Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber on Thursday voiced support for a professional soccer stadium in Minneapolis after a group of North Loop business and community leaders urged city officials to firm up plans for a facility.
In a letter to the 2020 Partners, the tight-lipped commissioner confirmed a Minneapolis stadium is still possible despite pushback at City Hall and MLS officials’ plans to come to St. Paul next week to discuss a facility there.
The 2020 group, whose members range from developers to neighborhood associations with a shared focus on North Loop development, sent a letter this week to city and league officials hailing the project as a development engine and affirming its “unwavering support” for a public-private effort to get the stadium built. The $120 million facility would sit northeast of the Minneapolis Farmers Market, east of Interstate 394 and west of Target Field.
“I have visited the Farmers Market and think that it would be a tremendous site for a new soccer-specific stadium,” Garber wrote. “As the stadium project evolves, we will reach out at the appropriate time and look forward [to] keeping in touch.”
At a 2020 Partners meeting last week, members sounded off on Mayor Betsy Hodges’ reluctance so far to consider $3 million to $4 million in tax abatement for the proposed team-funded facility. The owners of Minnesota United FC, the team that would play in the facility, have asked for property tax breaks and a sales tax exemption on construction materials.
Last month, amid Minneapolis’ struggles to hammer out a stadium plan, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman launched a public push to bring the facility to his city. The mayor said Friday he would meet with MLS Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott on Tuesday to discuss bringing the project to St. Paul.
Coleman’s dark-horse campaign has gathered steam over the past month, after an initial July 1 deadline passed for Minneapolis officials to cobble together a stadium plan. He has touted a former Metro Transit bus maintenance facility, near Snelling and University avenues by Interstate 94, as a ready-made site.
But team owners, led by former UnitedHealth Group CEO Bill McGuire, have been considering the 7.9-acre site near the Farmer’s Market in Minneapolis, including parcels at 415 and 501 Royalston Ave. N., since last year.
Several Minneapolis City Council members, including President Barb Johnson and Jacob Frey, support the project. Last week, Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin added his endorsement, saying the team owners’ pledge to cover stadium costs makes it a can’t-miss opportunity.
McLaughlin has pointed to a sales tax framework that helped the Minnesota Twins baseball team build Target Field. Tax proceeds that help pay off bonds tied to the ballpark project are streaming in faster than expected, providing a model for a new facility or extra cash that could support the proposed stadium.
Hodges said in an emailed statement last week that McLaughlin’s pitch “may very well have merit” but the team needs to provide more detailed cost and development information – the mayor’s strongest suggestion to date that she could switch her stance on the proposed facility.
The league has not set a deadline for Twin Cities stadium talks, but it has made clear it is looking to nail down plans soon.