St. Paul officials hope to score with soccer push

Players from the Minnesota United soccer team kicked soccer balls around on the terrace outside the Minnesota Senate office building. The team is looking for tax breaks for its $150 million stadium in the remaining two weeks of the legilstaive session.

St. Paul officials renewed their appeal for action at the Capitol Monday to move a proposed Major League Soccer stadium forward this year.

Minnesota United has proposed a $150 million stadium in the city's Midway neighborhood, on the site of a former bus barn. The team is going to give the stadium to the city, but wants property tax breaks, a construction materials tax exemption and a liquor license.

Mayor Chris Coleman says the city needs those three approvals to get construction started.

"The three asks that we have were kind of the preliminary asks for every other deal, and so what we're asking for is give us the baseline that everybody asks for and the ownership group is going to pay for the rest of the stadium," Coleman said. "They've been very clear that they need that they need these three pieces of legislation passed. The league has been very clear on this one, so we need to get this done."

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One of the provisions is in the Senate tax bill. Sen. Sandy Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, said the construction materials and liquor measure have been put on hold for the time being.

"The tax bill is coming out today, and it'll be passed tomorrow and we have the property tax exemption, which is probably the most important thing for ongoing operating issues, in the tax bill. We'll be having further conversations about our other tax provision, which isn't quite there yet," Pappas said.

Pappas said she still hoped to get the liquor measure acted on this year -- although other lawmakers have noted that there was little chance anyone would be selling any drinks in a completed stadium in the foreseeable future. Minnesota United isn't expected to begin play in a new stadium until 2018.

"The team needs certainty," Coleman said. "They're being asked to start construction on a facility that will at a minimum cost $150 million out of the ownership group's pockets, and they need to know what the playing field will look like when they're finished with that... They're counting on that for their cash flow."

Minnesota United is playing its 2016 season now, and soccer watchers think the team could move up to join Major League Soccer ranks, even without a new stadium, next year.