BLAINE, Minn. (WCCO) — This week, youth soccer players from 17 countries, and all over the nation, take to the fields at the National Sports Center in Blaine as part of the Schwan’s USA Cup – the largest soccer tournament in the western hemisphere.
Though the heat has been oppressive, there are still nearly 25,000 people in attendance.
The National Sports Center staff said athletes are typically well-prepared for the hot weather, but spectators sometimes are not.
“They need to do all the things that players do,” said Barclay Kruse of the National Sports Center. “They need to be as hydrated as the players are. In between games they need to go into an air-conditioned restaurant or air-conditioned store.”
Among the international talent are teenage girls from Iceland, where it’s typically 60 degrees in the summer.
“We have been talking to them about keeping hydrating, drinking electrolytes and a lot of water,” Iceland team manager Magnus Tryggvasan said. “We bring sponges that we squeeze over their heads. We do rotating, substitutions all the time.”
At the National Sports Center, there’s also a medical clinic on site for emergencies.
Big Business For Blaine
With 25,000 people in town, they have to eat somewhere.
City planners said 20 new restaurants have opened in the area over the last five to 10 years. And businesses report some of their best numbers during these 10 days of soccer.
“Twenty years ago, none of the commercial development was here,” Kruse said. “There was nothing adjacent to this campus. Now you have numerous restaurants, retail, and they are really busy this week.”
James Wang opened Rainbow Yogurt just three months ago. He chose his location in a shopping center across from the sports center because of all the activity nearby.
“There is so much revenue,” Wang said. “So much activism in this community so I just could not pass up the opportunity to be here.”
How much money?
“We generate about $20.4 million, annually, of out-of-state economic impact,” Kruse said. “How much of that is a benefit to the city of Blaine or Anoka County? Probably more than that every year.”
Other new restaurants set to open up this year in the area are Buffalo Wild Wings and Clive’s Roadhouse.