The Vikings’ stadium design, unveiled Monday, is Major League Soccer-friendly, MLS spokesman Dan Courtemanche said. And the Vikings remain “very interested” in exploring the option of bringing an MLS team to Minnesota to play in the stadium, Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley said.
Even so, don’t expect it to happen anytime soon, if it happens at all. That was the underlying message from both men in separate interviews this week. The Vikings have exclusive rights to bring an MLS team to their stadium until five years after it opens — 2021 if it opens as scheduled in 2016 — while MLS, currently at 19 and soon to be 20 teams, could expand to 24 or 28 teams in the next decade. There are a lot of years and decisions to made in the mean time.
“To be honest that effort is somewhat on the back burner given the level of energy we’re putting into the design, development and construction process right now,” Bagley said. “But we think there is a market for it. … At some point, there will need to be an analysis of the investment because it would be a significant investment to secure the franchise — as much as $40 million to $50 million.”
Courtemanche said expansion decisions will be based on numerous factors, including local TV ratings and fan support for lower division teams in the market.
Most MLS teams play in open-air, soccer-specific venues on natural grass fields. The new Vikings stadium is none of those, even with the “indoor-outdoor experience” Bagley said architects and builders hope to achieve with the design and construction. But none of those are deal-breakers, Courtemanche said — particularly after Seattle proved it could thrive in a football stadium and Vancouver showed indoor matches can succeed inside the sometimes-closed BC Place.
“No question,” Courtemanche said about whether the Vikings stadium works for MLS. “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.”
Whether the stadium and MLS eventually make a match, however, remains to be seen.