Thursday, September 10, 2015

#KeyworthIt: Detroit City FC announces plans for a new home

Last night, the Detroit City Twitterverse was abuzz about a huge announcement coming from the club. After much waiting and anticipation, we finally got the news.

In a press release posted to their website Thursday morning, Detroit City FC announced their proposal to the Hamtramck Public School Board to renovate Keyworth Stadium and use it for the club's home matches as early as next spring. the 79 year old stadium sits on Roosevelt St in the small, dense, and diverse community of Hamtramck, a small city completely encircled by the city of Detroit. It has seen very little use and even less upkeep in the recent years, so the DCFC proposal will breath new life into an old building.

There is no doubt that the club needs a new home. Cass Tech, while offering a gorgeous view of Detroit's underrated skyline, is too small. The smallest crowd during the 2015 season was larger than all but one game the previous season. Despite efforts temporarily increase Cass's capacity, fans were still turned away from the gate as the stands were just too full. A larger home is needed, and Keyworth's 6,000 supporter capacity (with room for expansion) is just what the doctor ordered.

There are multiple advantages to this facility that show up both on and off the pitch. The major factor that affects the game itself is the wider field of play. A profile of the stadium from last October on Boys In Rouge estimates a 65 yard wide pitch, ten yards wider than Cass Tech. While not quite up to high end professional standards, it certainly is a big improvement over Cass tech's narrowness. One of the main weaknesses of the squad last season was their inability to play well in a wider playing area, this might go a long way towards addressing that.

The wider field does nothing to sacrifice the compactness and intimacy that has been the hallmark to the club's matchday atmosphere. The supporters are still right on top of the field, unlike the feeling of separation I felt when attending friendlies at Berkley's Hurley Field. The players will still be bathed in smoke after every goal, just as they always have been. The larger capacity only means that there will hopefully be more supporters raining noise upon opponents from just as close range.

The one drawback that some of the club's supporters will be the departure of the city of Detroit proper. Yes, Hamtramck is "in Detroit" based on the fact that it is completely surrounded by the city, but it is not part of the city limits. Detroit City FC was founded on the principle of bringing soccer to Detroit, not just the Detroit area. This doesn't bother me as much as it would bother some others. It is still soccer in my area, with Detroit as it's primary identity. It's not like the club is moving to Novi, or Pontiac, or Auburn Hills.

It does take away from the convenience of being so close to downtown Detroit. People, in general, are not as familiar with Hamtramck as they are with the busiest part of the city. We all know the die hards will follow along, but will fringe supporters and families still come out to a less familiar area? Downtown Detroit is considered a safe place to go for any number of activities, will people still feel that was about a more inner city residential area like Hamtramck?

As far as the Northern Guard and other supporters are concerned, there are plenty of bars within marching distance of the stadium that can continue to make matchday an all day affair. PArking might be tight, but the club and city of Hamtramck are working on that.

The only question that remained is how the project will be funded. DCFC is getting record crowds for every match, but they aren't made of money. And this project, with the structural renovations, field replacement, and more, sounds quite expensive. As part of their release, the club announced that a combination of club funds, traditional small business loans, and a "community investment campaign" will provide the cash needed to get the job done.

What is a "community investment campaign," you ask? Well, according to the release, it allows for supporters to loan their money to the club to go towards the renovation project. Details are coming soon, but I am curious to see how this will work. They compare it to Kickstarter style crowdfunding, but with the opportunity to earn your loan back with interest.

I have never poured money into a Kickstarter campaign before, but I see myself potentially investing in this project. I will wait until I see more details before officially pledging my contribution, but if it can help the club achieve their (and my own) dreams of a high octane matchday atmosphere, I am all for it.

All in all, the move to Keyworth Stadium will help Detroit City FC take the next step towards becoming one of the elite sports teams in this city and helping the city become one of the best soccer markets in the USA. It is a great place for the club to continue its organic, grassroots growth into the future. The next step, of which Keyworth is a major component of, is joining a professional league. Without a larger capacity for more fans, that would certainly never happen.

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