City of Minneapolis creates work group to study soccer stadium proposal

Minnesota United
Key to the league’s decision was the group’s plan to build an 18,500-seat, soccer-specific, outdoor stadium with a grass playing surface adjacent to the Minneapolis Farmers Market

The city of Minneapolis took its first official action toward a new Major League Soccer stadium Friday morning.

A resolution creating a stadium work group was added to the city council’s regular agenda by Council President Barbara Johnson and approved on a voice vote.  

The resolution directs the work group to study issues surrounding the stadium proposal and report back to the council’s committee of the whole in September and then to the full council no later than its final meeting of 2015. The resolution charges the group to “determine a legislative strategy, if any, to support an MLS stadium.”

Johnson said she wants to “encourage development of such a facility.”

Members consist of council members and city staff. Among the council members are those who have expressed support for working with the proposed team’s owners as well as those who have expressed skepticism, and even opposition.

Members are Mayor Betsy Hodges, Council President Johnson, Council Members Jacob Frey, Blong Yang, Lisa Bender and John Quincy as well as city attorney Susan Segal, finance officer Kevin Carpenter, public works director Steve Kotke, deputy community development director Chuck Lutz, the city’s legislative liaison Gene Ranieri and economic development director David Frank.

Because there isn’t a quorum of members on the group, it won’t be subject to open meetings rules. The task force was characterized by Johnson as a staff group with council members in attendance.

Here’s what the resolution directs the group to consider:

1) The need or desirability for improved public infrastructure to support an MLS Stadium and potential future development in the Farmers Market area, including consideration of the impact of a stadium and related development on City-owned facilities and infrastructure needs and plans connected to the potential light rail station to be located along Royalston Avenue;

2) The potential impact of an MLS Stadium and potential future development on the City’s tax capacity, including property and sales taxes, and impacts on other publicly-owned facilities;

3) The identification of sites within the Farmers Market area for potential future development and a strategy for working cooperatively with Hennepin County and other stakeholders on financing infrastructure and related issues;

4) Analysis of soil and geo-technical data from the Farmers Market site;

5) Determination of a legislative strategy, if any, to support an MLS Stadium;

6) The identification of public benefits that could be obtained from the development of an MLS Stadium in the City of Minneapolis; and

7) Any other issues identified by the Working Group.

Hodges attended the council meeting and thanked Johnson for coming up with a way to bring people together on “what is otherwise a divisive issue.” But Council Member Cam Gordon, who said he opposes any property tax forgiveness, said the issue came up at the last minute and said it would be better to discuss the creation of the work group in council committees before it is created.

Gordon also said he was told that July 1 is a firm deadline by the MLS, and since that can’t be met that the council should wait until the MLS clarifies whether its interest in the city extends beyond that date.

Frey has been meeting privately with the prospective owners of the soccer franchise and has said he has made progress working on a compromise. The team’s lead owner, Bill McGuire, has said the owners will buy the land west of Target Field and pay all costs of a soccer specific stadium. It has requested that the state and city forgive the sales tax that would be owed on construction and exempt the stadium from property taxes.

Hodges opposes both tax breaks; Frey and other council members have been open to some version of them. Frey has proposed that the team continue to pay the property taxes now collected on the parcels but not be charged for additional taxes that would be due once the stadium is built.

McGuire’s group was awarded the league’s 24th franchise in April, but MLS officials want a soccer specific stadium to be secured before the final approval is given. The other owners are members of the Pohlad family, who own the Minnesota Twins; Glen Taylor, who owns the Minnesota Timberwolves and Lynx; and Wendy Carlson Nelson.

Any agreement between the city and the soccer group would likely require state approval. While lawmakers have been lukewarm, at best, over soccer — even passing a resolution in the Senate opposing any government assistance — Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk has said he thinks any arrangement needs to start with the city.

Earlier in the week a senior league official said a July 1 deadline that was mentioned almost in passing after the announcement by MLS Commissioner Don Garber is in fact a firm deadline. When asked if that means the franchise deal is dead since state lawmakers will not meet again until next year, league spokesman Dan Courtemanche said only: “We do not have any additional comment.”

But at a forum of sports team owners earlier in the month, McGuire said: “I’m not even sure I remember what Don said. But I wouldn’t get too caught up about hard deadlines.”

Comments (6)

  1. Submitted by Bill Kahn on 06/19/2015 - 01:44 pm.

    The lone vote against repealing the spitting and lurking ordinances in Minneapolis is running interference for the One-percenters trying for more publicly subsidized professional sports.

    How does Barbara Johnson get reelected every election? She get’s it done, thats how. But gets it done for whom?

  2. Submitted by Eric Ferguson on 06/19/2015 - 03:13 pm.

    Arrogance

    It was arrogant of MLS to think they could impose a July deadline when the legislature is already in the middle of its session with a full agenda. Apparently they just assumed everything else could be pushed down because they want their stadium to go to the top. At least a break on construction materials sales taxes is finite and somewhat predictable, but no property taxes forever is a pig in a poke. At least put a time limit on it, even if the annual amount isn’t known. Given how MLS has been unable to make deals work in other cities, it seems they’re not willing to learn. The four major league franchises (sorry, soccer is not in that category yet) at least accepted it would take years to get their issues resolved even with all their leverage, and the Saints recognized their lack of leverage. MLS seems clueless.

  3. Submitted by cheryl luger on 06/20/2015 - 10:57 am.

    City of Minneapolis creates work group to study soccer stadium p

    *****

    ” Because there isn’t a quorum of members on the group, it won’t be subject to open meetings rules. The task force was characterized by Johnson as a staff group with council members in attendance.”

    *****

    here we go again. remember the legislative rotating ‘ Non quorums’ during the final negotiations for the Vikings stadium …. so well covered by reporter coleman.

    carefully chosen council members and careful to have less than a quorum of council members.
    dates of the meetings do not need to be published.

    leave it to clever minds to find a way to beat the sunshine and open meeting laws.

    wouldn’t you think that the one member of the
    council MINORITY PARTY (cam Gordon) would be on this committee ?
    … if for no other purpose than to ask the ‘right’ questions and to identify with those residents and taxpayers who not overwhelming DFL ?

    meetings may not be open but will documents and discussions (by tape)
    be subject to data practices ?
    will there be any notes of the meetings ?

    I seem to remember during the RT days that the council study sessions (mayor also invited, staff present) were open to the public … and on several occasions they were televised.

    no press need attend. and, of course, no members of the public.

    best,
    Cheryl luger

  4. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 06/20/2015 - 11:35 am.

    How sad, to see our mayor say that this working group actually gets “people” together to discuss how to implement a professional soccer stadium at the Farmers’ Market site. The meetings are cleverly designed to be absolutely closed–to the public, and one might assume, also to other Council Members?–and confidential, so no leaks will provide any light on what’s going on. Until the mayor and Council president announce something that would then be a Done Deal.

    Because this is already a done deal, from all appearances. Our young hot shot new Council member has arranged a number of private meetings with the wealthy owners of the soccer team and has been bargaining away taxpayers’ interests (we’d like any pro sports team to pay their appropriate taxes, just like the rest of us, thank you!). A look at the working group’s “charge” leads to nothing but ways toward implementation of a downtown soccer stadium–even to the details. By asserting that “staff” leads this effort, Barbara Johnson pretends to put the whole efforts outside of politics, and into engineering and the apolitical nuts and bolts of city financing.

    By the time our mayor and city council let the public in on this scheme, there will be nothing left for the public to do but listen to the plan’s details and nod their heads in agreement.

  5. Submitted by Steve Titterud on 06/22/2015 - 04:21 pm.

    The FIX is IN !!

    I couldn’t agree with Ms. Sullivan and Ms. Luger more.

    I can’t tell you how much I regret my vote for Jacob Frey, who, it turns out, is the champion of handouts of public monies in support of the professional sports franchises – which coindidentally are owned by some of the wealthiest people in Minnesota.

    Of course, Mr. Frey unseated yet another stadium cheerleader in that election, but at least she was up front about it. Is it possible there is someone who will run for that City Council seat who will look out for the interests of the taxpayer ?? Same goes for the seats held by other sycophants of professional sports on the Council, including Ms. Johnson, the architect, along with Mr. Frey, of this latest subterfuge and chicanery.

  6. Submitted by James Hamilton on 06/22/2015 - 05:40 pm.

    In other words,

    find a way to get this damn thing built!

    Once again glad I live across the river.

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