NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The owners of the Minnesota Vikings have joined a group trying to bring a Major League Soccer expansion franchise to Nashville, after a failed bid to bring a club to their enclosed NFL stadium.
Zygi Wilf, Mark Wilf and Leonard Wilf are minority partners in the Nashville project, according to Nashville Soccer Holdings CEO John R. Ingram. Terms of their investment haven't been disclosed. The expansion fee being charged by the league is $150 million.
"We've been passionate about soccer for a long time, and we believe very strongly in its future in the United States," Mark Wilf said in a phone interview with The Associated Press. "Really, our interest hasn't wavered since our efforts to bring MLS to Minnesota."
Minnesota United FC joined the MLS this season. The league preferred an outdoor, soccer-specific venue to the 68,000-seat U.S. Bank Stadium that opened for the Vikings last year. Minnesota United, led by owner Bill McGuire, is playing outside at the University of Minnesota for two seasons until its new stadium opens.
The Wilfs, who made their fortune in real estate out of the family business founded in New Jersey, bought the Vikings in 2005. Zygi Wilf is owner and chairman. Mark Wilf, Zygi's younger brother, is owner and president. Leonard Wilf, their cousin, is owner and vice chairman.
"They know sports and sports business, and they are well-known and respected for their professional sports experience," Ingram said in a statement released by his group. "The Wilf family brings expertise in a number of areas like stadium development, fan experience, marketing, communications and ticket sales. They are a strong addition to our bid."
Nashville is one of 12 cities that submitted bids for four expansion franchises, with both Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham in North Carolina, Cincinnati, Detroit, Indianapolis, Phoenix, Sacramento and San Diego in California, St. Louis, San Antonio and Tampa-St. Petersburg in Florida. The MLS is expected to announce two sites later this year.