United FC to move training away from Blaine

Minnesota United FC will no longer call the National Sports Center its training home after 2013, but plans to continue to play matches in Blaine in 2014.

Announced by the club via email Thursday morning, the Bielenberg Sports Center in Woodbury will be the official training facility for the club beginning in 2014.

United FC will partner with the city of Woodbury on a new 7,500 square-foot training center which will be paid for by the club and connect to an existing 120,000 square-foot indoor fieldhouse that includes 18 grass soccer fields and 18 baseball/softball fields.

Minnesota United FC will partner with the City of Woodbury on an expansion of Bielenberg Sports Complex. Photo by Bill Jones

Minnesota United FC will partner with the City of Woodbury on an expansion of Bielenberg Sports Complex. Photo by Bill Jones

The new construction will include an outdoor ice arena and a new restaurant and catering area with a 60-foot tall pavilion.

The new facilities are the result of a city-sponsored $21.8 million building project at Bielenberg that began in June.

United FC General Manager Nick Rogers said the move wasn’t something the club was looking for, but the opportunity came to light through contact with David Millington, whose Madison Clare Foundation is developing a playground area at Bielenberg that is accessible to all kids.

Rogers said the Woodbury expansion will be the new training and off-season home for the club, but it will continue to play matches in Blaine.

“This is only about a training facility,” he said. “The NSC is perfectly adequate for what we’re doing, but I’m not sure how many structures exist in the U.S. like what we’re planning.

“I fully expect our home games to be played in Blaine in 2014, unless we do a one-off game somewhere else.”

He hopes the league will stay away from scheduling early-season home games, given the unpredictable conditions, Rogers said.

The new Woodbury complex will feature more than a dozen indoor soccer fields with a dedicated outdoor turf field that is exclusively used and kept up for United FC and professional soccer standards.

“We found that it was very difficult thing for [National Sports Center] to accommodate us,” Rogers said.

The team wanted to have dedicated outdoor practice areas, but given the NSC’s scheduling with teams, leagues and tournaments, access was needed to all fields, he said.

United FC played all but one of the spring season schedule at Metrodome, returning to Blaine for the final game of the spring season, July 4. With a split-season schedule, United FC opened the fall portion in early August and continues through October with all games in Blaine.

Kris Bjerkness, NSC Foundation chief administrative officer, said NSC was aware the club was looking elsewhere for alternative training sites and the move hasn’t damaged the relationship between the NSC and United FC.

“They’re still going to be playing games here and we look forward to hosting their games and professional soccer at the National Sports Center,” he said.

He added that the club and facility were close to signing a multi-year contract to continue to host games in Blaine.

Bjerkness said the two sides briefly discussed expanding the training facilities in Blaine but never moved ahead with discussions.

Jason Olson is at
jason.olson@ecm-inc.com

 

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