St. Paul soccer stadium wins crucial council vote

New soccer stadium rendering
St. Paul is another step closer to building a new soccer stadium, with a City Council vote Wednesday approving its site plan.
Minnesota United FC

St. Paul is another step closer to building a new soccer stadium. At its regular meeting Wednesday, the City Council approved a site plan for a proposed Major League Soccer facility.

The council voted 6-1 in favor of an ordinance that rezones the site in the Midway neighborhood to allow a 21,000-seat, $150 million soccer stadium on that corner.

They also OK'd a master plan for the site. It's what they call a superblock — more than 34 acres bounded by Snelling and University avenues, Pascal Street and Interstate 94. There have long been businesses on the north end of that site and many are expected to remain. The stadium would sit on the southwest corner. That 10-acre portion, a former Metro Transit bus garage, is already publicly owned.

Besides the stadium, the master plan calls for mixed use development including retail, parks, a hotel, offices and apartments.

In a statement after the vote, Mayor Chris Coleman called the vote a "huge milestone."

In June, Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed a big tax bill because of what he called a $101 million error. There was an "or" that should have been an "and" in language about pull tabs sold at bingo halls.

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That error scuttled a wide range of tax breaks and credits including a property tax exemption for the soccer stadium.

Stadium planners had hoped that would have been fixed in a special session. But the DFL governor and Republican lawmakers still haven't been able to come to an agreement on a special session.

Council Member Jane Prince said the property tax exemption is key to the whole stadium deal, and if it doesn't go through, the entire project is in jeopardy. Prince also questioned many millions spent on a facility that would host around 20 games a year.

"That's nice, but what does that do for my east side communities that don't have rec centers?"

Council Member Dai Thao, whose ward includes the stadium site, said the council's vote should send a message to the governor and state legislative leaders they need to fix the tax bill.

"I still believe that they're going to get together and they're going to solve this and get this done," Thao said.

This week may hold more good news for backers of the stadium. Bill McGuire, owner of Minnesota United FC, has an announcement with officials from Major League Soccer planned for Friday evening at CHS field in Lowertown.

They're expected to announce that the team will officially become an MLS franchise. Minnesota United is now part of the second-tier North American Soccer League.