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Minnesota United makes it official: Soccer, stadium coming to St. Paul

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Minnesota United FC fans cheered and sang.
Minnesota United FC fans cheered the announcement of a soccer stadium deal.
Curtis Gilbert | MPR News

Updated: 4:55 p.m. | Posted: 6:19 a.m.

More than six months after Major League Soccer  announced that it was bringing a professional team to Minnesota, a deal has been struck to build a $120 million stadium in St. Paul's Midway neighborhood. 

Mayor Chris Coleman and Minnesota United FC team owner Bill McGuire on Friday announced a partnership to build the stadium on vacant property owned by the Metropolitan Council just off University and Snelling avenues by Interstate 94. 

Minnesota United FC team owner Bill McGuire
Team owner Bill McGuire and St. Paul mayor Chris Coleman announced a partnership to build a stadium in the Midway neighborhood.
Curtis Gilbert | MPR News

McGuire said the site is a great location for the nearly 20,000-seat stadium.

"Located between two great downtowns, situated along multiple transit options and the interstate, and in the heart of a dynamic community, this site provides us the opportunity to work in partnership with the city of St. Paul and the local community to establish top-tier professional soccer that will be readily accessible to everyone," McGuire said. 

Coleman said the professional soccer stadium will benefit the entire state. 

"A soccer stadium will provide an important catalyst for the redevelopment of the entire area — creating jobs, spurring housing and new commercial opportunities, and building on our commitment to transit oriented development," Coleman said in a statement announcing the deal

Coleman and the St. Paul City Council are forming a community advisory committee of 15 to 20 city residents to help guide the project's staff. A number of open houses and public hearings will also be held. 

Fans awaited the announcement
Minnesota United FC fans awaited the announcement Friday that Major League Soccer will build a stadium in St. Paul.
Curtis Gilbert | MPR News

MLS Commissioner Don Garber said the partnership brought the state one step closer to the debut of professional soccer. 

The Midway tract is the site of a former Metro Transit bus barn. Part of the property's appeal to the Minnesota United group was that it was already tax-exempt.

The Minnesota Legislature will need to approve the continuation of that tax exempt status. Coleman, however, has said previously that Gov. Mark Dayton supports such a move.

Republican legislative leaders, however, may be unwilling to rubber stamp the exemption.

In early September, House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, told MPR News that lawmakers, tired of stadium financing battles, aren't excited about helping on a soccer venue.

"If we passed legislation, it would certainly have to say that it's pending approval by the local governments who would receive the property taxes, in order to exempt them. But I don't know that the Legislature has the will to do it at all," he said then.

MLS  announced plans earlier this year to award a Twin Cities franchise to an investment group led by McGuire. The former UnitedHealth Group CEO owns the Minnesota United soccer club, which plays in the North American Soccer League. 

The league and team originally envisioned a stadium at a site near the Minneapolis Farmers Market. But financing efforts fell through after the city and team were unable to reach a deal on tax incentives at the proposed site. 

St. Paul officials wooed the team, and the parties eventually settled their focus on the largely empty parcel in Midway. MLS Commissioner Don Garber finally gave his approval of the site in September, saying it made sense to be between Minneapolis and St. Paul's downtowns. 

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges congratulated the team and St. Paul on the deal, but said she'd be willing to talk to the team again if the St. Paul partnership fell through.

Minnesota United plans to break ground on the stadium in late May or early June, right after the legislative session wraps up. The park would open in 2018.