St. Paul Mayor Coleman met with Minnesota United officials to discuss soccer stadium

MinnPost photo by Terry Gydesen
St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman

As it turns out, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman isn’t all that averse to interfering with ongoing talks between Minneapolis and a group hoping to building a soccer-specific stadium near Target Field.

Last month, in response to a question about any discussions between St. Paul and the prospective owners of the Major League Soccer franchise, Coleman’s spokeswoman Tonya Tennessen said that the mayor is “not interested in interfering with conversations currently underway in Minneapolis.”

And in response to a follow-up question as to whether anyone had approached the city about exploring a St. Paul location for the stadium, Tennessen said: “We’re not commenting on soccer.”

Monday, however, the city’s intentions toward soccer became a bit more clear: Coleman, it seems, does not want to interfere … for now. Tennessen confirmed that Coleman and his deputy mayor Kristin Beckman had, in fact, met with Bill McGuire, the current owner of the lower-level Minnesota United and the leader of the MLS ownership group, on May 21. She termed that meeting as informal and broad, ending with an understanding that if talks fail in Minneapolis, they would talk again.

The city does not want to do anything to interfere with talks in Minneapolis and realizes those are ongoing, Tennessen said, in reference to the creation Friday of a work group of city staff and elected officials in Minneapolis to study stadium issues. “If a deal is not struck,” she continued, “the mayor would be open to having soccer remain in the region and would be open to discussions about having them in St. Paul, including the bus barn site.”

The former bus barn site is near the intersection of the University and Snelling that is served by the Snelling Avenue station on the Green Line. It is currently owned by the Metropolitan Council.

Rumors began circulating last month

Rumors about locating a soccer stadium in St. Paul instead of Minneapolis were fueled last month by comments that Minnesota United President Nick Rogers made at a Minneapolis community meeting.

“Minneapolis might say to us, ‘We don’t want you here.’ And then we’ll have to assess our options and figure out where is there a community that wants us,” Rogers said near the end of a forum on the soccer stadium hosted by City Council Member Alondra Cano. “That’s important. It’s important that the community wants us to be there.”

Nick Rogers
MinnPost photo by Peter Callaghan
Nick Rogers

At the time, Rogers wouldn’t elaborate and Coleman no-commented. But the prospective owners seem increasingly frustrated with the lack of support among elected officials for what they consider a small request — no sales tax on stadium construction and no property tax assessed on the estimated $125 million value of the proposed stadium. At a Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal forum of sports team owners May 10 — held in St. Paul — McGuire said “there are challenges in terms of getting the legislative community on board to do much of anything right now.”

St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce President Matt Kramer attended that breakfast forum, and said Monday he is supportive of regionalism and complimented groups such as Greater MSP that try to assure that cities within the region don’t compete with each other for economic development. While Minneapolis wouldn’t be his first choice for the soccer stadium, it would still be a win for the region if it brings MLS to the Twin Cities.

“But it would be horrible for the region if Minnesota can’t meet the necessary infrastructure needs for MLS” and the franchise is given to cities like Sacramento that have been pushing hard for one. To avoid that, St. Paul should be ready to step in and try to put together a stadium deal, Kramer said. Of the bus barn site, he said it is currently exempt from property taxes, so not collecting taxes if a stadium is built there is not a loss of revenue for the city.

‘Time is running out’

An interview Kramer gave over the weekend with KSTP may have caused the mayor’s office to be more expansive in acknowledging its activities. On Monday, Kramer said he has spoken with city leaders and they have expressed interest, but also that he hasn’t been involved in any formal or official talks with city officials related to soccer. “St. Paul is a big small city,” he said. “I run into them in the skyway. I’m at events the mayor and council are at. It would be silly for us not to talk about it because time is running out.”

St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce President Matt Kramer
St. Paul Area Chamber of
Commerce President Matt Kramer

During the Business Journal forum, McGuire was dismissive of reports about a league-imposed deadline of July 1 for a stadium deal, advising against getting “too caught up about hard deadlines.” MLS Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott — the league’s No. 2 administrator — however, gave a conflicting statement to the Star Tribune a few days later, saying the deadline was, in fact, hard.

When asked about the impact of that statement, especially given that the Legislature had just adjourned and isn’t expected back in session until March of next year, league spokesman Dan Courtemanche said only: “We do not have any additional comment beyond what was stated in the Star Tribune article.”

It was after that that the Minneapolis council created the work group to report back to the city council, first in September and then again at the end of 2015. Some city elected officials, including Council Member Jacob Frey, have been meeting with team officials to talk about way to overcome objections to some details of the proposal. Any agreement would likely require legislative authority next year.

Comments (28)

  1. Submitted by Pavel Yankovic on 06/23/2015 - 09:20 am.

    The Minnesota United officials…..

    will not take “no” for an answer. And why should they? In a state where handouts abound the coffers (taxpayers wallets) should be opened to them.

  2. Submitted by Ian Stade on 06/23/2015 - 02:20 pm.

    St. Paul is away from MN’s Center of Population

    According to the U.S. Census (http://www.census.gov/geo/reference/centersofpop/state_cenpop_year.html) the center of Minnesota’s population is 45° 12′ 13″ N 93° 34′ 19″ W (https://goo.gl/maps/xSEnH)

    It behooves the United to find a place to play in Hennepin County, whether it is Minneapolis, Bloomington or other. If worse comes to worst, what is so terrible about negotiating with the Wilfs to play in the U.S. Bank plastic grass wonderdome? Sounds more practical than another stadium in St. Paul but as a Minneapolitan, I wouldn’t mind if our neighbors in Shelbyville foot the bill for a new MLS stadium, although I prefer the Royalston site.

    • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 06/24/2015 - 07:18 am.

      Yup, I agree. That new fangled arena they’re talking about building in Saint Paul to attract an NHL team, that will never fly. No one will come, and the franchise will soon move on to another city.

      St. Paul isn’t big enough to have a major league team, and never will be.

  3. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 06/23/2015 - 10:02 am.

    Stadiums

    Say what you will, Minnesota has never turned down the opportunity to build a stadium, no matter how outlandish. The only reason why the surface area of our state isn’t entirely covered by stadiums, parking lots and sports bars, is the limited number of sports teams asking for new buildings.

  4. Submitted by James Hamilton on 06/23/2015 - 10:38 am.

    No, we shouldn’t and yes, it is.

    “But it would be horrible for the region if Minnesota can’t meet the necessary infrastructure needs for MLS” and the franchise is given to cities like Sacramento that have been pushing hard for one. To avoid that, St. Paul should be ready to step in and try to put together a stadium deal, Kramer said. Of the bus barn site, he said it is currently exempt from property taxes, so not collecting taxes if a stadium is built there is not a loss of revenue for the city.

    Horrible? Yes, right up there with losing the Loon Museum to Wisconsin. (That’s a joke, folks.)

    As for Mr. Kramer’s second point: revenue foregone is revenue lost. It’s called an opportunity cost. See, Econ 101.

  5. Submitted by lee wick on 06/23/2015 - 10:57 am.

    Tired of Government Sports Waste

    Same old stuff, can’t spend enough money for their legacies. Nice venues? Sure, but they always override the law when the public is against these things. None of these expenditures has done anything to improve the lives of the taxpayers, IMO.Certainly not me or anyone I know in the NW suburbs. We can debate the economical benefits but that is all convoluted information. MSP want growth? Spend your own money from your own citizens. We’ll never see that happen.

  6. Submitted by Bill Kahn on 06/23/2015 - 11:01 am.

    Plenty of parasitism to go around until voters start eliminating the politicians who make our revenue vulnerable.

    Show me the payback, and I am in; but there is not and never will be one for professional sports.

    • Submitted by Bill Kahn on 06/23/2015 - 12:37 pm.

      Was forgetting that the unelected shadow government is instrumental in bringing this off. I believe council-manager government would help in controlling these folks.

  7. Submitted by Joel Stegner on 06/23/2015 - 11:39 am.

    Do any of your commenters love soccer?

    Get a grip people. Try something new – watch some soccer. What this new business is asking for maybe 1% of what we gave the Vikings, under 5% of what we gave the Twins and Wild, and a fraction of recent spending on the TWolves and Saints. What they are asking is probably less than what is being spent for the tailgating pleasure of Vikings fan for about 10 game Sundays.a year. A 21st century city has professional soccer. You may not enjoy it, but your children and grandchildren and our immigrant popular do. Support soccer and you leave the future generations something that they will enjoy – part of being a major league community in sports, arts, education, healthcare, commerce and innovation. They support each other and make this a great place to life.

    • Submitted by Bill Kahn on 06/23/2015 - 12:31 pm.

      Soccer is as good as any game and amateur players deserve support from beginners to league players in schools and parks, but professional sports need to sustain themselves as they already reap the players largely at our expense and that of parents who are fanatical about one sport or another for their kids, who like everyone else, must grow up at some point.

      The point here for professional sports? Grow up, move on to what greener pastures still exist (getting harder), or die; all of which we should be okay with. If you are not okay with it, open your own wallets to professional sports.

      • Submitted by Matt Haas on 06/23/2015 - 01:31 pm.

        Snobbish pretension

        Ok, let’s accept your premise. What “grown up” activity SHOULD be attracting me, a 36.year old married father of two, to come to either of your fair cities to “open my wallet” and support your economy. What can I do in either Mpls or St. Paul that I cannot do elsewhere, generally less expensively, without needing to wade through crowds of people. You can regard sports fans, (and large concerts’ fans), as unwanted annoyances, but they are probably more numerous than folks of your opinion. Never has urban provincialism been in such vogue as it seems to be these days.

        • Submitted by Bill Kahn on 06/23/2015 - 03:01 pm.

          Oh well, perhaps I am a provincial urban snob, but the politics of our state sort of demand that given the problems posed by outstate politicians starving the Metro and the folks in our own local governments draining what little revenue we can get for the services we need in favor of subsidies for the rich to provide these games for those who wish to sit and watch them.

          There should be a sustainable equilibrium for this sort of thing, but there is not; it is, as I said, parasitism. I have routinely opened my wallet when I go do fun stuff outstate, but that gets harder to do when folks find every possible way to screw all of us provincial urban snobs.

          • Submitted by Matt Haas on 06/23/2015 - 03:36 pm.

            I might care

            If I lived outstate, but alas I don’t. I live, as do most folks in the metro, outside of the core cities. I could be in downtown Minneapolis in under a half hour, but I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve visited the entire city for anything outside of job related responsibilities. I simply am wondering when you folks will just start putting up the “stay out ” signs to folks like me. Quite literally, outside of the occasional Twins game, there is no reason for me to come. I really am not a stadium shill, I could take it or leave it, but what is it that you want your city to be? It’s a regional destination for a few key reasons, a thriving foodie scene, free concerts in a park, and thousands of scantily clad twentysomethings riding their bikes around Lake Calhoun aren’t among them. As to your point on services, get back to me when you can show me that those services will ever get the attention they deserve, with or without stadium funding. I get that blaming sports fans is simpler than looking in the mirror and wondering why people you support never seem to do what you think they will, but it’s low hanging fruit.

            • Submitted by Bill Kahn on 06/23/2015 - 04:28 pm.

              So you don’t care. Surprise, surprise. We used to get all of the services we needed, Matt, and no doubt the reason you settled elsewhere in the Metro with your wife and kids (seem to remember a Matt Haas who lived in a St. Paul neighborhood near me years ago), because that is not happening anymore; the fact that you don’t care does not surprise me as you are also benefitting from a subsidy (how the ‘burbs are born and grow), or perhaps about to pay the piper.

              Taxes go up and services go down; go figure. Does that happen where you live now? Do your city officials do an end run around voters to finance the rich? The reason you are where you are is essentially a subsidy and we would probably have to find a way to limit that as well if it were not already happening. The ‘burbs are starting to hurt as much as the inner city used to decades ago.

              I think your burg ought to take MLS, Matt.

  8. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 06/23/2015 - 11:47 am.

    Actually, the property-tax-free Midway site on Snelling Ave. in St. Paul would be great for soccer! St. Paul could continue its habit of not forcing its taxpayers to pay to subsidize pro sports arenas (St. Paul seems able to get the state and the Metro Council to cough up the money where Minneapolis and Hennepin county hit at their own taxpayers every time).

    Worth a chuckle: How “taxpayer subsidy” has been eliminated from the rhetoric used on the soccer stadium subsidy requested and expected of Minneapolis. Substituted is that bland, engineer-speak “infrastructure needs” terminology that evades the issue of taxes foregone.

    Minneapolis could help out with “infrastructure”–reconfiguring streets, facilitating new installations of water and sewer lines and making sure the light-rail line station works with the stadium position and so forth. Property taxes and sales taxes have nothing at all to do with “infrastructure,” and it’s amazing how these guys seem to think the public buys it.

    I mean, the Minneapolis City Council and the Mayor seem to buy this evasive lingo. But that doesn’t mean the rest of us, who will have to bear the tax burden not borne by the millionaire owners of the soccer franchise, don’t laugh at them for using it.

  9. Submitted by John Ferman on 06/23/2015 - 11:54 am.

    St Paul Is Best For Soccer

    Mpls has three major league teams while St Paul has only one. It is only fair that soccer should be in St Paul. Others have said St Paul is poorly located, that most people are in Hennepin County. Fact is, in sofar as sports draw is concerned, we are A metropolitan community and fans, of one sort or another, reside from all directions. Notice, also, that when the new Stillwater bridge opens that a big chunk of West Wisconsin joins our Metro area. It is no longer just Mpls-St Paul, it is greater than seven Counties and the various sports fans can come from all of them.. Locating all fun-type venues, sports, theater, etc shoukd keep our larger community in mind.

  10. Submitted by Matt Haas on 06/23/2015 - 12:34 pm.

    Hmm

    Still waiting for the anti Saints stadium diatribe. Don’t recall seeing one. Is it because everyone loves Bill Murray or what? Seriously folks, I get the vitriol, but this is peanuts, maybe you think this is like payback for losing the big fight with the Twins, Vikings, et al, but you aren’t punishing them. Soccer is the fastest growing youth sport in the country, I don’t even watch soccer, but as group soccer enthusiasts are the most denigrated group there is, besides maybe women’s basketball fans. You’ve managed to make yourselves the bully here, to an unaffected outsider, who lives in neither city, nor will be attending any games, you have me rooting for Bill McGuire of all things. You’ve lost your sense of scope, you’ve surrendered to the same impulse that drives drives a certain political party to reject everything, anything out of hand as unworkable without bothering to look at the details. In short you’ve moved beyond any substance in to the realm of ideology, “No stadia, anywhere, for anyone, for any reason”. It’s just silly.

    • Submitted by Bill Kahn on 06/23/2015 - 01:43 pm.

      Let them build anything for any sport that they require and give them the help that any business gets from government, and no more.

      It appears that professional sports requires public subsidy to survive and no economist has shown these businesses to be anything but parasitic where they make their home.

      You bring up minor league baseball with some degree of ignorance as it does not support your position, i.e., it actually boosts in the local economy, especially the St. Paul Saints, who even draw in sports hating folks like me;-) I don’t love Bill Murray, but I do love what has gone on in Saints games since I’ve lived here.

      MLS, MLB, NFL and the rest do not help any but the larger markets in which they locate and it is marginal help, sometimes displacing activity that could have greater net positive influence on local economies.

      We can’t afford parasites in the Metro and we are not alone in the world. Professional sports needs to find a new modus operandi.

      • Submitted by Matt Haas on 06/23/2015 - 03:22 pm.

        Does the boost in revenue

        Justify the state aid that they received? I only ask because it’s far more than what the soccer team requires. Not to mention MLS projects more along the lines of a minor league baseball franchise in terms of stadium capacity and revenues. If it’s a carnival your looking for, (generally what the Saints do to offset the lackluster product) surely they could be had for less.

        • Submitted by Bill Kahn on 06/23/2015 - 03:54 pm.

          You are asking me if this is a losing proposition? That’s what I have been saying in every darn comment, here, but certainly the Saints will pay back more than MLS.

          If I take the Green Line to Union Station from Minneapolis, I will usually walk past the stadium to the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary or find something good to eat or look at in Lowertown rather than attend a game, but provincial urban snob that I am, I am still not above indulging in a little bread and circuses once in a great while just because it is there; I am a snob, but not big of a snob, I guess.

          Downtown is just about the only carnival going for all of us pretentious and provincial urban snobs.

          • Submitted by Dan Hintz on 06/24/2015 - 02:49 pm.

            Economics fail

            For return on investment, the Saints was the absolute worst use of public money on Sports this state has ever seen. For the size of the stadium and the price of tickets, the revenue is negligible. That was the stadium people should have been up in arms about, not the MLS stadium, which is only seeking a property tax break (like the Saints get) and may make the taxpayers money. The Saints will never, ever pay back anything close to what the MLS will.

          • Submitted by Shawn Farley on 06/24/2015 - 05:31 pm.

            That math though

            How do you figure the saints will pay more back than an MNUFC would? Ownership is paying for the stadium to be built and are looking for a tax break on building materials and land, which is about $2 Million. they are projecting to bring in about $1.2 million in sales tax each year, so by year 2 they will be making the city money. How is this still up for debate?

  11. Submitted by Tate Ferguson on 06/23/2015 - 02:22 pm.

    Humphrey’s curse

    There is an aura of desperation about the mania for stadium-building that afflicts many of our local bigwigs. Politicians, lemme tell ya: even if we build a hundred stadiums, a lot of folks on the coasts still won’t like us.

    Can’t we just accept that we are, in fact, a cold Omaha, and get on with the rest of our lives?

  12. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 06/24/2015 - 08:08 am.

    Let rationality prevail…

    I’m no soccer fan; but, it seems that the discussion here is way more about the past sins of Target Field, US Bank Stadium, Xcel Energy Center and the other venues that got way more public money. The soccer folks are asking for sales tax on construction materials to be waived and property taxes frozen at current levels. Go back in time and if any of the aforementioned venues had a chance to be built if only those concessions were granted it would have been a no brainer. Take a breath, be rational and give them these modest requests and let’s move onto the next argument….

    • Submitted by Rob Spence on 06/24/2015 - 11:45 am.

      Edward hit it on the nose.

      All this talk about parasites and billionaires raiding the public coffers needs to be dialed back and everyone needs to look what is being put on the table here. The pro soccer club is paying for the stadium – full stop. They are a business. They are asking for some tax incentives. If Minneapolis wants to forego redevelopment of an industrial area on the edge of downtown and hope that something better comes along, I think St. Paul should definitely step up. Although, I don’t think the bus barn is the best location. Traffic is already insane on Snelling from University to Selby…. but maybe it would give the city a kick in the pants to finally connect I-94 to Ayd Mill Rd. (but that’s another argument).

  13. Submitted by Tom Goldstein on 06/24/2015 - 11:35 pm.

    The Pro Soccer Team will not pay for the Stadium

    I understand that people are excited about the possibility of professional soccer coming to Minnesota, but the notion that billionaire Bill McGuire and his partners are going to build the stadium at their expense is naive. Why? Because there is no way they can build a stadium and make it work financially–unless the city is willing to provide so many property tax breaks that it will only further cripple St. Paul’s ability to expand its property tax base, something that we’ve already exacerbated through the continuous use of TIF districts throughout St. Paul. I know we like to think that stadiums spur development and create jobs in the community, but every economist who has studied the issue for the past 40 years has found otherwise. A new soccer stadium could certainly shift spending in the city around such that a certain number of folks will attend soccer games in the Midway rather than baseball games at CHS Field, but the net benefit to the city is pretty much cancelled out. For those with a short memory, the public collectively just spent $65-$70 million on a Saints ballpark that will generate no property taxes and obligate the city to spend $625,000 annually for the next 25 years–plus something like $300,000 annually that the city gives the Saints to help them defray operating costs for a facility in which the Saints capture the revenue for all ballpark events.

    The Mayor’s decision to meet with McGuire just plays into the hands of the owners who can now pit St. Paul vs. Minneapolis the same way that we went through the charade with the Twins from 1999 through 2004 and the Vikings in 2012 with Ramsey County vs. Minneapolis. Why do we continue to become pawns to billionaire’s completely transparent motives? I have no issues with folks who love soccer and want to see it played here, but when our elected officials enter into these kinds of negotiations we end up with lopsided deals like the Saints ballpark in which the Saints put up $1.5 million cash in return for the rights to all the advertising, concession, ticket, and other event revenue. Now, if the city wants to look at an arrangement where it builds the stadium and controls the ad revenue–or extracts enough revenue from events to cover the cost of the soccer stadium, fine. But that will never happen because McGuire and Assoc. will need that money to fund operations. Stadiums are always slippery slopes, and whenever communities get in bed with team owners–no matter how rosy the scenario and the “development opportunities,” we lose. McGuire didn’t get wealthy through generosity, and beware the billionaire bringing forward gifts. In the end, the only gifts will be what we give away in development opportunities and tax base–something St. Paul has has already done a terrible job with the past 20 years.

    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 06/25/2015 - 07:04 am.

      What else are you going to build

      If it’s such a better proposition why hasn’t it happened yet. Please note that this applies to either city. I mean seriously, what are the realistic options? You’re not getting manufacturing, especially in Mpls, so what then, ANOTHER overpriced “luxury” hotel, retail that no one but a handful of downtown residents and commuters will frequent? Oh I know, more “luxury” condos for the under 25 or over 60 set. Of course none of these sorts of projects would EVER request similar tax deals as incentive for development either I suppose. Saying that the opportunity for alternative investment is there doesn’t mean that such investment is needed or makes economic sense, and as such results in the same net return, zero. If your argument is that businesses of any stripe should never receive any incentives, of any kind, in deference to whatever MIGHT move in alternatively while still paying taxes you’d at least be consistent. You’d also be living in a naive fantasyland, but at least your ideology would be sound.

      • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 06/25/2015 - 01:07 pm.

        And they are fighting that too…

        “You’re not getting manufacturing, especially in Mpls”

        Actually, a world class manufacturer sits less than 2 miles north of the soccer site. Graco employs hundreds of highly skilled and highly paid manufacturing workers and has its HQ and R&D centers at its’ Broadway Ave. Riverside location and, as last I knew, was fighting with the Park Board about getting land to expand more jobs onto. Make it a 2fer: give the soccer folks the stadium concessions and Graco the land and the tax rolls expand and worthwhile development occurs.

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