We have a new plan for a new Minnesota United FC stadium in downtown Minneapolis, as Hennepin County officials are proposing the extension of a sales tax used to fund Target Field construction to acquire land for a new stadium.
This isn’t a surprise, as Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin floated the idea at the end of July. The relatively minor sales tax (.15 percent, or three cents on a $20 purchase) is generating more income than anticipated, allowing Target Field bonds to be paid down early while also paying $2 million annually to the county’s library system and youth sports.
Hennepin County Commissioner Mike Opat, who was key in putting together the Target Field deal and the creation of the Minnesota Ballpark Authority, has teamed with McLaughlin to work out the outline of a plan that would see the Ballpark Authority buy land in downtown Minneapolis — in the general vicinity of Target Field and the Minneapolis Farmers Market — that would be purchased by Minnesota United FC owners (which includes Pohlad family members, who own the Minnesota Twins and buildings near Target Field, as well as other Minneapolis-St. Paul business leaders) and then given to the Minnesota Ballpark Authority. The team would also finance stadium construction. The land would cost $30 million or so, while the new stadium would be $120 million. With the Minnesota Ballpark Authority in control, the project would be exempt from property taxes — something requested by the team, but a request that stuck in the craw of some city of Minneapolis officials (i.e., Mayor Betsy Hodges).
It’s the latest volley in a back-and-forth between St. Paul and Minneapolis over where a new Minnesota United FC stadium would be located. Minnesota United FC ownership, led by Dr. Bill McGuire, had pitched the Minneapolis Farmers Market site, only to be rebuffed by Minneapolis officials and ignored by the Minnesota Legislature during the 2015 season. With a Minneapolis site seemingly dead, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman pitched a former Metro Transit bus terminal in the city’s Midway area as a perfect location for a new Minnesota United FC stadium. But there are some issues with that site: some city councilmembers have spoken out against the site, and owners of an adjoining strip mall ripe for redevelopment are lukewarm about the idea.
Which brings us full circle to the Hennepin County proposal.
The award of an expansion MLS team to Minnesota United FC was contingent on a stadium plan worked out by July 1, but that deadline was totally blown out of the water, and any plan proposed by Hennepin County requires legislative approval in the 2016 session. Now, in terms of timing, this still works for a 2018 opening, and MLS officials haven’t made any comments that would suggest the Minnesota United FC bid is in any doubt. But legislative approval is always iffy, even though we’re talking about a very minor sales tax being used for an additional use.
Image of Minnesota United FC’s current stadium courtesy of the team.
RELATED STORIES: Coleman, Abbott to meet over St. Paul MLS stadium; Pol: Use Twins ballpark tax to pay for Minneapolis MLS stadium; If not Minneapolis MLS stadium, then St. Paul; New for 2018 in MLS: Minnesota United FC