On the heels of Monday's Vikings stadium unveiling, we had a chance to chat with Dan Courtemanche, the Executive VP of Communications for Major League Soccer, about the design of the building and the potential future of MLS in Minnesota. The Vikings, per the terms of the original stadium language, have exclusive rights to bring Major League Soccer to the venue for five years after it opens.
Here are a few takeaways from our conversation with Courtemanche (which we hope to follow in a subsequent post after an interview with Vikings VP Lester Bagley):
*On whether the new stadium design, which does have a soccer configuration, would work for MLS: "No question. We believe it’s another strong indicator of the growth of soccer across the country when you have venues like this that can house not just a potential MLS team but a World Cup game in the future."
*On where MLS expansion stands: "We don’t have specific plans or a timeline, but we certainly believe over the next decade we will add more teams. Whether it’s to 24 or 28, it hasn’t been decided. We’re at 19 now, hopefully soon to announce we’re at 20 (with another New York franchise). In 2004, we were at 10. … Back then, I’m not so sure we would have seen back then we were at 19 about to announce 20."
*On how some perceived negatives -- fixed roof, football venue, artificial surface -- are not the dealbreakers they once might have seemed to be: "Clearly it’s going to be a state-of-the-art facility that will rival any stadium throughout the world. When it comes to the configuration and capacity, we have similar stadiums in Seattle, New England. It’s in a market-by-market basis as to what fits best. Had we gone into Seattle and built a 20,000 seat stadium, there would be more than 20,000 people per game who couldn’t watch them because they averaged 43,000 people last year. ... We play a lot of games indoors in Vancouver in retractable roof at BC Place. It seats 66K, and they downsize it into just lower bowl. … There are more state-of-the-art designs to downsize stadiums that do exist. The vast majority of [Vancouver's] games are played indoors just because of their climate. ... We’re fortunate that due to the advances in artificial surfaces … the technology is so similar now to playing on grass that it’s not a make-or-break situation."
*On why the outdoor TCF Bank Stadium isn't a stadium solution: "Without me knowing the soccer configuration, the bottom line is that if you want to have the opportunity to be profitable, you have to control your venue. ... When it comes to professional sports in sports leagues, the ability to be profitable at the local level -- a major factor is control of the venue, whether it’s revenue streams, gates, parking, concessions, etc. When the ownership is a secondary tenant, it makes it challenging. In other words, it’s much better to have the owner – if we were going to partner with someone like the Vikings – to have it in their stadium where they control the venue and revenue streams."