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Mayor confirms progress in St. Paul stadium talks

Karlee Weinmann//September 4, 2015

Mayor confirms progress in St. Paul stadium talks

Karlee Weinmann//September 4, 2015

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman confirmed Thursday that talks to bring a pro soccer stadium to his city are ongoing, and he expects a final decision on the proposal soon.

The mayor stopped short of confirming St. Paul had outmuscled Minneapolis for the facility, but said in an interview with WCCO Radio at the State Fair that Major League Soccer officials will need to finalize plans in short order and St. Paul is still in the running.

Talks apparently cooled in Minneapolis, the league’s first-choice city for expansion, amid pushback from Mayor Betsy Hodges. An option for the owners of Minnesota United FC, the team that would play in the new stadium, to buy a swath of land near downtown expired earlier this week without a whiff of a deal.

Coleman’s plan, unveiled in July, would place the stadium at the site of a former bus maintenance facility at Snelling and University avenues, near Interstate 94. The location sits along the Green Line light rail route, and will soon have bus rapid transit line pass by.

The 10-acre “bus barn” site is only part of the mayor’s proposal. The stadium would stoke development interest in about 25 stagnant acres surrounding the maintenance facility, currently home to a shopping mall and surface parking, he has said.

“We think it’s a perfect location and if we do get a stadium there, it will completely accelerate development in that whole area,” Coleman said Thursday.

Former UnitedHealth Group CEO Bill McGuire, who leads Minnesota United’s ownership group, sniffed out the bus barn site as a prospective stadium location as far back as 2013.

In an initial proposal to Minneapolis, McGuire and his fellow owners agreed to pick up the $120 million-plus tab to build the stadium if the city agreed to property tax breaks on the site and sales tax relief on construction materials.

The request, worth an estimated $3 million to $4 million, drew blowback from Hodges that stalled talks on her side of the river.

Last week, the St. Paul City Council approved a nonbinding resolution supporting a property tax break on the prospective stadium site – a likely condition of team owners covering construction costs. Gov. Mark Dayton said he would support the measure, which would need legislative approval.

Coleman has said redevelopment opportunities driven by the stadium would offset the tax relief.

A spokesperson for Minnesota United declined to comment. McGuire and the league could not immediately be reached for comment.

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