You will have no problem finding Ninth Street Coffee and Soccer Minneapolis without a GPS or smartphone.
Yes, the address does give a clue. However, Interstate 35W in Marcy Holmes’ neighborhood is located at Ninth Street between Dinkytown and University of Minnesota. It can be easy to lose your way as you zig-zag your route. An indicator on the fence that runs along the chain-line fence at the intersection of S.E. Eighth Avenue dead-ends into Ninth Street.
You might be wondering who came up with the idea of pairing the most beloved sport and the most loved beverage in the world. Meet Derek Swanson (Bethel University) and Pete Corniea (Bethel University), who were both grads at Bethel University and collaborated on the idea shortly before the pandemic.
A former industrial printing business was converted into a 9,000-square-foot indoor soccer center. It is located in an old warehouse district that was once part of a railroad spur. The coffee shop was opened in May 2015. Swanson and Corniea retold their story while a group Somali-American transport workers warmed up in the field. The coffee shop’s Plexiglas windows let them see the details.
Swanson stated that the early churning was in late 2019 or 2020. “That was when we started to play with the idea and see if it could work as a business model. Then, everything that happened in our community over the course 2020 showed the need for places that can bring people together, especially in urban settings.
Although Swanson, 39 and Corniea (41), both attended Bethel, their friendship didn’t blossom until many years later. Swanson went to night school, while Corniea was a defensive back for the football team. Corniea attended day classes. They shared a common love for soccer, and Swanson attended the night school. Swanson is a podcaster and freelance video editor. He grew up playing soccer, and now coaches the Minnehaha Academy boys’ soccer team. Corniea, a property investor, was born into the sport.
Corniea stated that his wife was born in Ecuador and has a strong soccer culture. She grew up in a very international missionary community. She was close to friends from all walks of the globe, and one thing brought them together was their shared love for soccer.
“We saw an opportunity to bring people together in a way I’ve never seen here in the city. There are pockets of culture where people play soccer together, whether it’s in Latino leagues, African leagues, or any other type. We didn’t find a space that would bring all these people together.
It was not easy to start a business during a pandemic. The facility was closed in January, one month after its October 2020 opening. This was to comply with Gov. Tim Walz issued an executive order closing all fitness centers to stop the spread of COVID-19. Swanson stated, “We got to get our bearings a bit in that little breather,”
Business picked up quickly after the reopening. It is rare to find indoor soccer in Minneapolis in winter. Word quickly spread within the soccer community. Swanson stated that the pitch is usually booked between October and April, from 4 p.m. until midnight Monday through Friday, as well as 8 a.m. on weekends.
The artificial turf pitch is divided by a curtain. Play can be done 5-on-5 in each half, or 7-on-7 in the whole pitch. The space can be rented for between $60 and $90 per hour depending on the season or time of the day. Children can play free of charge on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, from 10 a.m. until noon.
Corniea stated that pickup games are a popular alternative to renting. There are close to 30 countries represented in these games.
He said, “If you are a student at the U, and you wouldn’t normally be plugged in to a league or have to look for a team, it’s nice having the option to come and join and feel connected.” That’s why we exist.
Swanson added: “We have been running pickup Saturday mornings at 8-10 a.m. We limit them so everyone gets fair play time and we have 50-60 people who rotate in. People who are familiar with each other make it a lot easier to maintain a level of consistency. They’ll go to the English Premier League afterward, have a cup of coffee, eat breakfast pizza, or watch a game and discuss why their team isn’t doing well. Everybody has an opinion.
A coffee shop that serves wine and beer at night provides a place for people to come together. This was also important for Swanson and Corniea.
Corniea stated that soccer is the foundational bond, but that deeper conversations spill over into this space. “We have what we refer to as organic cross-pollination.” These people find themselves in a space where they wouldn’t normally be together and they can continue this rather than going their separate ways.
One warning: Don’t go to Dogwood Coffee Co. just for the coffee. The noise can cause players to get agitated and like to kick balls at the Plexiglas.