SUBSCRIBE NOW AND SAVE 3 months just 99¢/month



Hennepin offers site for Minnesota United stadium

MINNEAPOLIS - Minnesota United FC now has stadium options in St. Paul and Minneapolis. Now the would-be Major League Soccer team needs to pick the one it wants to take to the state Legislature.

MINNEAPOLIS – Minnesota United FC now has stadium options in St. Paul and Minneapolis. Now the would-be Major League Soccer team needs to pick the one it wants to take to the state Legislature.
“It’s really up to them,” said Hennepin County Commissioner Mike Opat.
Opat, the county commissioner who spearheaded the plan that helped finance the Twins’ Target Field, has presented owner Bill McGuire a plan that would put United in the downtown Minneapolis site it envisioned when the team received an MLS expansion franchise in March.
“I think it’s clear now that anyone who wants to build a stadium needs to get permission from the (state) Legislature,” Opat said. United, he said, must “decide who they really want to deal with and who they want to go to the Legislature with.”
McGuire and MLS deputy commissioner Mark Abbott spent Wednesday touring St. Paul with Mayor Chris Coleman, starting at the new Saints ballpark in Lowertown and culminating with the vacant, 10-acre “bus barn” site at Snelling and Interstate 94, where Coleman believes a soccer stadium would become a catalyst for development on the new light rail Green Line.
After the tour, Coleman said he expected to meet with United and MLS within a week.
Opat and fellow Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin have been talking with United “for a couple of weeks,” Opat said.
United and its owners declined to comment Monday.
Opat and McLaughlin’s plan would add United’s stadium to the 0.15 percent countywide sales tax that helped build Target Field. Under that legislation, sales tax proceeds were limited to five projects: retiring the bond debt, additional library hours, youth sports activities, operating the Ballpark Authority and capital expenditures around the park.
The soccer stadium would be added to this list, as well as youth sports spending in Hennepin County suburbs.
“If they really want to work with us, we can put together a plan I think will be acceptable to the (county) board and acceptable to the Legislature,” Opat said. “They may struggle a bit with how much work they’ll have to do with the Legislature, but having been through this successfully once before, I’m confident this will be a much easier vote, even for critics.”
The deal would solve one major problem for United, which wants to be free of property taxes. Under Opat’s plan, the team would buy the site - for $30 million, according to the team - and give it to the Ballpark Authority.
“They would operate it, we would own it,” Opat said.
Sales tax proceeds would be used to improve infrastructure around the stadium such as roads, ramps, sidewalks and plazas. The Target Field and U.S. Bank Stadium deals have a similar structure, but unlike the Twins and Vikings, United would get no taxpayer money to build the stadium, which it estimates would cost $120 million and seat between 18,000-20,000.
Opat called the St. Paul site “decent” but said the Minneapolis site is ideal.
“All the rail lines arrive there,” he said. “And there is parking that doesn’t need to be provided. It also becomes the focus of potential further development of the Farmers Market area.”
Tonya Tennessen, a spokeswoman for Coleman’s office, said Monday that St. Paul remains in play. “Nothing has changed from our perspective,” she said.
If St. Paul has a detailed plan, it hasn’t been shared publicly. Coleman would like to see the stadium on the 10-acre bus barn site on Snelling near University Ave., but much of the appeal depends on the city’s ability to redevelop the adjoining 25 acres owned privately by RK Midway LLC.
“What I am most interested in is how developers, whoever that may be, engage and listen to the community,” St. Paul City Council Member Dai Thao said Monday.
Thao, who represents the area where the mayor hopes MLS will roost, said he has yet to see a formal stadium proposal but stressed what’s important to him is “that what we create from this development are good-paying jobs, quality housing and green spaces in alignment with our ‘transit-oriented design’ vision for the site.”
Coleman said he supports the tax breaks United wants, including an exemption for construction materials, but acknowledges that he needs the City Council and Legislature to sign off.
The city of St. Paul recently enlisted the help of the St. Paul Port Authority, which has expertise negotiating large real estate deals and was instrumental in acquiring the land for the Saints’ CHS Field, the new downtown regional ballpark.
Minneapolis city councilor Jacob Frey said the city is working with Hennepin County, but Opat said the county is not relying on the city to make a deal happen. The county can move forward with a majority vote from its board of seven commissioners, which will get a proposal only if United commits to the plan.
“We don’t have any agreement yet,” Opat said, “but our discussions have been positive.”

What to read next
Local, national and regional scores and results
The Bison men continue to battle adversity, erasing an 18-point to deficit against Western Illinois on Saturday, but NDSU falls in overtime.
Recreation scores and schedules.
Local, national and regional scores and results