Local businessman Elam Baer did not get the green light to move the National Women’s Soccer League’s FC Kansas City team to Minnesota for the upcoming season, but he remains a believer in the league’s future success.
He also continues to believe the league is a good long-term investment and would have an interest in helping the market add a team sometime in the future.
“If somebody called me up and said ‘hey, I’m getting together a group to put a soccer team in Minnesota, I would love to participate in it,’” he told MNSBB.
Instead of moving here, the NWSL bought the team back from Baer and ceased its operations, then established a new franchise in Salt Lake City, Utah that will be known as Utah Royals FC. Players and draft choices that had been the property of FC Kansas City will transfer to Salt Lake City.
“I am fine with it because I think Salt Lake City wanted it more than I wanted it,” Baer says. “I wanted to move the team to Minnesota and the league didn’t really want a team in Minnesota at this time.”
Baer, who North Central Equity LLC, wished the league well. He had bought FC Kansas City in January because he felt it was a good long-term investment. He still believes that to be the case.
“I think the sport is growing, I think there are a limited number of franchises out there, there are not going to be too many more for the near-term future and scarcity always drives value,” Baer says.
Though he expressed an interest in being involved should a group eventually want to land a team in Minnesota, he says he left the league with no expectation of it happening. He does think the NWSL would do well here. The stadium situation in the Twin Cities – with the National Sports Center in Blaine – is far better, he says, than what was readily available in Kansas City. There also is, Baer says, much greater participation in girls youth and high school soccer programs here than in Kansas City.
“Kansas City is an excellent soccer town,” he says. “Down there it is disproportionately boys. It was hard to build a girls soccer following.”
The FC Kansas City team Baer owned got off to a great start. It was one of eight founding members of the NWSL. It hosted the Portland Thorns FC in the league’s inaugural match in April 2013, made the playoffs in each of its first three seasons and became the first team to win back-to-back championships, defeating Seattle Reign FC, in the championship match in both 2014 and 2015.
On-field performance, Baer says, suffered some in recent years through pregnancies, injuries and players leaving for other teams. Attendance dropped in 2017 to 1,788 per game, down from 3,162 in 2016, according to media reports.
The league announced the move last week. Amanda Duffy, managing director of operations, thanked Baer for his efforts and the city’s fans for supporting the team.
“As the league moves on, and as difficult as it is to share this news about FC Kansas City, we feel it is in the best interest of the league and the players at this time,” she says.