do we think this problem is? How much will we sacrifice for the cause?

I have seen so much fracturing within the lower leagues, I am hopeful that there is a unity in purpose as well. Let this idea of a Trust, be the beginning of a conversation, not the end.

- Dan Vaughn