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.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Texas Toast January 8, 2014 at 10:58 am

NO, MN doesn’t need a soccer-specific stadium. If you’re proposing a $200MM facility that seats 20,000 people, each seat costs $10,000. Is there enough revenue to cover the cost of the seat? How many years is this amortized? Will you get a sell-out every game? They’re not selling out up in Blaine, which is a smaller facility. Wouldn’t it be cheaper to ‘curtain off’ the upper deck and end zones of the new Minneapolis stadium and try to sell into 20,000 seats there?

Then there’s access, which is a stumbling block playing up in Blaine. Fewer fans want to drive up to Blaine. Putting the team in a facility that’s easily accessible by multiple transportation options (trains, freeways) is going to boost attendance. This is one of the reasons the Vikings chose not to build in Arden Hills. More people choose to take the train to Vikings and Twins games to avoid parking and traffic congestion challenges.

Field configurations are very close (rectangular) so minor adjustments can be made. Since it’s an indoor facility, the field can be flat (it need not be ‘domed’ for water runoff) do ball travel is true.

Partnership will save a lot of (taxpayer) money and increase the fan base for a growing spectator sport. With all this concussion stuff going on in football, plus a changing demographic in the US, Soccer just might be the dominant tenant in the new Minneapolis stadium in the next couple decades.

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Minnesota NiceFC January 8, 2014 at 11:06 am

Thanks for the comment. There’s a lot there. First, MLS has said it doesn’t want to put soccer teams in football stadiums. That’s why it isn’t just about what we prefer, but what we view as the viable path to getting an MLS franchise. The one example of a potential franchise going into a football stadium is a potential Atlanta bid. That stadium will be built like BC Place in Vancouver (click on that link for an explanation of the roof), which has a retractable roof that will also lower so as to cut the amount of seating and make the stadium more intimate. No matter what, putting 20k people in a 70k person stadium looks terrible on TV and in person. And MLS won’t want any part of it.
Second, average attendance in MLS is 18.5k, which is why stadiums are being built which will hold around 18-20k people.
Finally, we’re not proposing anything. We are encouraging. We support the path that we think will get an MLS team in Minnesota, which is supporting our existing professional team and a soccer-specific stadium.

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Texas Toast January 8, 2014 at 4:22 pm

I get that 20K fans in a 70K stadium doesn’t “show well” on TV. But in spite of what MLS wants, reality dictates otherwise. Somehow, the Seattle Sounders still manage to play matches in CenturyLink (home of the Seahawks). They ‘mask’ the upper deck and fill the lower deck. They have a substantial fan base to merit a soccer-only venue. MN does not. It’s fantasy to expect public support for yet another sports-specific stadium. This gets done only if ownership puts up just about all the funds. The SF Giants baseball team did this, then sold the naming rights to the park to recoup funds. It’s working out well for them.

Before we can dream about such things, let’s get more than 10,000 fans into games on a regular basis. That’s not going to happen up in Blaine. It’s a pain to get there (mainly by car, maybe bus, either way, the string of lights going up Central Ave / Hwy 65 gets old real fast).

I think the Thunder organization made a serious error in leaving St.Paul Central Stadium. They abandoned their fans for the sake of being in a facility that was more equipped for their Academy activities. Most of the fan base doesn’t want to truck up to Blaine. That’s why they draw 5000 +/- instead of 15000.

IF (Big IF) there was still a Met Center in Bloomington, more people would go to the games. Location and access are so much better to a larger fan base.

Wouldn’t it be better to play at TCF Stadium at the U of M? Just off the central corridor rail, easily accessed. A greater concentration of the fan base can get to the venue more easily.

We can dream about soccer-only venues, retractable roofs, all that good stuff, but we have to show that more than 5000 people will show up on a regular basis. It’s not happening in Blaine.

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Drew Jensen January 10, 2014 at 10:52 pm

Texas Toast, you don’t seem to get it. Sounders are the one team that gets away with it. What works there probably won’t work here. Wilfs are worst idea for ownership and if it’s going to be played in the new stadium, they have first dips for the next 5 years. McGuire & United are much better shot. They’ve been talking to MLS much more than Wilfs. $200 Mill for a stadium that’ll last multiple decades on side by Target Field in the farmers market. My guess is that WHEN the SSS gets proposed, they’ll be asking for $50 Mill in public funds.. far less than the $500 Mill the Vikes got (it will be that when all is said and done).

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Nathan January 13, 2014 at 9:27 pm

Is there a way to partner up with Hamline or St. Thomas for this Stadium to be used for multiple events? It would be considered a tax write off for building it for a 5013C at the University level.

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Mike January 21, 2014 at 4:37 pm

The Wilfs are not ideal partners. Indoor soccer is not ideal. The Twins, Western DTN/ Farmer’s Market is a great location. Dr. McGuire is a very promising owner. Partnership with the Twins (who want their neighborhood to be great) is worth looking in to. Are there examples of MLB/MLS partnerships? One would think the highest number of stakeholders possible would be good for the league as a whole. A 20k-25k SSS would make the Twin Cities a preferred choice. No SSS stadium means MLS passes up on the TCs to put the 24th spot in St. Louis or San Antonio. Both are reasonable choices.

That leaves Twin Cities soccer supporters with one choice, as far as I’m concerned: Push for a SSS in DTNMSP. Let Dr. McGuire know we’d support it, buy season tickets, and drag our friends to games. To get that, we probably have to go to NASL games all the way up in Blaine and make noise. Then, we probably have to comment the heck out of every Strib article that mentions the “vikings” news stadium. Then, we should probably call into the Soccer Morning show on iTunes/youtube and be like “Minneapolis supports soccer.” I don’t have Dr. McGuire’s deep pockets. I’m not working for the Twins. But I can let both know that “if they build it, I’ll come.”

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Stan February 26, 2014 at 3:29 pm

Why has this site slowed down? There is so much going on with the expansion movement in MLS at the moment.

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Joe Leyba February 26, 2014 at 4:19 pm

Part of the problem is there is so much news it’s hard to keep up. You’ll see more from us on Twitter and Facebook.

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Stan February 27, 2014 at 10:00 am

Cool! It was just weird not seeing an update for nearly two months. Thanks for the updates and writing an awesome blog.

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