Minnesota United president Nick Rogers took the time to answer a few questions for FiftyFive.One as the club finalized the details of their big announcement party.
Are you now on an accelerated timeline to get things ready for MLS? Has the team been operating like they’re joining MLS in 2017 this whole time?
NR: We still have to confirm who our technical staff will be and who’s in what role. These aren’t shocking issues for us. We’ve been putting a lot of thought into this for a long time. We’ve been operating a professional soccer team for 4 years; we’ve been working towards this. We’ve had a lot of discussions about this and we’ve been building relationships. It will be a challenge for sure, but I don’t feel like we are any further behind than any other expansion team has been.
We have players that come in and train with us that we may or may not make known to the public. We are probably a little bit further ahead than people realize. At the end of the day, there’s a finite amount of process for bringing players into the league and there’s sort of an orderly process for it. So that’s where a lot of the players are going to come from. We obviously need to do our due diligence here and be prepared but I certainly don’t feel like we are behind.
Was there ever any thought of waiting until 2018 until the new stadium was completed?
NR: I think we just preferred to make the move sooner rather than later.
Did you consider staying in Blaine or did MLS want a newer urban location for your first year?
NR: Blaine is a great venue for soccer, but it has certain limitations when it comes to the highest level of professional soccer and producing a broadcast for MLS. I’m very proud of what we do right now and the broadcast that we produce, but MLS has different requirements for camera placement. TCF Bank Stadium gives us a venue where it’s been proven to be suitable for a professional sporting event. Blaine just wasn’t the right place for us.
What’s happening on the setting up of your USL Reserve team and development academy program?
NR: That’s going to be a later date when we talk about that. We want to do it right. You only get one chance to start that effort. We want to go about it the right way. Youth player development can be a very risky proposition. We want to make sure we are approaching this the right way and we are taking advantage of the unique opportunities our region presents and the rules presented by Major League Soccer and we don’t want to rush into anything. We hired Tim Carter as our academy director and we are certainly starting that process. As well, we have people in place whose job it is to think about all those things. But we won’t have any specific announcements for at least a few months or possibly longer.
Why TCF Bank over Target Field?
NR: We certainly examined Blaine as a possibility and we looked at Target Field as well. We had the Leon event there this summer which I thought came off really, really well. Much better than I expected being in a baseball stadium. We love the Twins and they’ve been great partners and super supportive at every turn. It just came down to scheduling flexibility. Field conversion is a big consideration — frankly, at both venues. The Twins have 81 events every year plus concerts. The field would have to be converted and then converted back. You end up with a relatively little flexibility in scheduling matches. That was really the tipping point.
What will capacity be for MLS games be at TCF Bank Stadium (the stadium capacity is 52,000)?
NR: We are going to look at different configurations. There are definitely some operating expenses involved when you are looking at opening the upper deck. We are looking at a lot of different possibilities.
There was recently new turf laid down at TCF Bank Stadium that doesn’t have all the traditional football lines cut in. Was that negotiated to make sure the field looked better for soccer games?
NR: Yes, that’s something we discussed with the U when we knew they’d be replacing their turf. We were in dialog with them and decided to keep everyone’s options open. Let’s figure out a way to keep the carpet as clean as possible. Obviously there are still some permanent markings on it but we think that’s OK. The 2017 Big Ten schedule has been out there for months. When you are talking about eight to ten weekends compared to 81 home baseball events there are some limitations certainly. It’s not our venue and we are sharing it with someone else. But there are more options there.
What sort of scheduling issues will you have sharing the stadium and when is the earliest you can play a scheduled game there? Will team’s schedule begin with away matches given weather concerns?
NR: Common sense would dictate that but the MLS schedule is in process right now.
Will you continue to practice in Blaine?
NR: I anticipate we will still train in Blaine.