Minnesota United FC will pay the University of Minnesota at least $1 million to play its inaugural season at TCF Bank Stadium while the Loons’ new stadium is being built in St. Paul.
The contract is a lot cheaper than the deal between the University and the Minnesota Vikings, which paid at least $300,000 per game for the two seasons it spent at TCF while its $1.1 billion home was under construction in downtown Minneapolis.
Altogether, the Vikings paid about $3 million per season, or three times the minimum payment guaranteed in the new contract with the soccer team. United must pay the University $40,000 per game in rent, plus cover nearly $200,000 in estimated gameday expenses. The U also is entitled to collect $1 per ticket, which is expected to generate another $20,000 per game in fees.
University officials said the Loons are paying less for the facility because the team will draw far smaller crowds than the Vikings and generate less revenue per game.
“The size and impact to the university isn’t the same as when the Vikings came to town, so it has a smaller impact on the campus,” said Mike Berthelsen, interim vice president for university services.
United officials did not return calls seeking comment.
The contract was signed this week by U officials, just in time for the Loons’ first home game. The Major League Soccer expansion team will make its local debut against Atlanta United FC on March 12.
The team will play at least 17 games at TCF Bank Stadium this year, and up to 23 games if it makes the playoffs, according to the contract. By contrast, the Vikings played a total of 17 regular-season and playoff games at TCF Bank Stadium over two seasons.
The deal also allows Minnesota United to play at TCF Bank Stadium during the entire 2018 season if the soccer team’s new stadium in St. Paul is not ready.
As part of the deal, the team will have to provide at least 95 complimentary tickets per game to the university, including 25 tickets in a premium suite.
While all of the suite seats and another 12 nonpremium tickets will be retained by the university for its own purposes, at least 1,000 tickets will be given out over the course of the season to fans and young athletes through the university’s Good Neighbor Fund, according to Berthelsen and the contract.
“We will work through the neighborhood associations to determine how to get those tickets ... into the hands of the best folks,” Berthelsen said. “They will probably be targeting the youth through the park system or soccer teams, things that would make sense. Our goal is to find enough people to take them and use them.”
The U put strict limits on when the Loons can use the stadium, which may have led to some scheduling quirks. Minnesota United is not allowed to use the stadium on weekdays during the spring and fall semesters, nor on the same weekends as home football games for the Gophers, according to the contract.
As a result, the team will play just one home game each in the months of March, August and October, with the team spending more than a month on the road between home games scheduled on Aug. 5 and Sept. 9. There will be four home games in July, when the university was able to make 17 dates available, vs. just two open dates in September.
“They wanted us to make as many dates available as possible, but they understood that not only do we have events in the stadium but we have other things happening on campus, which effect our ability to host a major event,” said Tom McGinnis, the university’s senior associate athletic director.
Concession sales will also generate cash for the U, which will keep 75 percent of money it is entitled to receive through its contract with concessions operator Aramark, with 25 percent of those dollars flowing to United.
Under the Vikings deal, the U was entitled to a flat fee of $50,000 from concession sales and gameday sponsorships.
The only major sponsorship kink the two parties had to deal with was the arrangement between Major League Soccer and AdvoCare International, a health and wellness company that makes shakes and dietary supplements. AdvoCare’s Rehydrate is the league’s official sports drink, but United will face restrictions in how it promotes the brand, including “limited display and promotion,” according to the contract.
When United is ready to move into its new $150 million facility in the Midway neighborhood, the team will have to pay up to $735,000 to remove the special soccer turf the U installed for the team, according to the contract. Though United originally hoped to make that move sometime in 2018, team officials have indicated recently that it is possible the new facility may not be ready until the 2019 season.
The team’s contract with the U allows the Loons to play as many games as necessary at TCF Bank Stadium in 2018 to complete the season, with United’s $1 million in guaranteed fees prorated based on the actual number of games played there.