The sales tax, barely noticed by consumers (.0015 percent, or three cents on a $20 purchase), still generates enough revenue to cover off Target Field bonds while also paying $2 million annually to the county’s library system and youth sports. With bonds being paid down early by the Minnesota Ballpark Authority (MBA), there’s a projected surplus. The Minnesota United FC ownership group was granted a MLS expansion franchise for the 2018 season, contingent on a new stadium. (The team, currently in the NASL, played at Blaine’s National Sports Center.)
And while he is not the first to propose using this sales tax for new soccer-stadium infrastructure, McLaughlin is an influential politician, and an important one. There is a debate right now in the Twin Cities over the site of the $150-million stadium. Minnesota United FC ownership, led by Dr. Bill McGuire, has pitched a stadium on the northwest edge of downtown Minneapolis, close to Target Field, the train terminal and the Minneapolis Farmers Market, replacing some nondescript single-story warehouses with the soccer facility. Minneapolis United has offered to build the stadium on its own dime, asking for public investment in infrastructure and a waiver on the state sales tax for construction materials and local property taxes. (Not an insignificant ask.)
That request was met with apathy in the State Legislature this past spring. Since then, many Minneapolis city politicians, led by Mayor Betsy Hodges, have been openly against any tax breaks (property, sales) going toward the stadium, leaving team owners to look toward St. Paul for help. There, Mayor Chris Coleman has pitched a few potential sites — including one at the suddenly hot Midway area — and offered to work with team officials on infrastructure costs.
Coleman’s wooing is having an effect: Hennepin County officials don’t want to lose the stadium and its potential development to Ramsay County. Minneapolis-St. Paul politics tend to be a crazy quilt of parochial interests: Hennepin County, Ramsay County, Minneapolis and St. Paul all have their own agendas and their own commitment to sporting facilities: Hennepin County backed Target Field, while the city of Minneapolis backs Target Center and U.S. Bank Stadium, future home of the Minnesota Vikings. It’s the battle over the Vikings stadium funding that reverberates here: Minneapolis liberals were against replacing the Metrodome with a publicly funded facility, but business interests outmaneuvered them.
So it’s notable that a Hennepin County official is proposing using their tax stream to fund infrastructure work. Whether this will nip any nascent St. Paul efforts remains to be seen, but it does indicate interest in making the stadium work in Minneapolis.
Image of Minnesota United FC’s current stadium courtesy of the team.