Minnesota United to build 20,000 seat stadium, team announces
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Owners of a recently awarded Major League Soccer franchise committed Friday to building a nearly 20,000-seat stadium in St. Paul, abandoning earlier plans to put their home in Minneapolis.
Minnesota United executive William McGuire and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman celebrated a deal for what they said would be a privately financed, $120 million stadium on a barren parcel along Interstate 94. Soccer fans hooted and chanted as the partnership was announced.
"Soccer is the world's game. It belongs in the state of Minnesota. It belongs in the Twin Cities," Coleman said. "It belongs on the Midway site and we are so thrilled it is coming here."
McGuire said the goal is to break ground next year and open the outdoor stadium in 2018. Some of that depends on the Legislature lifting sales taxes on stadium construction materials and making the building free from property taxes. The proposal calls for the stadium to be publicly owned after it is built, but the fact a private tenant would be its main occupant is why state action could be required on a property tax exemption.
Seven months ago, the league and Minnesota United were focusing on Minneapolis for a new stadium. But the team turned to St. Paul after failing to sway top Minneapolis officials. The 25-acre site is now used for bus storage, but city leaders have been anxious for redevelopment and see the stadium as a potential catalyst for the area. McGuire said he was attracted to the site because of its proximity to a light-rail line and other mass transit.
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Along with McGuire, the former chief executive of UnitedHealth Group, the team's ownership includes billionaire businessman Glen Taylor and members of the Pohlad family, which owns the Minnesota Twins.
Gov. Mark Dayton has said he would support legislative action to enact tax breaks for the stadium.
Last session, the Minnesota Senate voted overwhelmingly to ban any use of public money toward a soccer stadium and similar language was in a House bill. But the prohibition didn't become law.
Senate Taxes Committee Chairman Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbrook, said stadium advocates must make the case the breaks don't qualify as pure subsidies for a pro sports franchise. "In the Senate there is pretty strong opposition to more subsidies for stadiums," he said.
House Tax Committee Chairman Greg Davids, R-Preston, said he plans hearings on the stadium plan but likes what he's heard so far.
"If you look at what they're willing to do and how little has to be done on our side, this is a perfect design for building a stadium," Davids said.