St. Paul wins MLS Twin Cities sweepstakes

When MLS announced in March that it would add a team in Minnesota, the assumption was the team would play in Minneapolis -- specifically on an industrial site near the Minneapolis Farmers Market -- but it quickly discovered the power of stadium fatigue, which political forces used to stall a Minneapolis deal.

A lot changed over the next seven months, though, ending with the announcement on Friday that the team will build a 20,000-seat soccer stadium at the Snelling-Midway site between University Avenue and Interstate 94 in St. Paul. The completion date for the stadium, which will feature a grass field, is 2018.

“By all measures important to soccer fans throughout the Twin Cities metro and the state, as well as the needs of the team and Major League Soccer, this is a great location for an iconic soccer facility that will house the MLS franchise in Minnesota,” team owner William McGuire said in a statement. “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.”

The MLS team will privately finance the $120-million stadium, located 5 miles from downtown St. Paul and 7.5 miles from downtown Minnesota. In the spring, state and local government officials expressed opposition to any sort of public funding support for the stadium. That included opposition to the MLS team seeking breaks on sales taxes for construction materials, which would have added up to several million dollars in savings. Forget that it flew in the face of Minnesota's long-standing support of throwing taxpayer money after sports stadium projects.

What has changed is local opposition to tax breaks. Seemingly dooming the project in her city, Minneapolis mayor Betsy Hodges opposed requests for breaks on sales taxes for construction materials or exemptions on property taxes, terming them public subsidies. Plans call for the St. Paul stadium site to remain tax-exempt, which would save the MLS team on annual property taxes.

Most importantly, the St. Paul city council and Ramsey County passed resolutions supporting a continuation of tax-exempt status for the site, the signal Minnesota senate majority leader Tom Bakk said he needs for the state legislature to consider giving its approval.
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