Minneapolis MLS plans will be announced Wednesday during an event hosted at Target Field, as a group headed by Minnesota United FC‘s Bill McGuire is expected to announce plans for an expansion team and potentially a new stadium.
That Minneapolis will land the 23rd MLS team in the next round of expansion isn’t a surprise; we reported last week that a group led by McGuire that includes Jim Pohlad (Minnesota Twins owner) and Glen Taylor (Minnesota Timberwolves owner) was expected to be conditionally awarded a team. With two teams entering MLS in 2017 — Atlanta and LAFC — we’d expect a Minneapolis team to enter MLS in 2018.
The condition, of course, is a new soccer-specific stadium near Target Field, to be developed with the assistance of United Properties (the real-estate development firm owned by the Pohlad family). There has been talk about using the Hennepin County sales tax already in place for Target Field funding for a new soccer stadium, but there may be not be the political will to do that: Gov. Mark Dayton has already spoken out against such a diversion, and Hennepin County Commissioner Mike Opat — who was key in getting the sales-tax implemented for the new Twins ballpark — didn’t sound too enthusiastic about the prospect of using the sales tax, per the Star Tribune:
Hennepin County Commissioner Mike Opat acknowledged Monday that he has had “preliminary conversations” with McGuire’s group about a stadium. Opat, as county board chairman, was a driving force a decade ago behind a substantial public subsidy for Target Field that included the countywide sales tax.
“The biggest thing right now is for the league to overtly commit to [McGuire’s] group,” said Opat, who is no longer the board chairman. “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.”
Opat said he favors “the idea of a soccer venue near the Farmers Market — and enhancing the Farmers Market — but I don’t know if any of my colleagues [on the Hennepin County Board] feel the same way.”
A new stadium with a capacity between 18,000 and 20,000 should cost around $150 million. As stated, MLS is looking at 2018 expansion, and that gives McGuire and crew three years to put together a stadium plan. While it’s possible that a temporary venue may not be needed, there’s talk about the team playing a year at Target Field or TCF Bank Stadium on the University of Minnesota campus if necessary. One thing we know: an MLS team will not be playing at Minnesota United’s current home, the National Sports Center in Blaine (shown above) or the new Minnesota Vikings stadium, where the Wilf family have an exclusive on pro soccer through 2021.
The Minnesota announcement leaves once more slot for 24 teams for 2018. Though Sacramento has proven to be a serious contender with a stadium plan and a solid fan base, it’s pretty clear MLS officials are giving David Beckham every opportunity to put together a stadium plan for Miami. Still, with Commissioner Don Garber openly discussing MLS featuring more than 24 teams, nothing is written in stone.