USA Curling, the governing body of the winter sport in the United States, soon will take up residence with the Minnesota Vikings in Eagan.
The organization plans a midday news conference Friday to announce its move from Stevens Point, Wis., to the Twin Cities, where USA Curling hopes to spark new participation and interest in the sport across Minnesota and beyond.
Denver-based USA Curling CEO Jeff Plush said it "makes all the sense in the world" to move the headquarters to the Twin Cities, which he called a "hotbed for curling." He expects to start with 10 full-time employees in Eagan but is optimistic about rapid growth.
"I think we have a really significant opportunity. It's a sport that is accessible. It's a lifelong sport. It's relatively affordable and it's social," Plush said.
Or as former Vikings great Jared Allen put it: "Most people start in their 40s. The winners buy the losers beers. That's my sport."
After retiring from professional football, the Pro Bowl defensive end took up competitive curling with the goal of making the 2022 U.S. Olympics team. Curling, Allen said, is "way more fun to play than it is to watch."
The addition of the curling association — the national governing body of both the Olympic sport and the Paralympic sport of wheelchair curling — adds to the sports mix on the campus that Vikings owners pitched to Eagan City Hall five years ago as a multiyear, multifaceted live/work/play project. The NFL team moved its corporate and training headquarters from Eden Prairie to Eagan in 2018.
USA Curling will be the second new sport to join the lineup in the Innovation Center building in recent months; in February, lacrosse management agency Arete Sport announced its move there.
Other sports-related tenants already in place include Training HAUS Sports Medicine Center, tennis association USTA Northern, and e-sports franchises Minnesota Røkkr and Version1.
The 200-acre campus is anchored by the 34-acre Vikings headquarters, prominent on the south side of Interstate 494 just east of Dodd Road. The site is the former global headquarters of Northwest Airlines.
Curling has strong connections on the Eagan site as well as dedicated participants throughout the metro area and the state. Twin Cities Orthopedics, already on the Viking Lakes campus, is the official sports medicine provider of USA Curling. And many of curling's top athletes already train with Training HAUS.
The U.S. curling team, led by skipper John Shuster of Duluth, are defending Olympic gold medalists. Shuster and Plush were expected to join MV Ventures' executive vice president Don Becker at a news conference Friday for the announcement at the Omni Viking Lakes Hotel on the Eagan campus.
"It just validates what we set out to achieve, that we got that caliber of tenant," Becker said of USA Curling.
Becker works with the Vikings owners, the New Jersey-based Wilf family, on MV Ventures, their real estate arm in Minnesota, including the recently opened 240 Park Avenue luxury apartments near U.S. Bank Stadium in downtown Minneapolis.
The leasing office for the first round of housing at the Eagan site — 261 apartments — is expected to open after Memorial Day, Becker said. The first tenants will be moving in at the end of August.
The 14-story, 320-room Omni Viking Lakes Hotel opened last fall amid the COVID-19 pandemic. It includes the Kyndred Hearth restaurant led by James Beard Award-winning chef Ann Kim.
Becker said outdoor activity will pick up at the development in the coming weeks, and it is hoped it will include an open Vikings' training camp this summer. There will be lacrosse, pond hockey, curling, biking, pickleball and tennis.
"We are trying to do a lot more event programming we couldn't do last year because of COVID," Becker said, adding that planned events will range from simple get-togethers to marquee gatherings sponsored by the team and tenants. "We'll do everything from a small Friday afternoon noontime walk around the lake to training camp."
With the addition of USA Curling, Becker said half the Innovation Center's 60,000 square feet has been leased. MV Ventures is looking for more tenants with health and wellness orientations.
"We're going to have much more emphasis on play as we continue to grow," Becker said.
The Viking Lakes development eventually is expected to include more than 3 million square feet of office space, another restaurant and entertainment options.
Rochelle Olson • 612-673-1747