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Notes From Thursday’s Press Conference Concering New National Sports Center Division II Soccer Team

2010 January 10
by Brian Quarstad

Below you will find a rather long and sometimes abbreviated transcription of last Thursday’s press conference with the National Sports Center (NSC) concerning the non-profit organization fielding a new soccer team for the state of Minnesota. The press and interested parties were able to ask questions to Barclay Kruse, Public Relations Director from NSC, Paul Erickson, Executive Director MN Amateur Sports Commission, and Kris Bjerkness, Chief Administrative Officer  NSC, who was calling in from Fort Lauderdale where he was attending the North American Soccer League’s 1st Annual General Meeting.

NSC_MN_LogoAgain, this runs a bit long, but if you’re interested in what the NSC’s plans are for the future of this team, there is a lot of crucial information in here. It’s not for the faint of heart, but if you’re a supporter of soccer in Minnesota, Division II in the US or Canada, I think you’ll like the plans the executives at the NSC have in mind.

Kruse opened things up by saying that from the NSC’s standpoint this is a very exciting day. We’ve been working on this project for a while…not for years…but for a while, but because of limitations at the national level we were not able to go pubic with this until today. Because the announcement came earlier today announcing the new unified Division II soccer league, we are now free to make the announcement about this new team at the National Sports Center. We could not be more excited to move forward with this new adventure. We think it’s an important day for Minnesota soccer fans, kids, adults, anybody who cares about soccer in Minnesota. We at the NSC are really excited to take a leadership role as we move forward.

I want people to know, we are not millionaire owners. We are in a very unique situation where a non-profit corporation owns the team. The National Sports Center staff, any of them, don’t receive one dollar more for doing this. They are doing this for the love of the game and they know this is an enhancement to soccer in Minnesota. So you are going to find a totally different attitude because our motivation to own and operate a team is different. You’re going to see a lot more openness about how we run this team and what our decisions are for making different decisions. We hope to be a team without any ego. We just want to do something that people find meaningful to grow the sport of soccer.
Paul Erickson, Executive Director MN Amateur Sports Commission

Key points during the hour-long press conference:

Q: Because the NSC is playing in the USL Conference does that mean they are a USL team?

A: Bjerkness- The NSC team will be an NASL team playing in the USL Conference. The teams from each conference will be playing each other. It will basically be a balanced schedule.

Q: Can you speak about Manny Lagos’ position as director of Soccer Operations? Will he be strictly working in the soccer end of things or will he be using his former general manager experience?

A: Bjerkness- We felt it was important to work Manny into things when trying to build this team. Obviously he’s had quite a bit of experience his entire career. He’s played at the highest levels. He’s played in Europe, the US and around the world so we thought he was a good person to add to the team. He will be on the soccer operation side.

nscQ: What sort of a time frame are you looking at for a coach and team? How about player tryouts?

A: Bjerkness- We are going to have to make a decision in the next 3 or 4 weeks on a coach. We are going to move as quickly as we can. Obviously we want to take a reasonable amount of time in making a decision on that but that will be one of the earlier decisions we make as we move forward.  We are looking at having player combines at the end of January and again in February. That’s pretty consistent with what other teams do. So we are in pretty good shape on that.

Q: In terms of tying into the history of the Thunder, do you have any ways that you will be tying into those teams like the Kicks, the Strikers or the Thunder and their fans?

A: Erickson – We have a lot of respect and admiration for the many years of MN Thunder soccer. We are going to reach out to all of the past fans and personnel that were associated with them. In fact, later this month we will have a Minnesota soccer supporters’ summit where we are inviting representatives of all aspects of Minnesota Soccer including past Thunder supporters.

One thing I will announce right now, which is an example of how we are reaching out, we are stating that any MN Thunder fan that had made a deposit on season tickets for 2010, that we will honor those deposits as season ticket holders for the new team. So we will be doing a number of things like that to really honor the soccer tradition of the Thunder. We hope to see all of them in our stadium with the new team.

Kruse – When we’ve had internal discussions about marketing to different soccer fans/groups within the state, youth, adult, ethnic soccer fans, the answer we always come to is we’re going to try to market to all of them. We have some advantages here (at the NSC) that we don’t think that’s a crazy idea at all. We think we can actually do it. We have some space here where we can do some pregame and during game activities for people of all ages and that’s absolutely our intent. To unite all the groups that care deeply about soccer in this state.

Q: What are you going to do to differentiate yourselves from some of the past teams that have been here in Minnesota?

A: Erickson – The one advantage we have, we are the only owner in the entire division II system that owns all of its own facilities. We also have the largest soccer complex on earth with 4 million annual visitors. Now that we are owners of this team we have the ability to program all the youth soccer tournaments and other facilities and incorporate a professional soccer experience. Now that the owner of the team is the owner of the events, we can do a lot more creative things in building ticket packages into the events to make it a comprehensive soccer event.

Q: Have you had any meetings with supporters groups of the Thunder to bring them into the fold or had feedback from the former Thunder supporters group?

A: Erickson – We’ve made a number of contacts with individuals. On January 21st we are going to have essentially an open house at the National Sport Center. We will have pizza and refreshments and we are inviting those very groups, the Dark Clouds and the very strong fans of the Thunder to come on in and be part of the new team. They can ask any question they want and we will give them some insights on our philosophy.

I want to add that our intent is not that this will be just a one month or a two month process to collect input from the people who are going to care about this team. This is going to be a culture going forward forever with this team. We really do want to make this the fans’ team and have the fans always feel like they have input in the game day experience.
Barclay Kruse, Public Relations Director from NSC

Q: With the addition of Manny Lagos being in charge of soccer operations, will we be seeing a continuation of some of the Thunder players coming back and playing for this new team?

A: Bjerkness- There are a number of ex-Thunder players who I’m sure have an interest in playing for the team. We will take a serious look at all of them. We will also be attending the MLS combine this weekend in Florida. There’s also a good base of players living and training in Minnesota and we will take a look at everybody.

Q: The NASL conference looks tougher than the USL conference. Will playoffs be based on conferences?

A: Bjerkness-That’s to be determined when we are creating the schedules and deciding the playoff structures. We will be talking about that over the course of the next several weeks.

Q: Can you give us more information about the open house you will have?

A: Erickson-It will be Thursday, January 21st at 6:30 with a social half-hour and then a meeting at 7:00. There will be introductions, and hopefully there will be some new developments that we will make announcements about at that time. We are going to organize into tables of 8-10 with an NSC Staff member at each table and everyone can ask questions at that time. We will also have a Q and A time for the entire group.

Q: How many people do you have on staff at the NSC that will be affiliated with the team?

A: Erickson- The NSC has a wealth of staff and we felt many who could make a contribution to the team right away. The NSC has approximately a full time staff of 60, and of those staff about 10 or 12 will have a role with the new team. When we evaluated and studied the staff and personnel of other 2nd division teams, we decided that the only staff we don’t have is: A coach, director of soccer operations who we have already announced earlier, a ticket marketing person, a camp director and perhaps one administrative person. Barclay Kruse will be the communications officer for the team. John Connelly will do all the corporate sponsorships. The NSC has assets that no other organization in the country have and we feel our model could be very advantages to this team.

Q: Will the NSC continue to bring in a big name opponent for an exhibition game like the Thunder did, when the Schwans USA Cup was being held?

A: Erickson- Yes, we will continue to bring in a South American team, a European team — some years we were blessed to have an MLS team come in and play the Thunder. Our goal is to continue to bring in these high level teams to play our new NSC soccer team. We are also interested when appropriate to bring in the US Women’s National Team or the Men’s National development teams to be part of that week. So we are not just limited in bringing in high level teams to play the NSC team, but we’re also interested in bringing in other high level soccer matches.

Q: A lot of clubs these days are partnering with high level clubs from other countries to sponsor them to come to the US in their off season and train. Is that something you’d be interested in?

A: Bjerkness- I think there are some opportunities that are out there but  I think this year might be a little short notice to make something like that happen. I’m cautiously optimistic that we could make something like that happen. But our main goal right now is putting this team together.

Q: One of the new additions to your stadium last year was the beer garden. Will that be continued?

A: Erickson-Yes, absolutely! The investments that were made to the stadium will be continued and improved upon. You know as a public facility, and as a pubic agency, we are here to promote sports at all levels. An experience for the Dark Clouds to want to come in and have a beer while enjoying the game is a valid and unique experience. And the Apple Valley U-14 girls team to come up and to sit together in the stands and get an autograph after the game is also a unique and valid experience. We’re a big house and a have a big tent philosophy and hope to have many different sub-groups have a really entertaining and valid experience when they come to the games.

Q: Do you have details on the naming contest on the team?

A: Kruse – We will have a naming contest. We hope to open up voting online as early as next Tuesday the 12th and we will run it for about 2 weeks and carry through the supporters summit.

Erickson-We heard just today that the office of tourism is going to open up their web site to the voting as well.

Q: What have you come up with for a youth academy?

A: Erickson- We will not have an exclusive relationship with any individual club or organization. We are convinced that the team needs to have an equal and open relationship with all soccer clubs in the state.  We believe as a non-profit public entity in the big-tent philosophy. We do not believe in exclusivity, we want to be inclusive. So the team can be a motivating force for all soccer clubs.

Q: The USSF created their own Division II league for 2010 but did not say what league will be sanctioned in 2011. What are your expectations for the league as you move past this year to 2011 – 2012 and beyond?

A: Erickson-The NSC made the decision to join the new North American Soccer League. Our hope that the American experience will grow and be more similar to the European experience, that there will be a strong MLS top level soccer and that Division II will be larger and stronger. We owe a debt of gratitude to the Thunder for maintaining high level soccer for many years. I think our continuance of Division II soccer positions us to be in a great place as the league grows.

Q: It’s no secret that some of the Thunder’s former owners have had a problem making ends meet. Do you feel this team is going to be operating this on a shoestring budget or how is this going to work in terms of team finances?

A: Erickson-  We believe because we have the assets of the facility and the assets of the staff in place, we can run the team more cost effective. I don’t think we’re going to be a team that has the highest player payroll that a personal owner with deep pockets is going to spend. I think we are going to be in the middle of the pack. I think we are always going to have a program that is well funded and will have the resources to do it right. But we are not going to be Steinbrenner with the Yankees with the highest payroll in the league. We are going to do it the National Sports Center way. We’re proud of the fact that we’ve been able to run the National Sports Center with a 13 million dollar operating budget and we’ve operated in the black since we’ve opened the doors back in 1989. We have almost 100 different programs. Our philosophy is that every program needs to make sense financially or it won’t hang around. Whether it’s a youth soccer tournament or a league, they have to be priced to cover their expenses and to provide a good product for the customer. We’re going to provide that same philosophy to the team. We’re going to put a quality team on the field and were going to take the resources to make it break even. It’s got to perform like every other program at the Sports Center.

Q: Are you concerned that this team isn’t going to break even?

A: Erickson-We are really going forward with the plan that this team will break even. Can you accomplish that in year one? Maybe not, maybe it will take a couple of years to get that done.

Kruse – We would not have embarked on this with confidence if we were not convinced that we could embark on this with financial integrity.

There are two things, significant things, that have happened here in the last year to show the maturation of the NSC and it’s facilities. One of them is today’s announcement of the new pro soccer team. The other is the selection as the host to the Women’s Olympic Hockey team. Both of these take us into a completely different place in the Minnesota sports market place. These are both things we are very, very excited about and very proud of actually. The NSC is in a great place and people here are really pumped up about the new adventures.

Q: What are your visions for marketing this team?

A: Erickson- We’ve identified 17 different stakeholder groups who would have an interest to attend a game. They range from youth soccer to adult soccer, college teams, high school teams… our strategy is very much like how we have marketed the facility. We have a different marketing plan for visitors who come to our 10 different youth soccer tournaments each year. We have a different marketing strategy for the Dark Clouds/the hard core soccer fans. Are we going to be on major television and radio? Not likely, because the way we market all of our properties is to identify the market and then do direct mail or the new media, the social media, but to really manage good lists and communicate directly with those stakeholder groups through direct mail and email and sometimes telemarketing. That’s going to be the most cost effective way for us to build an audience.

Q: A trend has been for professional teams to establish partnerships with international clubs. Does NSC have that type of goal at any point?

A: Erickson- A number of National Sports Center models have been modeled after European models. Kris and I have been to Scandinavia 40 times and we have a very strong [connection] with Scandinavia. We’ve gotten teams to our tournaments for many years. We have a goal to establish a formal relationship with a Scandinavian soccer organization. We’ve been in contact with them since we have made this venture to get the team. We are not prepared to make any announcement yet. As we know there are several clubs in Division II who have formal ties with European soccer organizations. We think that’s a great idea and we intended to use our strengths with Scandinavian soccer connections to accomplish that.

28 Responses
  1. Soccer Boy permalink
    January 10, 2010

    Glad to hear the beer garden stays. Does not look like anyone asked about a scoreboard. Maybe they can take the one out of the Dome now that the Twins and Gophers have left, and the MN Vikings leave for California–after they get crushed by the Dallas Cowboys next week and Zigi decides to move the team?

  2. Demolition Man permalink
    January 10, 2010

    Looks like I know where I’ll be on the 21st.

  3. Jeff Wolter permalink
    January 10, 2010

    Ok, to summarize:
    Everybody gets everything they ask for, yet we’ll keep to our budget(??), and if it doesn’t break even then ” Our philosophy is that every program needs to make sense financially or it won’t hang around”.

    Remember at this point this is just a plan with a lot of nice new images to sell to fans who have no other real choice…

  4. January 10, 2010

    Soccer Boy, this has already been addressed in another posts comments. They are aware of the scoreboard situation. I mentioned it in one of my meetings with them. They comment I left was from my editor Teresa who said I hope they have a scoreboard that you can still see when the NSC golf cart pulls up in front of it. 🙂 They laughed and said the situation would be addressed. This is the type of thing that you need to come to the meeting on the 21st and address.

    Other things mentioned so far: Toilets behind the beer garden. Child changing tables in the large bathrooms. Fix the runway from the stands to the beer garden. (Was told it was paved with blacktop before the snow flew this past fall – so in other words √) Ticket taker at the north end. Stand duNord back in place behind the north goal. (Was taken out after the Christian concert last summer and never put back into place.)

  5. Jeff Wolter permalink
    January 10, 2010

    A strong winning team might also be important to the success of the team, don’t forget that one Brian.

  6. January 10, 2010

    I would agree, but according to Peter Wilt it’s not as important as good marketing and making sure the fans have a great time at the event. As he said, their have been successful teams who have not had the most winning teams and winning teams that have not been very successful.

  7. zlatan permalink
    January 10, 2010

    Too bad the NSC has such a sour relationship with MYSA. The USA Cup v MYSA Districts…too bad. I don’t know if I can find any NSC press that mentions MYSA…same issue as the Thunder. If you can’t mend the fence with the only youth organization in the state, it will be difficult to find many who will pay admission.

    Kruse and Erickson to Scandinavia 40 times? How many times on the tax payers dollar? Really, BQ, ask the question? How many times has Erickson’s trip to Scanda been funded by the tax payer? Are they going to recruit teams to play in the tournament? This is the problem with a public entitiy trying to run things.

  8. January 10, 2010

    Zlatan,
    First I think it was Erickson and Bjerkness. You totally missed what he said and has said and what has been printed here about the organization not receiving any public monies and yet running in the black since its inception in 89. “We’re proud of the fact that we’ve been able to run the National Sports Center with a 13 million dollar operating budget and we’ve operated in the black since we’ve opened the doors back in 1989.” No city, county or state monies, so how is this a problem? They are a self sustaining nonprofit.

    It does seem like a lot however and I thought the same thing. I will ask the question when I get the chance and get back to you on that. I’m sure it was recruiting and as he said at the presser, they originally went there to see how the tournaments were run which they then emulated when creating the USA Cup. The other cool thing about the team, is the team itself and representatives can promote the USA Cup when traveling for scheduled games.

    Anyway, I totally disagree with the MYSA thing. If you recall, NSC reached out to MYSA towards the end of that situation and MYSA didn’t seem to do the same. I think NSC is still willing to work with NSC. MYSA is the one who decided not to sanction them in the beginning because of something they thought NSC had said but was never substantiated.

    There definitely are issues there, but if you think everyone is totally happy with MYSA in the state at the moment your very mistaken. Clubs can make up their own mind. Most already have and many do participate in NSC’s many tournaments. Again, I just don’t see this as an issue as much as it is with NSC and MYSA. It’s also a very sad statement to me if MYSA cannot support pro soccer in Minnesota. It’s vitally important for numerous reasons on different levels which perhaps I’ll write about sometime.

  9. zlatan permalink
    January 10, 2010

    I agree regarding MYSA. I think MYSA is doing little to promote the game, and mostly holding it back in MN. They are equally to blame for the relationship with the NSC and Thunder. However, with all of the press and good will, no mention of mending the fence.

    I won’t hide behind my concern about a public-private venture. And my belief that this types of arrangements do little for the public.

    I have mentioned before, that just because someone says something, it doesn’t make it true. How can Erickson say the NSC uses no public funds or resources. Who paid for the land? Who pays their property taxes? Or better said, what other companies could use all their land and actually pay property taxes. Would my Blaine property taxes be lower if the entire NSC complex was residential, office space and light industrial? Would more local income tax be generated? Would more well paying jobs be created? Further, if you could see their books, I’m sure you would find other tax dollars being used. At a minimum, they probaly get city services, police and fire, infrastrucutre maintenance, law service, electric, etc. provide by or partially funded by the city.

  10. Scott Kerssen permalink
    January 11, 2010

    zlatan, while your concerns about public-private ventures are not without merit in the general sense, it would enhance the dialogue in a positive direction if , instead of trying to throw a bunch of speculative negatives against the wall to see what sticks, you try to find out some of this stuff for yourself.

    Here’s a place to start:

    http://www.auditor.leg.state.mn.us/Fad/access/03-07.htm

    The state auditor has checked the MASC before (the above audit was performed in 2002-03) and continues to check the books of state agencies, including the MASC and it’s related organizations. You can probably get whatever the latest figures are from the auditor’s office, if you’re truly concerned enough to make the effort.

    While it is indeed true that just because somebody says something it doesn’t mean it’s true, it doesn’t mean it’s false, either. Anyone can easily toss accusations around. But without supporting evidence that’s relevant to THIS situation and THESE agencies and individuals, groundless accusations are all they are.

    Here, I’ll even give you a second starting point:

    https://prtinfo.co.anoka.mn.us/(jfuzkv3b2mbi55454nqczwi1)/result.aspx

    Now, in the box for property ID, type in 20-31-23-41-0002 and submit.

    That’s the Property Account Summary for the NSC from Anoka County’s official website. Now you have two places to research.

    Unless the County of Anoka and the State Auditor’s office are lying, too.

    You could try filing a few state FOI requests. Here’s a page of info on who to get in touch with to do some:

    http://www.nfoic.org/minnesota

    Of course, I suppose that they could just mock up a few false documents, couldn’t they? I guess you’ll have to hire someone to investigate them, too. Let’s just hope the people you’d hire wouldn’t lie to you, too.

  11. Super Rookie permalink
    January 11, 2010

    Why does everyone always question tax revenue/payment so much? Heck, if I complained about all the tax handouts given to Target for building their headquarters in downtown Minneapolis I would get laughed at by many.

    Let’s be honest here. The NSC is an asset to our state. Financially and through their support of amateur sports in our state, so, even if taxpayer money was used to run the facility it is something that I would happily support, just like giving tax breaks to a few multi-national corporations that choose to set up shop in our city to create jobs and increase the sales-tax base.

  12. January 11, 2010

    Zlatan, I agree with Scott, The question is certainly valid but I do think it you dig deep you will be very surprised by how the organization is run. Check out this post I did last year concerning the MYSA v NSC issue. There are some charts and figures in there that are pretty interesting.
    From the article:
    “The last figures I saw suggested the event was the largest international youth soccer tournament in the western hemisphere and the second largest in the world. Of the 361,000 spectators roughly 40% come from outside Minnesota. This puts the out of state economic impact at about $30 million, just for the ten days of these two tournaments. The sales tax alone on this is a bit over $2 million. Has anyone been at the Mall of America during the USA Cup? During that week, MOA is packed with soccer players and their families. I’m sure if I delved into this further I could come up with figures of how the city of Blaine is impacted by not just these two tournaments but all of the NSC tournaments. In recent years there’s been tremendous growth of retail stores and restaurants in direct proximity to the National Sports Center. There is no doubt there is a direct correlation between the growth of attendance at NSC and the growth of retail in this area.

    The state budget for the Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission who oversee the NSC is less than $300k. So the Commission returns about $1.7 million in new state revenue from its operations. These figures are including just Schawn’s USA Cup and USA Cup weekend tournaments. So I ask this question, is there another state agency with that big of a percentage of return on investment?”

  13. January 11, 2010

    Zlatan, per your request: No tax dollars were used for any of the trips to Scandinavia. In fact, those trips were conducted prior to 1987 when both Erickson and Bjerkness were working for Sons of Norway in Mpls where Erickson was in charge of the Oslo, Norway, Sons of Norway Office. During that time, Erickson and Bjerkness worked with Norwegian soccer clubs about the creation of the USA Cup in 1985.
    Hope that clarifies the situation. 🙂

  14. zlatan permalink
    January 11, 2010

    Thanks for the info Scott and BQ. I wonder if the NSC would disclose personal expense reports and full G/L detail reports for the previous 5 years? Anyone know if they have audited financials. I don’t doubt that the NSC is an asset to the State, I question if it could be an even better one. And question if the NSC-NPSL venture is worth the risk and effort.

    I still have fundamental issues with public-private venture, influence peddling, down playing perks for public employees, etc. The fact that some public-private and public-only organizations participate in grey-area activity, quid-pro-quo, improper use of funds, lack of accountability, etc. does not mean that it is ok.

    As far as I know the NSC management are not elected officials. So there is no recourse for decisions, declining services, escalating costs, etc. I think if the 1000s of NSC volunteers, who sweat their equity into youth soccer, had full disclosure and understanding of where the money goes, they would think twice about where they volunteer their time.

    My opinion about the likely success of the NSC-NPSL venture is based on declining facilities, previously failed soccer teams, declining quality of their showcase event, failed programs, location in proximity to paying fans, $ losses to the Thunder, etc. My hope, because I enjoying watching live soccer, is that I am dead wrong about their success.

  15. January 11, 2010

    Zlatan, I’m very serious when I ask this question and I don’t mean to be a dink, but why is it you always seem to have an ax to grind with someone. You always seem like you’re looking for something or angry at someone. Seriously, thats how you come off. You are making a whole lot of subtle accusations here that are nothing but accusations of things you think might be wrong without any proof. You have already stated that you really don’t know, its just your general distrust.

    If you are having such an issue with this, do as Scott suggested, do your homework and them come back. Don’t just make stuff up please and then post it on here as if you know.

  16. Super Rookie permalink
    January 11, 2010

    BQ-

    Zlatan would make Ayn Rand very proud right now.

    I suggest we continue to let him bark up a tree that doesn’t exist. Allow the naysayers to constantly question anything. It doesn’t both us, and 99.9% of people will discount the subtle accusations and irrational discourse.

    Till something of substance is written it is best to let this fire burn itself out. In the end, we have a soccer team and many of us couldn’t be happier! Look at how well everything is going already! A soccer summit? When was the last time that happened? I bet MYSA was even invited!

    Things are going exceptionally well. Don’t let the haters question that!

  17. fotbalist permalink
    January 11, 2010

    As I’ve stated on other occasions on this site, I have a fair bit of experience with non-profits and/or private organizations. There’s no technical impropriety with Zlatan’s concern; unless, there was an illegality. It seems really quite silly of someone about possible trips to Scandinavia that might have been on tax-generated revenue. What would be the problem with it?

    But, more importantly Zlatan, please take to heart what BQ encouraged you to do. Find issues then bring them up for discussion. Making accusations prior to gathering evidence is like sentencing someone first, in order to find out if he has a criminal record. I believe the Constitution has dealt with that that issue…innocent before proven guilty…

    I agree with you on MYSA/NSC cooperation.

  18. January 12, 2010

    Zlatan –

    BQ is absolutely correct about the perception of your posts.
    Relax, smile, & think about something that makes you happy.

    For example, the world may end in 2012 like the movie says, but I am not worrying about it.

    Perhaps the new team should be called the Minn. Black Helicopters.

    Gotta go. I hear some propellers . . .

    (Lighten up! SuperRookie will surely buy you a beer at the first game!)

  19. thesuperrookie permalink
    January 12, 2010

    Zlatan you can find me in the north end: where the party never stops.

  20. Zlatan permalink
    January 12, 2010

    BQ, no problem. I do usually have an axe to grind. I guess I’m one of those people who doesn’t care for the inequities in how political power is distributed and weilded in this country…but that is a different blog!

    My objection is to the sweeping candy-coated message of “We’re proud of the fact that we’ve been able to run the National Sports Center with a 13 million dollar operating budget and we’ve operated in the black since we’ve opened the doors back in 1989.”

    Did anybody else actually read the auditors report? Which by the way was a neutral position on the use of tax payer dollars to buy land and build a youth golf course.

    While I don’t recall seeing Erickson quoted as saying that the NSCF does not use tax dollars, several others have said or implied this as fact. The auditors report clearly states:

    * The NSCF, which operates the NSC, receives operating funds from the MASC, which receive appropriates from the legislature…they use tax dollars

    * The NSCF manages a complex/facility on state owned property, (and as a not for profit, do not pay taxes)…they use tax dollars

    * The NSCF uses grants, donations, legislature appropriated funds, fees/revenue for building and improvements…they use tax dollars

    Yes, they operated in the black, which means that in a fiscal year they don’t spend more than the tax payers (+revenue/fees) give them. They are probably chartered to be in the black, without legislature approval.

    Again, back to the message delivered. The inference of the message is that the NSCF will make a pro-team successful, because they have been successful managing the NSCF budget year over year. Yes, it is an accomplishment, but it probably doesn’t prepare them to navigate running a professional sports teams.

  21. Scott Kerssen permalink
    January 13, 2010

    Much better post, zlatan.

    However, I’ve found a few definite mistakes in it.

    If you had carefully read over the Property Account Summary that I sent you the link and Account ID number for (second hotlink in my first post), you’d have seen that they have paid $2047.71 in property taxes over the past three years (in payments of $1023.86 or $1023.85 on 5-12-07, 10-6-07, 5-10-08, 10-15-08, 5-11-09 and 10-12-09).

    There are various kinds of non-profits with differing rules for many aspects of their business activities including taxation. You might want to get a better handle on this aspect.

    The next two paragraphs are from the NSC’s website:

    “Even though most of the facility development and land purchases were made with State of Minnesota funding, the facility is operated by a non-profit corporation, the National Sports Center Foundation (NSCF). The NSCF operates the facility on a self-supporting basis. State funds were used to build the facility, but no operating subsidy is provided. The original state investment was $14.7 million, and to date the State has invested just over $20 million in the NSC campus. Since 2000 however, the NSC Foundation has financed the majority of an ambitious construction phase through private investment. About 2/3 of the new National Youth Golf Center was financed privately, as was 100% of the construction of four new sheets of ice at the Schwan Super Rink, and a portion of the development of the Schwan Center meeting and events facility.

    The Schwan Super Rink was funded by a cooperative of eleven local governmental partners along with the Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission (MASC). The partners include the cities of Arden Hills, Blaine, Centerville, Circle Pines, Coon Rapids, Lino Lakes, Mounds View, New Brighton, Shoreview, as well as Ramsey and Anoka Counties. Total construction cost was $11 million. The $10 million Super Rink expansion was also built with non-state money. Partners include Centennial, Blaine and Tri-City Youth Hockey Associations, the Herb Brooks Foundation and Bethel University, all of which made an initial investment and then pay off the construction bonds through the sales of ice time.”

    The MASC site (http://www.mnsports.org ) confirms that the NSC does not receive ANY operating subsidy from the state. And this mini-table:

    State Investment
    $14.7 million (1987)
    $.4 million (1992)
    $.119 million (1994)
    $1.7 million (1998)
    $3.1 million (1998)
    $.3 million (1999)

    shows exactly how much money the state has contributed (mostly to facility expansion).

    As for those grants, donations, etc…much of those appear to be from private sources.

    Your post does raise some valid questions which are backed up by a certain, limited amount of evidence. But other aspects of your latest post are contradicted by the facts. There is a legitimate debate here, but to make an even better case for your views, you need to do even more research and improve it’s accuracy.

  22. Jeff Wolter permalink
    January 13, 2010

    Z- “Again, back to the message delivered. The inference of the message is that the NSCF will make a pro-team successful, because they have been successful managing the NSCF budget year over year. Yes, it is an accomplishment, but it probably doesn’t prepare them to navigate running a professional sports teams.”

    I think he has a valid point to make here.

    This is a completely new area for this organization. The only real goals of a D2 pro team are winning games, and filling their stands with loyal fans. How much resources are used to attain these difficult goal is a big question that will have to addressed at some point. The goal of having a winning team has not been stated yet.

    There are definitely advantages to owning the facilities and having a staff already in place that makes for a smaller budget, but in the end the team will need to do more than just contain cost be able to attract top players to the team.

    In the end , it’s what they put on the field and how well they do out there, that will count in D2.

  23. January 13, 2010

    It is true that many owners have move forward with pro soccer teams believing they could make ends meet enough that through the losses the team has, will help their financial tax situations at the end of the year, but then the capital calls end up being higher then they thought and end up closing shop or selling after only a few years. However, one aspect you miss, is that the NSC already has several investors in the team and are still looking for more. The NSC does not get to take tax write-offs but I believe they are trying to set the team up so it is financially a different animal than the NSC but owned by the NSC and it’s investors. The idea being that the investors could take some of those losses for tax purposes. This is way beyond me and my understanding of finances or taxes. But that was the initial idea.

    Point being, the Montreal Impact are non-profit organization as well with 3-major investors. Perhaps bit different situation than MN’s, but they have been very successful.

  24. Zlatan permalink
    January 13, 2010

    I agree, the NSC has some infrastructure in place, and a facility, and they should be able to gain some econmies. However, they will also loose the revenue/payments from the Thunder (OK, they may not have received any in 2009.) Additionally, most of their events staff are volunteers, so if they can not get volunteers to work the new pro team events, they will still have to fork out some cash.

    S.K. you are correct, regarding some minor property tax payments. I appreciate that someone is holding me accountable…since I can be an a-hole that way. However, the tax payments are minor/insignificant to the actual tax value of property and improvements…so the net is, they are using/consuming significant tax dollars.

    Your reference to the MASC not providing operating expense payments is an accountant’s nit. If they did not receive anything from the state and had to pay for improvements, land, taxes, etc., they would be bleeding like the namesless guy on Star Trek. If they had to operate as a for profit business, they would not have lasted more than a couple of years.

    Again, I will agree that the NSC is an asset to the State of MN and offers some reasonable services (e.g. field rental to youth, adult leagues, etc.) I love the NSC, it is a soccer meca…but I don’t believe they will be able to run a successful professional team.

    BQ, I think you are on the right track, but I don’t think most people invest for tax write offs. The invest for cash returns or increase in value (or like the 90s owner, because of passion for the game.)

  25. Zlatan permalink
    January 13, 2010

    I forgot to say that “grants”, on the average, are about 1/2 tax dollars. So that fact that the state, county, city, civic organization is steering money their way, it may still be tax dollars.

  26. Jane permalink
    January 13, 2010

    Sorry if I missed this, but I did not see anything about the Lightning in either the press conference summary or the comments. Brian or others, what is the word on whether there will also be a pro women’s Div. II team? I am planning to come on the 21st to ask that question if no one has info.

  27. January 13, 2010

    You can ask but I don’t think there are any immediate plans to continue a women’s team. I think a reasonable question would be would the Thunder continued to have a women’s team this year and I think the answer would have been no. I believe they were winding things down on that.

    I think it’s a good question and I do hope that in the future NSC may look at hosting a women’s team. However, I think with everything that has happened this past year, it would be a little unrealistic to think they could get that together. Its going to be a stretch getting this team up and running in time for the start of the season.

  28. Jane permalink
    January 14, 2010

    Thanks for the opinion. I will ask at next week’s meeting.

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