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Zygi Wilf Says Major League Soccer to the Twin Cities – Don’t Count On It and Here’s Why

2009 December 18
by Brian Quarstad

The Star Tribune is reporting today that Zygi Wilf wants to bring a Major League Soccer (MLS) team to the Twin Cities which leads me to wonder, has he actually discussed this with the powers that be at MLS?

Viking stadium rendering Dec. 2009 insideThe Star Tribune is running an article called, “Cost of Metrodome, the sequel: $870 million”, which outlines the cost and plans to revamp the Metrodome for Zygi Wilf’s Minnesota Vikings. However, the article states that no one from the Vikings were at the meeting which revealed the lavish stadium redux plans that was created by HKS Architects of Dallas at a cost of $2.5 million. The Vikings, who were active with the commission up until last month, are still unhappy over that same group’s attempt to get the team to sign a lease stating they would stay at the Metrodome beyond 2011.

The paper reported that HKS architect Bryan Trubey said the “facility could host events ranging from high school football playoff games to the Super Bowl, from motor races to political conventions.”

Kevin Duchschere of the Star Tribune reported that Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission member Paul Thatcher asked if the facility could handle soccer matches because the Vikings had previously stated that they were interested in purchasing an MLS team and moving it here.

Yes, Trubey said, soccer was included as part of the design agenda. The stadium would be, he said, “the most technologically advanced multiuse facility” that could be built, “and it will be done at the most efficient square footage and the most economical price” possible.

Several years ago, Wilf had previously stated that he wanted to bring an MLS team to Minnesota when he was looking for public funding to help him build a stadium in Blaine, MN. When the plan seemed to die so did his talk of MLS. Now we hear that once again Wilf has a sudden interest in a soccer team, at least according to commissioner Thatcher. Obviously, Wilf would love to have another team playing in a facility to bring in added revenue. However, I have to ask the question, does Zygi Wilf or commissioner Thatcher know anything about soccer, or have they ever talked to anyone from MLS concerning this interest? If they had spoken to MLS officials they would soon find out that the league wants their teams playing in soccer specific stadiums (SSS) and on real grass, not an artificial surface. I doubt very much that Mr. Wilf has an interest in actually building an SSS and the reality is, he is trying to gather as much interest from as many groups as possible to help build support for public funding of this new stadium.

I’m not making a statement one way or another on the new proposed revamp of the Metrodome or the use of public funds for such a facility; what I am saying is beware of the true intent of Mr. Wilf and let’s not get over excited about what he is presenting. As much as I would love to see MLS come to the Twin Cities this is little more than a publicity scheme at the moment. Let’s keep our enthusiasm checked until we know a lot more about Wilf’s plan for a soccer team. Because I guarantee that MLS commissioner Don Garber and crew will not be any too receptive of yet another team proposing to play in a 60 to 70 thousand seat stadium. The league has been there and done that, and thankfully have turned the corner on that stage of MLS.

14 Responses
  1. December 18, 2009

    Umm, I think MLS feels that Seattle and Vancouver were ideal additions.

  2. December 18, 2009

    Not a surprising concept and one that has been heard of before. I think it is a win – win for now and the immediate future. Stirs up legitimate soccer market talk here and when looking at the way things are going to have to get done. I guess I always thought it might take a bigger swinger to come in and rescue this complicated market. Many big time sports owners understand this. Most people think the Swarm is a good thing, while the Wild does it primarily for programming and absolutely revenue streams and human resources of the facility (they control the X) – very much like many small time sports “franchisees”. Certainly the MN soccer folk would not want to play second fiddle to a Vikings ownership of the stadium. But soccer folk need to get real if they don’t see this. “Purity” exists in Seattle and reality has to set in soon with facility needs vs wants. Our market is big, but we still can’t say an MLS team in MN would compare to the current T-wolves or the other major teams – Wild, Vikes and Twins. That said, the future is always bright for soccer’s fan growth. I would be interested to know more about the Seattle Stadium “Quest” Field and the concept and ownerships of the Seahawks and Sounders? Even when Seattle was USL and A-League???? Also, remember, the largest crowd for a sports event at the old Met Stadium (NKA Mall of America) was……………….. folks work with me here:

  3. smatthew permalink
    December 18, 2009

    Zigy’s talk about MLS team during the Blaine stadium proposals were all over the place. At one point it was, “yup talked with the Don about bringing team here in my new stadium.” to, “yup talked to Don about how an MLS team could play in my new stadium” to, “yup my new stadium could totally host summer soccer events like that ManU vs. Bayern Munich game at Solider field.”

  4. super rookie permalink
    December 18, 2009

    Cam-

    The Wild no longer own the Swarm. A family bought them two years ago (same family that promoted the ND vs. Navy lacrosse game at NSC).

  5. Paul permalink
    December 18, 2009

    I’m going to have to agree with Brian on this one. I don’t think Zigi would have any interest in building an SSS here. He just wants additional revenue for a new Vikings stadium. Unless he can strike a deal with MLS powers, I don’t see it happening.

  6. December 18, 2009

    If Zygi Wilf was really serious, he should either buy the Thunder and/or invest in the yet officially NSC team and get a few years of soccer experience before jumping right in to MLS.

  7. December 18, 2009

    Did not no that about Swarm. Still think its about filling a master schedule. (T-Wolves and Lynx?) But why would a man of business (Zigi) be interested in buying the Thunder in its state – current or even last five years. Why would he have any interest other than when he did in Blaine – no offence NSC, when his bigger picture is making 50-100% on his Vikings Investment. So far dont think he is a bad owner, he has positioned the franchise to get, get an dget more from the cities with the real possibility of going to L.A. to make even more. I would take business savvy over grassroots and the NSC has a long, long way to go to be a MLS SSS.

    I understand and like the SSS concept, but again, Seattle is not a huge market – how are they doing it? Look at Kraft in New England or Hunt in K.C. If a new stadium, VIKINGS or other gets us a better, more solid soccer franchise, I think we should support it and invite Zigo to the soccer community.

  8. December 18, 2009

    Evidently Bruce at duNord is on the same track at I am:

    http://dunord.blogspot.com/2009/12/special-edition-mls-in-minneapolis.html

  9. December 18, 2009

    I really don’t think you can take anything from the commissioner’s question. As anybody who follows MLS knows, expansion is a very long and nuanced process. Has there been anything to indicate even a dialogue between Wilf and MLS?

    Also, as much as I’d love to have a big-time pro team here, the market is simply saturated. Having MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL and Big Ten sports is already a lot. Then you throw in the Saints, Swarm, Thunder and Lynx, and I don’t think you can count MIAC out either. For the same of MLS, I think there are better places to expand.

    The first step would probably be to get some friendlies to TCF Bank Stadium in the next couple summers. If those do well, then it might be worth looking into MLS. Until then, there are enough empty seats in this city to hold off on any expansion talk for a while.

  10. December 18, 2009

    Chrös, Agree with you on almost everything except that as my friends Kartik and Bruce have explained to me, the MLS is now really looking at markets that wouldn’t necessarily draw well at the gate but would be good TV markets and from what I understand, the Twin Cities has been identified as one of those MLS markets. If you think about it, the nearest MLS teams are KC and Chicago. So that leaves a whole lot of unsaturated TV market area in the summer. MN, the Dakotas, primarily Eastern SD, Iowa, and part of Wisc. However, I’m guessing Wilf has not talked to Garber?

  11. Kevin permalink
    December 18, 2009

    What an ugly stadium. 2.5M to design that? Wouldn’t chances of getting a MLS team in MN improve if the Vikings left? So let them go. I’m quessing a soccer specific stadium could be built for about 1/4th the purple-kingdom plans.

  12. December 18, 2009

    Just read again and noticed strib said “buy and move” a team?????? But again, talk is cheap.

  13. Greg permalink
    December 19, 2009

    If he is serious, it would be great if he would buy the Thunder. It would preserve a great history and can be had for eight dollars and a candy bar. Has to be cheaper than starting from scratch (MLS entry fee notwithstanding).

  14. Sgc permalink
    December 28, 2009

    Brian Quarstad
    December 18, 2009

    Chrös, Agree with you on almost everything except that as my friends Kartik and Bruce have explained to me, the MLS is now really looking at markets that wouldn’t necessarily draw well at the gate but would be good TV markets.
    ——–

    With all due respect, you simply can’t find a belief more preposterous (in the old school sense of putting last things first). MLS is nowhere near the point of being able to make decisions for the sake of the national TV contract. That strategy is for those (read: NFL) who are already at least fairly successful.

    For MLS, no amount of ‘markets’ will force MLS to get ratings, or replace what successful franchises can do for the league. Seattle is what passes for ‘good’ for TV ratings, and they are a) no more than a middle-sized market themselves and b) still not significant to networks. In the meantime their in-stadium crowds and merchandising are driving the league forward.

    And that’s in all likelihood what the league will look for om the foreseeable future. When they get to the point where most of the teams are good draws and can get decent local ratings? Well, *if* they ever get to that point, *then* comparing markets for national pull will become a more logical step, but right now it’s a red-flag for people looking to skip steps try to become a major league solely by aping one.

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