Back during my divorced years I was looking for things to keep myself occupied. I had always enjoyed watching soccer on TV, and so in 2011 I decided to check out the local minor league soccer team, the Minnesota Stars. I had remembered the Minnesota Kicks visiting my elementary school as a kid, and was excited to see what had become of Minnesota soccer over the years.
I brought my kids (and one of their friends) with and got to experience my first visit to a live soccer game. At the time we were a small team in the second tier of American soccer, the NASL. We had a lot of fun at that game, and going to a Saturday night soccer match became a regular occurrence. Sometimes I would bring the boys, and other times I would simply go alone and enjoy the game.
When I met Lisa I introduced her to the game, and she enjoyed it as much as I did, so we eventually became season ticket holders for the newly branded Minnesota United FC. This past year it was announced that we’d be joining Major League Soccer next spring, bringing The Beautiful Game to a big stage here in Minnesota. However, with all of the growth and excitement around MNUFC it means that our stadium in Blaine wouldn’t last as a permanent home. It was simply too small, and for most of the metro area, too far out of the way. Next year we start playing at the University of Minnesota stadium while our dedicated soccer stadium is completed sometime in 2018.
Saturday night, is the final game at the National Sports Center in Blaine. Since I started this journey in 2011 the NSC (or Nessie as it’s called) has been our home for soccer, and it all ends today. It’s a bitter sweet thought. It’s exciting to think about the cool amenities that we’ll get in bigger stadiums, yet, there is a fun intimacy at the Nessie. It’s a small stadium, with bleachers on one side, and a regular concrete structure on the other. They’ve invited food trucks to park around the stadium for different food options, and I’ve gotten to know my regular beer vendor.
The Nessie is a place of memories for me. It has significance because of what it meant to me at a difficult time in my life. I was discovering who I was, and starting a new life. Going up to Blaine became a comforting tradition; one that we’ve now shared with lots of other friends and family. Hopefully, other teams, like perhaps a pro female team, will eventually call Nessie home, but it won’t quite be like when I started going there to watch the Stars.
Saturday night I raised my beer in toast to a great stadium, and to the wonderful memories it has given me over the years. Long live the Nessie!