Minnesota needs a Soccer Specific Stadium

by Minnesota NiceFC on January 7, 2014

Two potential ownership groups are reportedly vying for a Major League Soccer franchise and have their own stadium plans. MLS4MN supports a potential soccer-specific stadium in downtown Minneapolis as it provides a stadium experience in-line with soccer teams around the US and Canada and increases the likelihood of getting an MLS franchise.

When MLS4MN formed, one of our original goals was to proactively respond to discussion of a potential Vikings stadium and links to professional soccer. Our goal was that if the new “People’s Stadium” was going to be discussed with soccer as part of (even if to a small degree) the future plans, whether it be for professional or international soccer, then we would try to avoid mistakes that had been made in the past (Dallas’ $1B stadium will need upwards of $30M of renovations if it will ever host a World Cup game). While we were greeted enthusiastically by some, such as Mayor R.T. Rybak, the stadium will have none of the amenities that would make it conducive to professional soccer that we have seen in other multi-use football stadiums.

Recently, these efforts have returned to our activities as news comes out that there are two groups who seem to be competing for an MLS franchise. Major League Soccer has seen a rapid increase in popularity and profile over the last few years with new franchises such as New York City FC being backed by a partnership of the New York Yankees and Sheikh Mansour (owner of Manchester City FC) bringing owners with money and high profiles. MLS Commissioner Don Garber has said that the league’s expansion will pause when it reaches 24 teams and highly probably rumors put expansions #22 and #23 in Atlanta (owned by Arthur Blank of the Atlanta Falcons) and Miami (owned by David Beckham). This leaves one coveted spot for now. We are not surprised that Minneapolis (recently targeted as one of the blank spots in MLS’ footprint) is attracting interest of potential ownership groups.

What has emerged over the last few weeks is the picture of two different possibilities of professional soccer in Minnesota. On the one hand, the Wilfs have a billion dollar stadium and have said that soccer is low on their list of priorities.┬áThe new Vikings stadium would fit 70k fans and games would be played inside on the kind of turf that MLS superstars such as Thierry Henry refuse to play on. On the other hand, KSTP reports a potential soccer-specific stadium in a new Farmer’s Market section, on the west-side of downtown Minneapolis. These stadiums cost between $100-200 million, a fraction of what even TCF Bank Stadium cost for the University of Minnesota football team. They are built for the experience of soccer, which puts fans directly engaging with the players and the action on the pitch, and allows room on the field for a more attractive style of play.

In addition, the potential ownership group led by Minnesota United FC has an existing relationship with soccer fans in Minnesota, and has demonstrated a desire to get the fan experience “right.” When Bill McGuire bought the owner-less soccer team (at that time named Minnesota Stars), he not only saved professional soccer in Minnesota, but his newly branded Minnesota United FC has worked very hard to build relationships with soccer fans from around the metro area.

MLS4MN strongly encourages Dr. McGuire and Minnesota United FC to pursue a soccer-specific stadium in downtown Minneapolis. Professional soccer is currently the 2nd most watched sport by 12-24 year olds in the US. We are wary of another MLS team languishing in a pro football stadium, especially without meaningful engagement from potential builders.We believe it should never be an after-thought and we look forward to taking our family and friends on the light rail to watch the Minnesota team play in a stadium built for our team and our fans.

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