Political Standoff Stalls Minnesota United Stadium Construction

Minnesota United St. Paul MLS stadium renderings

A political standoff between Gov. Mark Dayton and the Minnesota Legislature is impacting the Minnesota United stadium construction timeline — but it’s still too early to know if a slight delay will impact the stadium’s opening date.

The 2018 opening is based on a construction launch in June 2016 — a date that’s now come and gone. The issue: a property-tax exemption for the project, which in and of itself was not controversial, was included in the omnibus tax bill. The exemption frees the stadium from roughly $3 million a year in property taxes, a move unopposed by the city and Ramsay County. Dayton and the legislature are fighting out other aspects of the tax bill, so the stadium property-tax exemption is collateral damage to the  The only way to address the issue is a special session to address the omnibus bill, but that’s far from a certainty. And with the tax exemption in limbo, it’s not certain whether construction will move forward this summer on the facility.

Now, there’s generally some flexibility in construction schedules, and a delay from June to July probably isn’t fatal. And the issues with the omnibus tax bill are not related, so there’s a decent chance the exemption will be in place by the time the stadium opens.

But that’s a chance Minnesota United ownership might not want to take. In the long run, there’s no doubt the team would like to be in a new stadium as soon as possible. The more immediate issue is 2017, when the team could enter MLS along with Atlanta. Ironically, Minnesota United FC is in better shape for the 2017 season than is the Atlanta team: playing in USL, the team has a core of players and coaches already under contract, and Minnesota United leaders never planned on playing in a new stadium in 2017 anyway, with the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium (the most likely choice) and Target Field (a less likely choice) available as temporary venues. With the new Atlanta stadium not set to be opened until June 2017 at the earliest and a paucity of temporary venues, it will be interesting to see where the teams ends up — if it indeed does launch in 2017.

So, the news is — there’s no news, for now, and no decision to make until the political situation is resolved one way for another. Minnesota United still needs to plan for a 2017 venue, and other parts of the stadium project, such as soil remediation and development of the adjoining Midway Shopping Center, still need to be planned and resolved.

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