MLS plans to meet with St. Paul officials about soccer stadium

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman has invited Major League Soccer President and Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott to tour a parcel at Snelling and University and consider building a new soccer stadium there. 

“With the MLS deadline passing, there is a small window of opportunity to make sure Minnesota has a Major League Soccer team,” Coleman said in a statement today. “The enthusiasm around the USA winning the Women’s World Cup demonstrates that there is growing support for soccer. The St. Paul site is the only viable path at this point. Not only would a stadium at this location take advantage of all modes of transportation, but it would substantially accelerate redevelopment in the area.”

St. Paul leaders, along with the Metropolitan Council and Metro Transit, have been working since 2012 on efforts to redevelop the 14.7-acre site.

St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce President Matt Kramer said the site is easily accessible and close to transit, including the Green Line and bus rapid transit. 

“A soccer stadium would anchor a complete transformation of this site into one that includes retail, housing and green space,” he said. 

Coleman has had two informal meetings with representatives of Minnesota United, including the team’s owner Bill McGuire, according to Coleman’s office. 

“Given the MLS deadline, I think we need to move expeditiously to get a project built on the Snelling and University site,” said Mayor Coleman. “Minnesota deserves a Major League Soccer franchise and I’m prepared to work to make that happen for Minnesota and Saint Paul.”

Minnesota United President Nick Rogers issued a statement July 1 indicating the team’s attention has moved to St. Paul.

“We remain committed to making Major League Soccer a reality in Minnesota. Since being awarded an expansion club three months ago, support for our effort has grown across the state as countless communities, youth soccer associations, and business interests have expressed support for having Major League Soccer as part of our community,” Rogers said.

He said the team is optimistic about exploring options in St. Paul. Up until now, the team has focused on a stadium site on the edge of downtown Minneapolis near the Minneapolis Farmers Market. 

“As MLS has repeatedly stated, however, our ability to secure an MLS club is contingent on us finalizing a plan for a new stadium that will serve as a permanent home for our club,” he said. “We are pleased that MLS has agreed to meet with officials from St. Paul to learn about the possibility of building a new stadium there as we believe this is an opportunity that deserves to be evaluated further.”

When McGuire and his investment group announced they had been awarded a MLS expansion team earlier this year, they indicated they were up against a July 1 deadline to finalize a stadium deal. 

The team unsuccessfully lobbied the Legislature for a package of tax breaks for the stadium during the recent session. 

The Minneapolis City Council recently voted to form a Major League Soccer stadium working group compromised of city leaders to examine issues related to the soccer stadium proposal. 

City Council Member Jacob Frey (Ward 3), who has been active in discussions about the soccer stadium, said the interest from St. Paul officials shows that “soccer is up-and-coming and a desired sport.”

“My first preference is to have a Major League Soccer team in Minneapolis,” he said.

He said he expects the city’s stadium working group will have a meeting in the next week to discuss next steps. Early discussions with the team had explored the possibility of allowing the team to pay the current property tax rate on the parcel near the Farmers Market indefinitely. The stadium, however, would be included in the downtown entertainment sales tax district. 

He said he hopes the city has the chance to keep negotiating with team leaders. 

Mayor Betsy Hodges released a statement expressing interest in meeting with MLS leaders as well. 

“I’m pleased that Minnesota United wants to bring a $150 million investment to downtown Minneapolis, which as a location has so much to offer,” she said. “I’ve met and talked to team representatives on several occasions about it. In addition, the City Council and I have approved a formal soccer stadium working group, and staff have begun meeting to evaluate the city’s options. Major League Soccer has not contacted my office, but I would be happy to meet with them if they ask.”

City Council President Barb Johnson (Ward 4) said she’s not surprised by the discussions of possible stadium sites in St. Paul.

“I heard St. Paul was actively courting them. A Minneapolis location at the Farmers Market area is a much more exciting venue, however,” she said.