Plans are underway to upgrade the National Sports Center (NSC) in Blaine, Minn., as Minnesota United adapts its training facility for MLS. Team spokesperson Eric Durkee confirmed this on Friday, saying, “This is going to be one of the top MLS training facilities in the league.”
Last February, we reported that Minnesota United was in talks with the NSC to create a training center for their team. A year later, those plans have yet to be realized. However, United spokesperson Eric Durkee confirmed on Friday that the team is close to finalizing things and hope to have locker room renovations completed in the next several months.
A 10,000 sq. ft. area would be totally renovated specifically for the team’s use. The remodel of the facility will also include a player lounge, new exercise equipment, weight rooms, an office, and a rehab/trainers area.
A spokesperson for the NSC, Barclay Kruse, told FiftyFive.One that there would be no physical build-out. Instead, the lower southeast corner of the Sports Hall, a 10,000 sq. ft. area, would be totally renovated specifically for the team’s use. The remodel of the facility will also include a player lounge, new exercise equipment, weight rooms, an office, and a rehab/trainers area.
According to Kruse, the holdup has largely been a legal issue regarding a private organization leasing state property. The National Sports Center is a quasi-state organization. It’s a non-profit overseen by a state agency called the Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission (MASC), but the NSC runs independently. The MASC itself has three state employees and is overseen by the Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) department. According to Kruse, the MASC have been meeting regularly with the MMB to work out the details. “We want to make sure this is done legally and correctly,” explained Kruse.
Kruse said there was legislation in last year’s session that would have made it easier to make this deal happen. That was included in a bonding bill, but that spending measure was eventually nixed. It is still possible that a similar bill could get passed in this year’s legislation or things could continue to be worked out with the MMB. Both the NSC and Minnesota United seem optimistic about a positive outcome.
What’s in store
Durkee said the locker room remodel will be the most important improvement, which is scheduled soon after a deal is completed. It will be expanded to handle the larger 28-player roster that an MLS team carries, and will have added amenities.
The stadium field and field U2 in the bowl adjacent to the stadium have been the training fields for Minnesota United and will continue to be for the 2017 season. Sporting Director Manny Lagos has put a high priority on creating two new grass fields usable only for the team’s training.
Last year, Kruse said the practice fields would most likely be built where fields C1 and C2 currently sit, near the Sports Hall adjacent to the NSC stadium. The fields would be a total rebuild. That work cannot begin until the weather warms enough to excavate and plant.
So far, there are no discussions about creating a dome, which would be helpful for training in Minnesota’s harsh winter climate. The NSC has a fieldhouse with FieldTurf that’s adjacent and connected to the area that will be renovated. Minnesota’s pro teams — Thunder, Stars, and United — have all used that facility for winter training in the past. However, it is somewhat limited in both height and dimension (55 x 100 yards) and has a relatively low ceiling.
According to Durkee, the new outdoor field will need to have some sort of fencing for closed sessions. In the past, United practice sessions were generally open, especially to media. This year they will be closed except for the first or last 15 minutes, depending on head coach Adrian Heath’s wishes. Most MLS training fields are shielded from the general public with screens surrounding the facilities.
How it’s feasible
Last year, Kruse emphasized that the NSC is a non-profit organization and they were not subsidizing Minnesota United’s use of the facility. “If we come to the table with any money, it would be with an additional partnership or sponsor,” he said. On Friday, he said all costs for the upgrades will be completely paid for by the team and they would lease the facility from the NSC.
“This is going to be one of the top MLS training facilities in the league.” – Team spokesperson
A Minnesota United-branded training facility on the NSC campus would be a good partnership for both organizations. The NSC is the largest soccer complex in the world. It hosts many soccer tournaments on its 660-acre campus which contains 52 soccer fields. They also host the Schwan’s USA CUP every July, which is the second largest youth soccer tournament in the Western hemisphere.
Having a branded and sponsored MLS training facility on the NSC campus would be inspiring to youth players and boost the marketing of Minnesota United’s brand. In turn, it could drive more attendance to NSC’s events and facilities used for training.
It’s estimated that $47 million in economic impact is created every year by the NSC from out-of-state visitors attending events at the facility. In turn, that generates over $3 million in extra revenue to state and local governments.
Last year, Schwan’s USA CUP brought in 1,178 teams representing nine states and 19 different countries. The NSC draws four million visitors each year.
The MLS National Sales Center is also housed in one of the many NSC buildings.
Talk of the NSC also hosting training and game-day facilities for United’s Development Academy is still in the discussion stages.