With eye on the future, Thunder goes back to NSC

  • Article by: DAVID LA VAQUE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 13, 2008 - 1:22 AM

The soccer team will leave James Griffin Stadium immediately and has plans to upgrade the Blaine facility.

Featuring a new ownership group with deep pockets and eyes on the future, the Thunder on Monday took the unusual step of returning to an enhanced version of its past.

After four full seasons -- and two matches this season -- at St. Paul's James Griffin Stadium, Minnesota's professional soccer team announced a move, effective immediately, back to the National Sports Center in Blaine. The Thunder, which played at the NSC from 1990 to 2003, will upgrade the facility by adding seating and removing the track in order to bring fans 80 feet closer to the field.

Barclay Kruse, NSC communications officer, said the NSC and Thunder have agreed to split the estimated $250,000 project cost. Discussions about removing the under- utilized track intensified recently, but not in time for the Thunder's season. Renovations are scheduled to be completed July 1, but all remaining home games will be played at the NSC. The next scheduled home game is May 24.

Manny Lagos, the team president, said the need for a change outweighed the less-than-ideal timing. The organization also faced pressure from the United Soccer Leagues to improve its home field.

"We're the only team in the league that does not currently play in a soccer-specific stadium," Lagos said. "We're the only team in the league that currently plays with football lines. After two games, that was a lot of pressure."

The field at James Griffin Stadium, located on the north side of St. Paul Central High School, was painted for high school football. The Thunder hoped to repaint the field for the summer, but did not get approval from the St. Paul Public School District.

"We had a great rapport with the St. Paul Public School system," Lagos said. "We were trying to upgrade the facility, but the reality is it's very difficult to do."

The Thunder signed a contract to play at the NSC through 2011. St. Paul native Dean Johnson, part of the team's new ownership group that took over in August, said the long-term goal to build a new stadium remains.

In the meantime, the Thunder will receive increased revenue from concessions and parking in Blaine. Kruse said the Thunder, which in the past received no money from either source, will now get 50 percent of the concession revenue. He said the Thunder has the option to charge for parking.

When the Thunder left Blaine after the 2003 season, team officials said moving to St. Paul would be a better option for soccer fans unable or unwilling to trek to Blaine. Lagos said he now believes fans will make the trip.

"I am 100 percent confident that people are going to watch the premier soccer team in Minnesota," he said. "I think people are going to want to drive to experience this environment."

David La Vaque • 612-673-7574

  • THUNDER

    Up next: at Atlanta • 7 p.m. Friday

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Fla Southern 2 FINAL
Detroit 12
FIU 2 FINAL
Miami 7
Toronto 114 FINAL
Philadelphia 103
Golden State 108 FINAL
Brooklyn 110
Phoenix 98 FINAL
Miami 115
LA Clippers 110 FINAL
Minnesota 105
New Orleans 93 FINAL
Dallas 102
Nashville 1 FINAL
NY Rangers 4
Carolina 2 FINAL
Chicago 5
Montreal 0 FINAL
San Jose 4
Virginia 59 FINAL
Syracuse 47
Baylor 59 FINAL
Texas 61
SE Louisiana 79 FINAL
Northwestern St 92
Central Arkansas 49 FINAL
Sam Houston St 76
Norfolk State 59 FINAL
Howard 61
Bethune-Cookman 50 FINAL
NC A&T 67
Hampton 75 FINAL
Delaware State 85
Lamar 69 FINAL
McNeese State 70
Nicholls 89 FINAL
New Orleans 79
Incarnate Word 62 FINAL
Stephen F Austin 83
NC Central 62 FINAL
Savannah State 49
Texas Southern 77 FINAL
Alabama A&M 75
Prairie View 67 FINAL
Alabama State 65
Oklahoma 70 FINAL
Iowa State 77
Grambling St 62 FINAL
Miss Valley St 66
Boston College 66 FINAL
Virginia Tech 59
Jackson State 62 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 64
Bethune-Cookman 55 FINAL
NC A&T 58
Hampton 78 FINAL
Delaware State 63
Norfolk State 63 FINAL
Howard 60
NC Central 54 FINAL
Savannah State 65
Texas Southern 83 FINAL
Alabama A&M 46
Prairie View 42 FINAL
Alabama State 60
Jackson State 78 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 74
Grambling 56 FINAL
Miss Valley St 61
Tulsa 71 FINAL
Cincinnati 58
(1) Connecticut 88 FINAL
South Florida 65
UCF 57 FINAL
East Carolina 67
Central Conn St 53 FINAL
Bryant 55
Wagner 66 FINAL
Robert Morris 60
Sacred Heart 75 FINAL
Fairleigh Dickinson 84
St Francis-NY 73 FINAL
Long Island 49
Mount St Marys 87 FINAL
St Francis-PA 90
Temple 56 FINAL
Houston 45
Texas Tech 65 FINAL
(6) Baylor 75
Iowa State 64 FINAL
Kansas 68
SMU 60 FINAL
Memphis 53
Oklahoma 66 FINAL
Oklahoma St 56

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How will the Wild finish out the season?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close