MLS turns to St. Paul for stadium site after Mpls. misses deadline

MLS Commission Don Garber
Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber spoke during a news conference to announce that Minnesota would be the home to a new Major League Soccer team, March 25, 2015. The team is still looking for a site for a new stadium.
Tim Nelson | MPR News

Posted: 6:35 p.m. | Updated: 9:00 p.m.

Major League Soccer officials will look to St. Paul after a downtown Minneapolis stadium proposal failed to get suitable financing by the league's July 1 deadline.

An investor group led by the owner of potential major league franchise Minnesota United FC had proposed a $180 million stadium in downtown Minneapolis near the Farmer's Market. The group would pay for the stadium costs but the governor and state Legislature passed on the group's request for tax exemptions on the property and construction materials.

Minnesota United owner Bill McGuire, Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, and members of the Pohlad family, who own the Minnesota Twins, are among the investors in the Minneapolis soccer stadium, but how exactly the stadium would be financed was not clear.

Representatives from Minnesota United did not respond to a request for comment. In an interview Wednesday afternoon on Patrick Reusse's radio show on 1500 ESPN, MLS Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott said the deadline was not extended for the stadium funding proposal for Minneapolis. Abbott added that he's interested in meeting with St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman about possibilities on the east side of the river. "I do want to come out and do want to meet with Mayor Coleman and representatives of the city of St. Paul to understand what that opportunity is so that we can determine whether this is a market that we can continue to pursue or whether it's time to move on," Abbott said. Abbott said Bill McGuire gave the league information about St. Paul's interest.

Matt Kramer, president of the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce, said a good spot for a soccer stadium is the site of a former Metro Transit bus garage between Interstate 94 and University Avenue along Snelling Avenue. The garage has been demolished, and the lot cleared.

The property has the advantage of already being tax-exempt because it is owned by the Metropolitan Council, Kramer said.

"It hasn't generated a tax dollar in 50 plus years. So conceivably, and obviously I can't speak for the city council, but making something tax exempt that's already tax exempt is a little bit easier."

Kramer said St. Paul has talked with MLS officials about locations for a potential soccer stadium, which also include the Sears property near the State Capitol, but hasn't wanted to interfere with a Minneapolis deal that appeared to be close.

"If it was going to be Minneapolis, while my heart might say St. Paul is better, the good news is it's good for the region," Kramer said. "But if it's not going to work in Minneapolis, we are going to go all out on this one." But Major League Soccer's Mark Abbott did not say Minneapolis' chances are off the table.

"If somebody in Minneapolis came forward with a plan that would be tremendous because that's something we've always wanted," Abbott said. Coleman was not available for comment Wednesday evening, but spokesperson Ashley Aram said in an emailed statement, "The mayor is open to formal discussions about a soccer stadium in Saint Paul, if and when MLS officials reach out." League officials plan to be in St. Paul in the next few weeks.