Minnesota MLS bid may require public money: McGuire

Minnesota United FCA Minnesota MLS bid from United FC owner Bill McGuire may require a public subsidy for a new downtown Minneapolis soccer stadium.

McGuire, a former UnitedHealth Group exec who cashed out upon his departure from the health-care giant, has been talking with Hennepin County officials about some unspecified level of public spending on a new stadium, which could be located near Target Field and the Minneapolis Farmers Market. Also participating in the project: United Properties, the real-estate and development firm owned by the Pohlad family, which also owns the Minnesota Twins.

The Minnesota United FC bid is competing with a bid from the Minnesota Vikings, who is working with Relevent Sports to put a team in the new downtown NFL stadium currently under construction. An MLS team would be a secondary tenant in what’s shaping up to be a very busy venue that will also spring baseball in addition to the Vikings and other events. Both groups presented their plans to MLS officials earlier this month as well as at the league’s All-Star Game in Portland: the league is expected to award expansion franchises at the beginning of 2015.

MLS officials have consistently stressed a preference for soccer-only facilities, so it would appear the Minnesota United bid would have a certain advantage over the indoor stadium pushed by the Vikings. But with Minneapolis and Hennepin County officials committing public money to new and renovated Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Vikings and Minnesota Timberwolves facilities in recent years, the call for more public spending on sports venues is drawing criticism. From the Star Tribune:

McGuire also spoke directly on possible public subsidies he might want for a soccer-only stadium — a touchy political point given the recent controversies over the successful pushes for public money for the Twins’ Target Field and the new Vikings stadium.

“We’ll see when we confirm in our own minds the where’s and why’s of all of that. And depending, who knows? We haven’t asked [yet for public money]. I mean, there’s no formal ‘ask’ out there,” he said….

But McGuire confirmed he had spoken to Mike Opat, the Hennepin County board chair who is supporting McGuire’s soccer plans and said he prefers a soccer-only stadium near Target Field. Opat was instrumental in securing public money for the Twins ballpark. “Obviously, we’ve talked to him, and he knows our thinking about soccer,” McGuire said.

There has been some talk about the Vikings and McGuire joining forces on a bid, and while McGuire says there’s nothing even being discussed, the two sides may end up being pushed together by MLS if a new outdoor stadium with public funding ends up being politically impossible. There are some strong bids for MLS expansion teams already on the table from Sacramento and Las Vegas; it may take an equally strong bid from a Minnesota group to succeed.

RELATED STORIES: Garber: Decision on MLS expansion in six months; Sacramento, Minnesota lead in MLS expansion race; Vikings, Twins jockeying for Minnesota MLS franchise, Minnesota pitches MLS on new Vikings stadium

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