Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Coleman exercising patience in St. Paul soccer stadium talks

Karlee Weinmann//July 22, 2015

Coleman exercising patience in St. Paul soccer stadium talks

Karlee Weinmann//July 22, 2015

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman isn’t pressuring Minnesota United FC owners to commit to building a professional soccer stadium in the city despite a report that he imposed a 30-day deadline for the team’s decision.

A Monday report in Northern Pitch, which tracks soccer in Minnesota, said Coleman set a time limit for team ownersled by former UnitedHealth Group chief executive Bill McGuire, to select a Twin Cities location for a new outdoor facility. Major League Soccer — the top U.S. league — has agreed to welcome the team if it can iron out stadium plans.

But while the mayor has said he aims to work out project details on a tight timetable, his office doused speculation he was turning up the heat on Minnesota United. He spoke with McGuire as recently as last week, Coleman spokeswoman Tonya Tennessen said, but the mayor has not taken a hard line in the ongoing talks.

“I have no idea where [the reporter] heard that, but it’s not true,” Tennessen said in an email.

Earlier this month, Coleman unveiled a public push to bring professional soccer to St. Paul after officials in Minneapolis — Minnesota United’s first choice — let an MLS-imposed July 1 deadline pass without firming up plans for a facility.

League officials are expected to visit St. Paul to tour a 14.7-acre site near Snelling and University avenues, north of Interstate 94, which currently houses the former Metro Transit bus barn and a strip mall. Coleman hasn’t spoken with the league since officials initially agreed to the trip almost two weeks ago, Tennessen said.

Rumors have swirled that the apparent interest in St. Paul is a bargaining chip to grease discussions in Minneapolis. Even so, Coleman said earlier this month that he sees a St. Paul facility as a viable path all its own.

“I go into all these negotiations with eyes wide open,” he told reporters when he unveiled the push. “I have made it very clear to the ownership group that I have no intention of being used as a pawn in the negotiations across the river.”

Coleman has said he expects strong support from city policymakers, a sharp contrast from Minneapolis, where Mayor Betsy Hodges and others have balked at the project’s payoff.

A preliminary framework estimates the stadium will cost around $120 million, a price the team has agreed to shoulder. But team owners want tax abatement worth $3 million to $4 million, according to Minneapolis estimates, including property tax breaks and sales tax relief on construction materials.

That’s a particularly tough sell in Minneapolis, where two publicly financed stadiums — for the Minnesota Vikings and Minnesota Twins — have won approval in recent years.

Over the weekend, City Council Member Cam Gordon railed against city support for the proposed stadium and encouraged his constituents to do the same.

“Perhaps the most compelling reason for me to oppose this public subsidy is because it is fundamentally unfair: We do not extend any similar property tax exemption to any other business in Minneapolis,” he wrote.

Gordon was not immediately available for additional comment.

A Friday meeting between Hodges, several Minneapolis department heads and a handful of City Council members evaluating stadium prospects yielded little progress. McGuire gave a presentation, but the parties did not discuss financial terms — the apparent sticking point in negotiations so far.

Top News

See All Top News

Legal calendar

Click here to see upcoming Minnesota events

Expert Testimony

See All Expert Testimony