Vikings Actively Lobbying Minnesota State Politicians To Oppose Soccer-Specific Venue
Vikings execs "spent weeks twisting arms" at the state legislature "to speak out against a soccer-specific stadium" desired by NASL club Minnesota United FC Owner Bill McGuire and his business partners for an MLS expansion team, according to Patrick Reusse of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. The idea was that, "thus discouraged, the MLS would zero in on awarding the expansion franchise" to the Wilf family, which owns the Vikings, and it would "play in the new dome." The Vikings "have no more loyal pal at the Legislature" than Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, who has been "willing to do the bidding of the Vikings and the Wilfs." Bakk called up MLS Commissioner Don Garber and said that the McGuire group "would not receive a dime’s worth of assistance from the state." Bakk has "done a fine job making this sound as if he’s protecting the taxpayers, but the folks he’s really been trying to protect" are the Wilfs (STARTRIBUNE.com, 3/23).
SOFT COMMIT: Hennepin County Board of Commissioners Chair Mike Opat yesterday said he has had "preliminary conversations" with McGuire’s group about a stadium. In Minneapolis, Kaszuba & Brackin in a front-page piece note Opat was a "driving force a decade ago behind a substantial public subsidy for Target Field that included the countywide sales tax." Opat said, "The biggest thing right now is for the league to overtly commit to (McGuire’s) group. I think the league needs to commit to them, and then they can start talking about accomplishing a venue of their own. It may have to be entirely (funded) on their own, or with limited public support." Kaszuba & Brackin note yesterday's news that Minnesota United will be MLS' next expansion team "was more evidence that the Wilf family is being passed over by MLS for an expansion franchise." The Vikings "have a five-year window to bring an MLS team" to their new $1B indoor stadium, and were "thought at one point to have the inside track." Questions also remain as to "where an MLS franchise would temporarily play its games, should a new stadium be approved and await construction." The team "could play temporarily at an expanded National Sports Center in Blaine, home of United FC." Other possibilities "include the new St. Paul Saints stadium, Target Field and TCF Bank Stadium" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 3/24).
TIMING IS EVERYTHING: SI.com's Brian Straus wrote MLS’ expansion timeline "is in flux." Atlanta’s MLS club "remains on schedule to start" in '17, while LAFC’s entry date "likely depends on its progress toward a new stadium." LAFC "currently is targeting the site" of the L.A. Memorial Sports Arena near L.A. Memorial Coliseum. Minnesota's expansion club "could potentially enter MLS" in '17 if LAFC "isn’t ready by then, assuming it has the option to start the season in a temporary home" (SI.com, 3/23). In Sacramento, Dale Kasler notes the league last week "confirmed it was holding talks with McGuire’s group" and said that a decision "would take 30 to 45 days." This is why the timing of the league's plans to formally announce Minnesota United as an expansion club tomorrow "is startling." Kasler: "What’s uncertain, though, is whether MLS is prepared to open the door anytime soon for Sacramento" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 3/24).