MLS team seeks $3M in tax breaks to build Mpls. stadium

MLS soccer team coming to Minneapolis
Investors Bob Pohlad, left, Wendy Carlson Nelson, far right, and Bill McGuire with MLS Soccer Commissioner Don Garber, March 25, 2015.
Tim Nelson | MPR News

The owners of the Minnesota United soccer club are asking state officials for tax breaks to help build a new stadium in downtown Minneapolis.

Gov. Mark Dayton said the team is asking for a property tax exemption along with a sales tax exemption for construction materials. The sales tax break, he said, could cost as much as $3 million.

In the past, Dayton has turned aside calls for a public subsidy for the soccer franchise. On Tuesday, though, after meeting with team owners, the governor said he's willing to consider the request and would wait to hear the views of House and Senate leaders.

Major League Soccer awarded McGuire and his partnership group a soccer franchise last month that would start playing in 2018. But the deal is contingent on building a new open air stadium.

Minnesota United owner Bill McGuire told reporters that a new stadium would be privately owned and that the team would buy the land and build the venue with no direct public subsidy.

The owners are paying a $100 million franchise fee to Major League Soccer. The team estimates it will cost about $30 million to buy the Minneapolis land and $120 million to build the stadium, putting the team's total commitment at $250 million, McGuire said following his meetings with Dayton and other lawmakers.

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McGuire said they haven't estimated what the property tax exemption would save them in state and local taxes but added, "We're committed to getting this done this year and moving ahead."

He would not say whether the owners would build the stadium if they don't get state help.

Citing estimates the new stadium would generate 1,900 construction jobs, he said he thinks it "makes sense for our community." The stadium would host roughly 24 MLS games a year and could also be used for high school and college events, he added.

State legislative leaders have been adamant the past few weeks that the state would not subsidize a soccer stadium directly as the state did with the Minnesota Vikings and Minnesota Twins stadiums.

Still, their comments were measured on Tuesday.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said the soccer stadium request is "relatively modest when it comes to stadium legislation."

But Bakk said he wanted assurances that Minneapolis and Hennepin County officials support the stadium.

On Tuesday, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges said she opposes the plan's request for tax breaks.

"These elements constitute a public subsidy, and I do not support a public subsidy for this facility," Hodges said.

House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said Minnesota United owners lobbying for stadium help "face an uphill battle" but that the plan they're putting forward is better than a direct subsidy.

"There's a lot of legislative fatigue for stadium funding and even this one is only sales tax exemption and that sort of thing, it's still an uphill battle," Daudt said.