The possibility of Major League Soccer coming to Tucson for its annual spring training is a good news and bad news situation.
The good: Nelson Rodriguez, executive vice president for competition of MLS, likes Tucson, was excited by the reception from business and political leaders and the soccer community who have a genuine interest in establishing a "mutually satisfactory relationship." He even said he personally would like to come back and see more of the city.
The bad news: as Rodriguez describes it, "the current present day reality is that there are no soccer fields."
In the day and a half he was in Tucson, Rodriguez said he didn't see a single soccer field that "would be of the quality needed for our caliber of athletes."
Either the city's Hi Corbett Field or the county's Kino Sports Complex could make ideal MLS venues if either were permanently converted into an "oval" for high-profile, top-level soccer.
In an effort to build on this year's Desert Cup weekend exhibition, which had an announced attendance of more than 10,000 fans at Hi Corbett Field in Reid Park, Rodriguez returned this month to work on a longer-term relationship.
Chris Keeney, of A3 Sports Consulting, who was brought in by FC Tucson to help bring bring professional soccer to Tucson, believes the region is a good fit for MLS, not only for spring training but for its own professional team.
But Keeney has the same concerns as Rodriguez. "There would have to be a short-term plan for conversion of facilities, then long term, dedicated training facilities and a venue dedicated to soccer."
Pima County Supervisor Richard Elias, who met with Rodriguez during his visit, is excited for the possibility of MLS coming to Tucson.
"I think we have some facilities that are usable," he said in response to the concern raised by Rodriguez. "We would have to look at it as far as facilities being improved in the long-term" and Elias did not rule out a full scale conversion of the Kino Sports Complex into a soccer facility.
Rodriguez and MLS are eager to find a partner for their training needs and he presented a list of items that would make the partnership possible and to move forward. His deadline for events on the 2012 schedule is Oct. 1, so decisions would need to be made soon.
Still, regardless of dalliances with various non-Major League Baseball leagues and operations, for Elias MLS presents "the most real, honest opportunity on the books right now."