Minnesota United FC sets sights on stadium funding

MINNEAPOLIS -- Major League Soccer announced Wednesday that Minnesota United FC will be its latest expansion franchise, beginning play as early as 2017.

MINNEAPOLIS - Major League Soccer announced Wednesday that Minnesota United FC will be its latest expansion franchise, beginning play as early as 2017.
United FC’s bid beat out competition from the Minnesota Vikings and a group from Sacramento, Calif. Those three groups, and another from Las Vegas, met with league leaders in New York in November and continued to court the league into the spring.
But MLS wants to be in Minnesota, and United FC is an existing professional team with a long history. It also is showing results from new owner Bill McGuire’s financial commitment, making the playoffs in the second-tier North American Soccer League last season and helping draw big-time international teams to the Twin Cities.
“We always felt good about the fact of who we were and what we were doing,” McGuire told the Pioneer Press. “We had a soccer team and we are playing at an increasingly high level and recognized around the country, and, frankly, in other parts of the world, as being a up-and-coming franchise.”
MLS also wants to play in an outdoor, soccer-specific stadium near mass transit in downtown Minneapolis, which hurt the Vikings’ bid to house a team in its new football stadium.
The league favors stadiums with grass fields and a capacity near 20,000; the Vikings’ stadium will have artificial turf and seat about 63,000, although the team had a plan to custom-fit the stadium for MLS seating.
“We feel like the game is going to be best played the way it is throughout the world, outdoors on grass, just like we play now (at the National Sports Center) in Blaine,” said McGuire, a former UnitedHealth Group executive. “But (we’re) hoping to do it in a more centralized location with better public transportation, so more of the people that want to be involved can be involved.
“I think those were all very solid points that made us attractive as an organization.”
Amid jubilation that the Twin Cities becomes one of a handful of U.S. markets with all five pro sports, there remains uncertainty about United’s stadium plans, which could cost up to $200 million including land acquisition.
Gov. Mark Dayton and the state legislature’s leadership have pre-emptively stated they have no interest in giving United public money to build a stadium. The Vikings’ $1 billion stadium, half of it publicly financed, is scheduled to open by Fall 2016, and the Twins opened a new ballpark in 2010 with the help of a Hennepin County sales tax.
“We haven’t talked to anybody about funding at all,” McGuire said.
McGuire said he has discussed the state of his club and its plan for the future “with three or four people,” but added that has been the extent of the conversations at the Capitol. He said whether the team will request state help for a stadium remains undecided.
“We haven’t developed our plans yet in how to approach it,” McGuire said. “We recognize anything like this, as I’ve said, you put a building project in the middle of a city, you are embarking on a partnership. We will be talking to people who we think have a vested interest in this and making it everything it could be.”
McGuire did not say whether he and his partners, which include Twins owner Jim Pohlad and Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, would fund the stadium privately.
“We are looking at the best way to do this in partnership with the community,” McGuire said. “What that means, I can’t say yet.”
McGuire said stadium plans will be determined in the “next several months.”
“We will probably have things pretty well laid out in our mind in what we think it could look like and should look like and how we are going to get there,” McGuire said.
Miami’s expansion bid has floundered because it can’t find land on which to build; that won’t be an issue for United.
“We have the option to use the land,” McGuire said.
McGuire believes there is a misunderstanding about what it takes to build a new soccer stadium, which has cost between $100 million and $200 million in other locations - cheaper than the pricetag for TCF Bank Stadium ($303 million), Target Field ($545 million) or the new Vikings stadium ($1 billion).
“In a way, it’s real money, but it’s a fraction of other” stadiums under construction, McGuire said. “I think people are confused or don’t really understand what we might even be talking about when we talk about the scope and what all can come out of it.”

McGuire said a goal for a stadium would be to help spur economic growth with residential and commercial spaces in a what is now a light-industrial section of Minneapolis.

“That’s this thing of being anchor for the area and then seeing some new development - do things in concert that will impact the area in a positive way,” McGuire said, “If we can accomplish that, we will all feel very good.”

The Pioneer Press is a media partner with the Forum News Service.

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