Vikings: Major League Soccer pursuit can wait

The Vikings remain interested in acquiring a Major League Soccer franchise, but they have more imminent decisions before an analysis on whether acquiring a soccer team is worth it.

While the Minnesota Vikings have several stadium details to complete right now, they remain interested in pursuing a Major League Soccer franchise for the state of Minnesota but are putting that task on the backburner for now.

The team and the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority are expected to reach an agreement in the next month on the parameters of the Vikings' use of the new stadium, scheduled to open in 2016. Most of the Vikings' stadium planning has been spent sewing up the details on the use agreement document that will determine revenue splits, event days for the Vikings in addition to games, and other details.

The team has also spent time in the early stages of forming a committee to present Minnesota's case for hosting a Super Bowl in the new stadium sometime between 2018 and 2012.

All of those details come before their pursuit of an MLS franchise that would play inside the yet-to-be-named new stadium.

"We remain very interested in soccer. We think this is a very strong market. We think it's a growth market," said Lester Bagley, the team's vice president of stadium development. "But it's really kind of on the backburner right now because we're working hard on the basic contracts and the design work just to get up to the groundbreaking so we can start construction and start employing people."

Groundbreaking on the new stadium, which will be located on the footprint of the Metrodome, will start in October and the Metrodome will be demolished after the Vikings' season is finished.

As for the soccer franchise, the Vikings can wait.

According to the stadium legislation that passed last year, the Vikings have a five-year exclusive negotiating window, starting when the new stadium opens, for a soccer franchise that will play there.

The price of soccer, however, is going up.

"We've kind of set the soccer discussion aside, but we remain very interested in acquiring a franchise," Bagley said. "Orlando just got asked to pay – they haven't agreed just yet – $70 million to get an MLS soccer franchise in Orlando. We thought it was going to be in the $40-$50 million range, but it's going to be a significant investment so we have to do an analysis to be sure there's going to be a return, but we really would like to bring MLS soccer to the market and to the building.

"We still have some time, some runway. But I think we'll turn our attention to that down the road a little bit, hopefully when we get into construction, which is the groundbreaking Oct. 1 or thereabouts."

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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