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Published on 05/12/2008 12:55 pm   (Last Updated 05/12/2008 12:55 pm)
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Minnesota Thunder to Move Home Field to Blaine's National Sports Center
Minnesota Thunder News Release
St. Paul, MN (May 12, 2008) -- The Minnesota Thunder announced today that the team has signed an agreement with the National Sports Center (NSC) to help expand NSC Stadium at the complex in Blaine, where it will play its home games effective immediately. The next home game will be Saturday, May 24, at 7:35 p.m. against Miami.

For the past four years, the Thunder has played its home games at James Griffin Stadium at St. Paul’s Central High School. After exploring all options to remain in St. Paul, the team made its decision to make an interim move to Blaine while continuing to work on plans to build a permanent Twin Cities soccer facility in an urban location.

“The people of St. Paul have been tremendously supportive of our team and our goal to bring premier level soccer to the community,” said Dean Johnson, owner of the Minnesota Thunder. “We considered every possible option to stay at Griffin Stadium as we continue to improve the quality of the team and enhance the fan experience. Unfortunately, we could not find a solution that worked.”

NSC Stadium
Work is already underway to remove the jogging track between the field and the seating area. Crews will then extend the playing field towards the main grandstand by approximately 80 feet. The other three sides of the venue will be enclosed with additional bleachers to create an intimate soccer atmosphere. The expansion project will also create new fan-related amenities and additional concession areas. When completed, the venue will be more comparable to other United Soccer Leagues (USL) facilities. The upgrades are scheduled to be complete by July 1, 2008. When completed, the facility will have the capacity to hold up to 12,000 fans with potential expansion to hold 20,000 fans.

“We are very excited to have the Minnesota Thunder return to our complex and have the opportunity to make a great soccer venue even better,” said Paul Erickson, executive director of the Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission, which manages the NSC. “We share the Thunder’s commitment to bringing soccer to the next level in Minnesota and expanding soccer’s popularity across the entire metro area.”

Reasons for the move
In addition to logistical concerns about Griffin Stadium, another key issue that led to the Thunder’s move is the USL’s requirement that teams play in venues that are specifically dedicated to soccer. Griffin Stadium is a multi-use facility that hosts a variety of sports and events. The USL has been strongly encouraging teams to improve the quality of the on-field performance and supporting efforts to improve the overall fan experience.

“With this move, the Thunder will be playing in one of the top venues in the USL,” said Tim Holt, Executive Vice President of the USL. “The Thunder will join the ranks of the rest of the USL First Division clubs that play in soccer-friendly venues and we are excited for them to showcase their talent on and off the field in a venue intended for the sport of soccer.”

Nike now owns the USL after buying former USL owner Umbro last year.

“This decision is one more example of the Minnesota Thunder’s commitment to bring world-class professional soccer to Minnesota,” said Manny Lagos, Minnesota Thunder president. “The league is raising the bar on what it expects from each team. We are investing money and energy into the quality of our team on the field. The other key element of our plan is to offer more to our fans than was possible at Griffin. The NSC Stadium has more room for fans, more amenities and concessions, and will bring us to the next level.”

The Thunder signed a contract to play at the NSC through 2011. Meanwhile, team owner Dean Johnson is planning for the team’s return to an urban setting. “We are committed to building a permanent home for the Thunder at a new professional soccer stadium in the Twin Cities,” he said.

About the National Sports Center
The NSC is a 600-acre multi-sport facility located in Blaine, Minn. The campus includes the Schwan Super Rink, an eight-sheet ice arena that is the world’s largest ice facility; a soccer stadium; the Schwan Center meeting and convention building; a multi-faceted family golf center, the National Youth Golf Center, which features the 18-hole Victory Links course; an indoor Sports Hall: a 150-bed residence hall; and 52 soccer fields. The facility hosts nearly 300 events annually and is projected to welcome four million visitors in 2008, making it the most-visited sports facility in Minnesota. The NSC generates over $37 million in annual out-of-state economic impact.

About the Thunder
The Minnesota Thunder was founded in 1990 and is playing its 19th season. The Thunder is one of the longest standing soccer franchises in the entire country. WingField Corporation purchased the Minnesota Thunder in 2007. For more information, visit

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