If not Minneapolis MLS stadium, then St. Paul

Minnesota United FCWith a July 1 deadline passing on a game plan for a Minneapolis MLS stadium, league officials are turning to St. Paul as a potential home for a new facility.

A group led by Bill McGuire landed an MLS expansion franchise conditional on a new Minneapolis-St. Paul stadium. The group’s preferred site in Minneapolis, near Target Field on the northwest edge of downtown, would house a privately financed, 18,500-seat stadium. However, the Minnesota Legislature adjourned last month without passage of tax breaks for the new facility (including a waiver of sales taxes on materials and a property-tax exemption), and the city of Minneapolis has taken no action on the facility, either. In fact, a city study group formed to address the issue of tax breaks hasn’t even met, even though the stadium proposal came last year. And with a July 1 deadline coming and going, league officials want to see if there’s another route to a new stadium. From the Star Tribune:

“We did decide that it would be appropriate for me to come to Minnesota [to] learn more about the opportunity in St. Paul,” Abbott said on 1500-AM ESPN, ”so that we can make a fully informed decision as to whether we should continue to consider Minnesota as a potential expansion market.”…

“We probably could have worked harder to get to some resolution that was before the deadline,” said Blong Yang, a Minneapolis City Council member whose ward includes the stadium site. “We’re still very interested in getting MLS into Minneapolis, and it’s a slow haul.

He added that he believed the property tax exemption issue is fairly easy to overcome. “In the grand scheme of things, their ‘ask’ is very small, I think,” Yang said.

St. Paul officials have expressed interest in a soccer stadium on one of two sites. The first is a parcel at Snelling Avenue and I-94 in the city’s Midway area, a former bus storage yard that has the advantage of already being controlled by government. The second is near the State Capitol on a parcel currently hosting a Sears store. One big issue for the soccer investors is creating development apart from the soccer stadium, and it’s hard to say whether either site could do so: while both feature easy freeway and light-rail access, neither is really an up-and-coming area the way the Minneapolis site is.

Of course, talking with St. Paul officials could just be posturing in order to prompt some movement from Minneapolis officials. It’s a time-honored tradition for both cities to compete for sports facilities, going back as far as the late 1950s. Considering what’s being pitched for Minneapolis is a private investment of up to $150 million (and more, potentially, with ancillary investment) on a new stadium in an area of town featuring low-slung, old cinder-block warehouses, a nudge certainly isn’t out of line.

Image of Minnesota United FC’s current stadium courtesy of the team.

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