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Bakk puts foot down on soccer stadium

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, is telling backers of a Major League Soccer franchise not to ask the Legislature for public money for a new stadium.

Several news outlets, led by American Soccer Now, say Major League Soccer is close to awarding a franchise to an ownership group headed by former UnitedHealth Group CEO Bill McGuire. McGuire is reportedly seeking a stadium in downtown Minneapolis that will rely on some public financing. (UPDATE: MLS confirmed today that they're in advanced discussions with McGuire and other owners of MN United about allowing a MLS team to the Twin Cities).

Bakk says the Legislature will not back the measure.

"The league ran into this problem in Miami," Bakk said. "They gave a franchise out two years ago, and they don't have a field to play on. So I don't know if they're going to make that mistake twice or if this group of owners is going to figure out how to finance a $150 million soccer stadium or not."

The Legislature approved a $1 billion stadium for the Minnesota Vikings in 2012.

That measure gave the Vikings owners exclusive rights to host an MLS franchise in the new stadium for five years after the stadium opens. But the legislation doesn’t guarantee the Vikings a team from the New York-based soccer league.

Update: Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber issued this statement Monday.

“Expansion continues to be a priority for Major League Soccer.  We have all witnessed the resounding success that Orlando City SC and New York City FC have experienced as their expansion clubs debuted to record crowds at the start of the 2015 season.

“During the past several months, we have conducted expansion meetings with representatives from Las Vegas, Minneapolis and Sacramento and visited all three markets. We have also met with representatives from San Antonio and St. Louis.   We recently announced that Las Vegas is no longer being considered for this round of expansion.”

“We are in advanced discussions with Bill McGuire and his partners in Minnesota to bring a Major League Soccer expansion club to the Twin Cities and are particularly excited about their plans for a new soccer-specific stadium that will serve as the club’s home. We remain on track to announce the next MLS expansion market in the next 30-45 days, though no specific date for an announcement has been set. 

“Over the course of 2015, we plan to evaluate potential expansion beyond 24 clubs.”

Vikings owner Mark Wilf sent out this statement regarding the MLS.

We have been very excited about the possibility of bringing an MLS team to Minnesota fans and deeply committed to providing a phenomenal stadium experience. We offered MLS an ideal situation - a stadium that is certain and will be completed in 2016, a plan that was funded by the public and private sectors to host MLS, and an option that will not require additional government approvals. The new multi-purpose stadium also would have accommodated the length of the MLS season and the growth of the sport in this market.

 At the same time, we commend MLS Commissioner Don Garber and Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott for their continued success in building the MLS brand, and, most importantly, we are pleased to see they believe in the Minneapolis-St. Paul market.