Hoping to land a Major League Soccer franchise in Minneapolis, the Minnesota Vikings say they're ready to put another $3 to $5 million into their new stadium to accommodate professional soccer.
In a Tuesday night presentation to tourism and business leaders in Minneapolis, team officials offered a shorter version of the pitch they made to Major League Soccer in New York last month, urging the league to consider their location and the amenities they could offer, including large open public spaces nearby and the ability to accommodate more than double a typical crowd for MLS games.
They also showed off a new "house reduction" system meant to curtain off part of the stadium expected to be vacant during the 17 home games MLS teams usually play. The Vikings said they are prepared to pay for those changes and build them into the $1 billion stadium under construction.
The Vikings are vying with another Minnesota contender to host top-level soccer. Minnesota United Football Club owner and former UnitedHealth CEO William McGuire is making a pitch for a team at a new downtown stadium, in partnership with owners of the Twins and Timberwolves.
Major League Soccer is expected to decide on expansion in the first half of next year, but officials haven't made any commitment to Minnesota.
The Vikings take soccer seriously, even if they aren't in the business right now, Vikings executive Steve Poppen said.
"Our owners really looked at this ... this is not a second thought," he said. "We talk a lot about the MLS team being on par with the NFL franchise, and they really are committed to that."
The Vikings' Tuesday night presentation featured two soccer stars with Minnesota connections. Taylor Twellman, a former MLS most valuable player born in Apple Valley, called MLS soccer a "no brainer" for Minneapolis, although he said both the Minnesota United bid and the Vikings bid were viable.
University of Minnesota men's soccer coach Alan Merrick said he wasn't taking sides in the Minnesota rivalry, either. But he also added that he thought that pro soccer's resistance to playing indoors and on artificial turf wasn't a deal killer for the Vikings.
"This isn't a dome. This is a greenhouse. This has got wonderful sightlines. It's got air coming through it if you open up the major doors that they have on the west side. You have an incredible structure that allows you to see the clouds going over the top," Merrick said. "They've thought it out extremely well."
Video: A brief history of Minnesota soccer since 2009
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