ST. PAUL -- Efforts to build a $150 million professional soccer stadium in St. Paul passed a key hurdle Wednesday, when the Senate passed a bill that included property tax exemptions for the proposed site.
It was the first of several floor votes expected over the next few days at the state Capitol that will decide the fate of Minnesota United FC’s stadium plans. The Senate passed the tax-related measure by a 37-30 vote.
The vote moved along one of three requests that the pro soccer club has called vital to building a 21,500-seat soccer stadium near the Interstate 94 and Snelling Avenue interchange. St. Paul leaders have touted the stadium as a potential development boon for the Midway neighborhood.
United’s other tax request, a sales tax break on construction materials, is expected to be added to the bill during conference committee, said its sponsor, Sen. Sandy Pappas, DFL-St. Paul.
The third request, a liquor license at the stadium, has been included in a separate bill to be voted on Thursday on the House floor.
The provisions on the stadium’s property tax break were briefly discussed during the opening walk through of the larger tax-related bill Wednesday afternoon; no amendments or further discussion on the subject were added. The majority of the floor discussion on the bill focused on the family medical leave proposal and the tax on internet sales provision.
The bill reads that the stadium is exempt from property taxes as long as the stadium is only used for Major League Soccer during the terms of the club’s lease with the City of St. Paul. This tax break does not extend to any property on the stadium site that is leased for residential or commercial development.
While the team owners are picking up the tab for the stadium, the city of St. Paul plans to contribute more than $18 million to nearby public infrastructure, including new streets, sewers and green space. The site is the former Metro Transit bus barn, which has already been off the property tax rolls for at least 50 years.
All six of the recently built or remodeled Twin Cities stadiums or arenas have been granted property tax exemptions since 1998, including the Minnesota Wild’s Xcel Energy Center and the St. Paul Saints’ CHS Field, which opened last spring.
If all three measures are passed, Minnesota United is expected to begin construction on the stadium this summer and to open in time for the 2018 season opener that spring.
The soccer club, which currently plays in the second-tier North American Soccer League, would most likely join MLS next season and find a temporary home before their St. Paul stadium opens, if approved. The Loons currently play at the National Sports Center in Blaine. The University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium is a likely candidate for a one-year home.