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Game over: why St. Paul is all but guaranteed to be the future home of Minnesota's MLS franchise

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and MLS Commissioner Don Garber
MinnPost photo by Peter Callaghan
St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber speaking during a Monday press conference in Mears Park.

The disconnect became obvious almost immediately after Major League Soccer gave official status to a well-circulated rumor last spring: that the Twin Cities would be awarded the 24th franchise in the top American soccer league.

What was seen by the primary owner of the new team as something akin to philanthropy — privately financing a new stadium (save some tax breaks on construction materials and property taxes) — was viewed by many critics as another bad business deal: regular citizens subsidizing a billionaire team owner.

It perhaps wasn’t a surprise then that the gap over those two views of the attempt to put an MLS franchise in Minneapolis remained a substantial gulf — or that the league would eventually determine that the best place to put the team would be in St. Paul, not Minneapolis.

Commissioner Don Garber all but said as much on Monday, after an unpublicized tour of the site and a hastily convened media availability with St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, all of it followed by a meeting with Gov. Mark Dayton.

“It seems like it really makes sense to me,” Garber said of what is expected to be the eventual site of a stadium for Minnesota United: the former bus barn on Snelling and I-94. And while he didn’t make a formal announcement with regard to an agreement, he said the league and team are focused exclusively on St. Paul and are at the stage of finalizing what he termed “deal points.”

It was an anticlimactic end to the latest Twin Cities stadium drama. The new team could start play in 2017 or 2018, perhaps in a temporary facility before the new soccer-specific facility is finished.

But Garber left no doubt where the team would eventually play: St. Paul.

'Our' victory? 

It was far different event from the splashy announcement on March 25 that an MLS team had been awarded to Minnesota — the culmination of a campaign by former UnitedHealthcare CEO Bill McGuire to preserve professional soccer in his adopted hometown. What had started as his willingness to buy a lower-level team that was on the verge of collapse, in 2012, had become a successful effort against other cities (and a rival local bidder) to have a team in the continent’s top league.

Bill McGuire
Minnesota United
Bill McGuire

To McGuire, it seemed like an extension of the community-minded work he’d been doing since leaving UnitedHealth under a dark cloud in 2006, endeavors that have included big donations to the Guthrie Theater and the creation of Gold Medal Park. After the March announcement at Target Field — an event that was more pep rally than press conference — McGuire answered questions from reporters: about the politics, the logistics and the redevelopment potential of a proposed site in downtown Minneapolis for a soccer-specific stadium.

At the end of the event, though, McGuire interjected an answer to a question that hadn’t actually been asked: He and his partners had won something important, he said, not just for themselves but for the region — and he wanted people to know that.

“The focus here,” he said before pausing and starting again. “This is a big deal for our community. Lots of important, vibrant cities in America wanted this franchise. It is a great victory for our community to be viewed as the place to go and for us to bring this here. That’s our first step. That’s our victory right now.”

Stung by opposition 

But rather than being lauded for his “victory,” McGuire was criticized by those who saw the new franchise not as some sort of collective achievement but as a crass business proposition by some of state's wealthiest people (McGuire’s ownership group also includes the Pohlads, Wendy Nelson and Glen Taylor). And it was a familiar one at that: private sports team owners seeking tax subsidies to make themselves even wealthier.

Given the recent history of stadium deals in the region, that reaction should have been expected. Yet McGuire seemed stunned — and stung — by it. That the critique came from — and was even being led by — Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges made it worse.

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges
MinnPost file photo by Terry Gydesen
Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges

Hodges did not attend the MLS announcement, though several City Council members took part. Since rumors had first surfaced about the possibility of the city landing an MLS team, she had been saying that she opposed any public resources for a soccer-specific stadium. Instead, she favored a team using the new Vikings Stadium, which would have required the franchise to be awarded to the Wilf family, who had exclusive rights to play soccer there.

She was not alone in articulating opposition to any public subsidies, and was joined by the leaders of both parties in the Legislature and many on the city council. Whoever coined the term “stadium fatigue” was well-rewarded with its constant use. Would-be supporters were cautious, waiting to see what the public reaction would be.

Three weeks after the big announcement, McGuire and his co-owners thought they had news that would quell the opposition. Unlike all other team owners, McGuire and his partners would pay for the land and the construction themselves and wanted only two tax breaks from government. One would exempt construction from sales taxes. The other would have the stadium be exempt from property taxes. Both such tax breaks were given to the other team owners in the region. 

'The ability of these owners to pay their own way is obvious'

Some politicians who had been expecting a larger ask of sharing construction costs — one similar to those requested by and granted to the owners of the Vikings, Twins, Wild, Timberwolves and even the St. Paul Saints — were relieved at the relatively modest request.

Hodges, however, posted a response on her private blog that ratcheted up her opposition. She wrote that she is a soccer fan, having watched the old Minnesota Strikers during their days in the Major Indoor Soccer League. But she also said that even tax-breaks equate to a subsidy, and therefore she was “disappointed” that the owners’ pledge to pay all costs wasn’t realized.

She made no fans among hardcore soccer supporters by saying the new team could play in U.S. Bank Stadium or TCF Bank Stadium (both use artificial turf and have playing field dimensions considered too small for a proper soccer configuration). She also argued that the soccer stadium would compete for concerts with the city-owned Target Center.

And then she played the corporate welfare card. “The McGuire group has failed to demonstrate any need whatsoever for a public subsidy,” she wrote. “Even if they choose to build a third soccer stadium, the ability of these owners to pay their own way is obvious.”

Yes, they were all rich, the owners acknowledged. But MLS teams don’t make money, at least not yet. The tax forgiveness would be the difference between breaking even and losing money on annual operations, the owners said. And they wanted the public to have some skin in the game.

Some economic analysts wonder if MLS will ever be viable, if there will ever be enough revenue in the sport to pay for the skilled players needed to bring the league close to the quality of top leagues in Europe or even Mexico. A Forbes analysis valued MLS teams on a range from $105 million to $245 million. That means the investment by McGuire and his partners to create the team and build the stadium would be considerably more than even the best-off franchise, the Seattle Sounders, is currently worth.

In comparison, the same magazine estimated the worth of the Vikings at $1.15 billion (20th of 32 NFL teams),  the Twins at $895 million (18th of 30 MLB teams), and the Wild $370 million (17th of 30 NHL teams).

Two cities, opposite reactions

A private meeting was held between the mayor and the ownership group that occurred after Hodges published her blog post. It was meant to clear the air. Instead, it only heightened tensions, according to people familiar with it. Those who met with McGuire through the spring and early summer described him as discouraged and frustrated with politicians in general, but Hodges in particular.

A rare glimpse into the thinking of United’s owners — who have taken the art of not commenting to new levels — came in May, when team president Nick Rogers fielded questions at the Powderhorn Park Community Center from some soccer fans who opposed any tax breaks.

He conceded that perhaps it wouldn't be possible to build in the city. “Minneapolis might say to us, ‘We don’t want you here.’” he said. “And we’ll have to assess our options and figure out where is there a community that wants us.”

Hodges was not the only politician opposed to the the stadium deal, though opposition softened along the way. And even she acquiesced to some pro-stadium council members by convening a work group that would meet in private to consider the deal and its consequences. That initial meeting came only two weeks before an arbitrary MLS deadline of July 1, and the work group appeared unrushed, giving itself an end-of-year target to report to the full council.

Meanwhile, in St. Paul, Coleman had been saying publicly that he wouldn’t interfere with negotiations between the McGuire group and Minneapolis. Privately, though, he had been laying the foundation to land the team, even meeting with McGuire and exchanging information about a possible stadium site where the Metro Transit bus barn once stood.

When the artificial July 1 deadline was artificially enforced by the league, Coleman took those private efforts public.

Meeting the team’s demands was relatively easy. The bus barn property on Snelling and I-94 was already off the property tax rolls. And the forgiveness of sales tax on construction purchases was a legislative issue that Coleman considered a relatively easy request.

But Coleman came to McGuire with something else, too. Something that wasn’t part of the team’s request but that McGuire seemed to crave: love.

Coleman publicly echoed McGuire that the MLS team was valuable; that it would benefit the region; and that it would provide economic benefits that would far outweigh the loss of any tax revenue.

McGuire wanted the team to be wanted, and Coleman wanted the team. Badly.

Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin
MinnPost file photo by Bill Kelley
Hennepin County Commissioner
Peter McLaughlin

By the time Minneapolis reacted to Coleman’s push, it was too late. Hennepin County Commissioners Mike Opat and Peter McLaughlin, who had been instrumental in getting Target Field built, met with McGuire after he and MLS officials had already met with Coleman and toured the bus barn site.

The commissioners said they would figure out the tax breaks and even offered to carry the political burden of getting state permission to use unneeded Twins stadium taxes for infrastructure. But McGuire was unenthusiastic, McLaughlin said, worried that the Twins Tax was too heavy a lift and didn’t want to wait until spring to find out if it would work.

When the McGuire group let lapse an option to buy the land near the farmers market, they signaled their decision. Not only would they not be building in Minneapolis, but a group that includes one of the region’s top developers didn’t even want property in one of its targeted areas, property it had helped make more valuable.

St Paul was the winner of a competition that everyone denied was a competition.

Not about dollars and cents

Some Minneapolis council members who had previously whispered their concerns about the mayor’s position began saying it out loud. Hodges herself tried to position the St. Paul victory as a victory for the region, not a defeat for Minneapolis.

Yet in a way, she might have gotten the best of both worlds; she pleased her base by saying no to sports billionaires — without creating too many enemies among soccer fans, given that the team could be playing its first game just months after the 2017 election. Her relations with the business community, however, have taken a hit.

In the end, the conclusion of MLS’ Twin Cities stadium saga wasn’t about dollars and cents. It wasn’t even about the owners' preference, since they clearly preferred the Minneapolis site over the bus barn.

It wasn’t business at all, as it turned out. It was personal. To McGuire — and to Coleman. It was about the public embrace one of them needed, and that the other provided.

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Comments (44)

Great Recap

I think the stadium would have been a great catalyst for Minneapolis in that location and I was very surprised to hear the Mayor's unequivocal refusal to consider anything in way of support for the project. Once that came out it was obvious Minneapolis wasn't a good option.

Congratulations to St. Paul should it happen to revitalize that area - I agree that the region wins having the stadium in that nice central location.

Hodges and MLS

I enthusiastically voted for Hodges, but it would require delusion level optimism to believe this is a win-win for her. From the beginning her vocal opposition was almost defiantly naive. Play at TCF? Compete with Target Center as a venue? What? If she had been joking it would have worked as dry humor. As it stands, she quite literally handed the best deal she'll ever be offered to another city and the site that would have been revitalized will remain derelict. Which part of that is good?

And if you think she hasn't made any enemies among soccer fans you haven't asked any soccer fans.

We're number two, but we try harder.

The punch line from that old rental car ad describes St. Paul very well. When the top leader of Minneapolis saw the placement of a new business - a new professional franchise downtown - as a problem, the top leaders of St. Paul saw it for the opportunity that it was. After the ridiculous sums spent to keep the out-of town Vikings ownership from leaving the area, that the Minneapolis Mayor would give them even more city largesse through a soccer team is astounding. Minneapolis has had tremendous leaders like Don Fraser and R.T. Rybak and hopefully Hodges will grow into the role the next time a decision with real vision is required.

For a change

For a bunch of multimillionaires, the owners of the MLS franchise ARE being "generous" by paying for their own stadium. In the long run, what that boils down to is that they're doing what capitalists are supposed to do – they're risking their own money instead of mine, and if the venture fails, they're the ones who'll be on the hook. That doesn't appear to be the case for the new football temple in downtown. If the Vikings are lousy, or move to L.A. (or somewhere, anywhere, else), it's the citizens of Minneapolis who'll end up footing the bill.

For a change, it's the citizens of St. Paul who'll have to subsidize another stadium I'm unlikely to visit, rather than my fellow Minneapolitans. In relative terms, the subsidy is small, but there's no evidence beyond vague platitudes that professional sports stadiums are money-makers for the cities that build them, so the smaller the investment by the taxpayers of the city involved, the better. Circumstances (i.e., the availability of a suitable site that was already off the tax rolls) seems to have favored St. Paul anyway, but even if that weren't the case, "love" can't afford to be blind, and whether you call it shortsightedness or stadium fatigue, I'm happy that the MLS will be playing elsewhere, and on someone else's dime.

Just like Target Center?

That was basically built with private money, too, until it went south.

Disappointed in the Mayor

Sure, Mayor Hodges would have created more "enemies among soccer fans" if our metro lost the team entirely, but she certainly left this 30-year-old resident disappointed.

From a pure land-development perspective, this stadium deal was a no-brainer. An underutilized plot of land wedged between a highway viaduct and a massive parking ramp is inherently limited. The soccer stadium would have extended the footprint of downtown, added entertainment/beverage tax revenue, and added value to the existing public investments in the big-event infrastructure we've already paid for in the area, such as the ABC ramps and LRT.

If somebody develops this "West Loop" without any public incentives in the next decade, I'll eat crow.

What's perhaps most disappointing, however, is the apparent lack of vision on the part of our mayor. Not only is soccer growing rapidly in this country, the sport also attracts the exact demographics that Minneapolis should be going after. They're young, they're diverse, they're urban, they're engaged.

And on top of everything else, Minnesota United has catered to this niche brilliantly. Go to a game and you find the food trucks, the craft beer, the diversity, the enthusiasm, the unique characters that have made this city interesting and exciting in recent years. Fans are viewed as part of the experience rather than as simple customers. Compare Minnesota United and it's proposal to the Vikings. One comes off as a greedy, corporate entity run by New Jersey real estate magnates; the other is a local group offering a unique and authentic addition to our city while asking only for a token gesture of public support.

Many of us Minneaopolitans supported Mayor Hodges for her progressive views in a lot of areas. The city has generally moved forward under her leadership. But one area in which she has fallen considerably short of her predecessor, RT Rybak, is in presenting a vision and instilling civic pride in her constituents.

This was a golden opportunity to make Minneapolis better that was wasted because she wouldn't take a pragmatic stand against the loud voices who had their minds made up in advance.

Plan to eat crow

The site isn't all that different from the I-94 northbound entrance near the burner that's already surrounded by new developments.

A few points

Hi Max--I wanted to give my $.02 on some of your comments.

Mayor Hodges' vision, as I see it, is a more equitable, greener city with healthy kids, more residents, and more ways to get to work. It gives me a great deal of civic pride to support the mayor in these efforts.

Minneapolis showed the type of "vision" you seem to be talking about in the 90s, with disastrous results. Would the soccer stadium have been as bad as some of those other deals? Maybe not, but that's not saying much. Millions of dollars in tax subsidies is not what I would call a "token gesture." If it were that small, the owners would just pay it. Moreover, I worry (for St. Paul's sake, now) about the possibility that a MLS stadium could turn out to be a white elephant like the Target Center. Thanks for reading.

Vision?

The only vision Hodges seems to have is higher crime, lack of support for the protection of its good citizens, requiring more tax revenues even though it is takes in the most of any city in our state, and the desire to make business harder in Minneapolis.
She can be against the stadium, but it has been her poor public attitude towards it and other Minnesotans that defines what she really is as a 'leader.' And it's not liked by many.

The details are really important!

The personal narrative here is nice, but those aforementioned "deal points" will make a huge difference for whether this stadium helps or does little for Saint Paul and the Midway neighborhood. I'd be really curious to find out your sense of what those negotiations might look like.

I'm confident that the

I'm confident that the Minneapolis location will be redeveloped in a way that increases rather than decreases the city's property tax base. And that it will happen while St Paul has locked in a another property tax free business with extremely limited hours of operation. Just take a look at the momentum downtown has for residential developments. The Mill District, North Loop, and Loring Park are all running out of space.

Being near the trains and trails with easy access to the city and river will be a draw for more downtown residents. And, they'll help support downtown businesses who'll do far better with 365 days of neighbors than a few dozen nights of events.

Same song, different verse

At the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon, this is the most recent example of the games played by wealthy sports teams owners. Play both hands against the middle with some voodoo economics thrown in until you get what you want. If the wealthy owners of the soccer team needed love from Mayor Hodges they perhaps would have gotten some if they didn't play the greedy old game of playing cities against each other and threatening to take their ball and go home. Sure it's true that Mayor Hodges and others could have poured some love on Bill McGuire but last time I checked the business climate in Minneapolis is doing fine and construction is booming. There are professional and college sports arenas galore and the arts are thriving. With no disrespect intended, St. Paul and Mayor Coleman have reason to be more desperate. Life will go on even with soccer in St. Paul.

A few years ago in a private conversation one of the Dayton brothers observed what a difference it would make if the cities of Minneapolis and St, Paul did not feel that they always needed to be in a competition with each other over everything.

Agreed...

RT Rybak would have taken the deal in a second and sold it until shovels were in the ground. Hodges follows the Sayles-Belton model of timid leadership.

Block E ...

... was agreed to under Mayor Sayles-Belton's watch. Betsy Hodges' first political action was to protest Block E.

Would a MLS stadium turn out as badly as Block E? Perhaps not, but the history of stadium deals shows that a great deal of caution and due diligence is called for. I wish the city were more "timid" on certain past high-profile deals.

That's my 2¢. Thanks for reading.

Well.....

Stadium deals all look a lot worse before they are done than after they are done: The old Met led to the development of the 494 strip and brought us major league sports. The Metrodome at 55 million was about as good a deal as one could hope for and paid for itself with ease. Target Field is recognized as a clear asset, much different than it's image as it was being fought over in the 15 years before its' opening. US Bank stadium suffers from the same ills as pre-opening Target Field; but if history tells us anything we will be happy in the long run. Giving up sales taxes on building materials and freezing property taxes should be a no brainer to get the soccer stadium adjacent to Target Field and Target Center. If it gets built in the Midway it will do just fine and those in Minneapolis will wonder: why didn't we take the deal when we had the chance? And the answer will be timid leadership.

Really???

The 494 strip is because of the Met? Maybe, just maybe, the freeway itself and the airport had something to do with it.

If you were here in 1957...

And then watched what occurred over the next 20 years you would agree that the 7 million dollars to build the Met was money well spent and agree that it was a significant contributor to development along the 494 strip from the cornfields of the early 50s. The larger point being: every stadium effort has seen significant opposition ( and that is OK ); but, once each facility was completed and put into service each proved to be a worthwhile civic investment: The Met, Met Center, Metrodome, Target Center, Xcel, Target Field were (are) not the albatrosses opponents predicted they would be. The same will be true with the Soccer Field. And I am not a fan and have no plans to attend beyond a game or two. It's just a worthwhile civic investment for Minneapolis and if it is built in St Paul people will wonder why Betsy Hodges passed on it. RT Rybak would have been all over it and that is why he will be a great Governor starting in 2018.

Rybak

would have had a very strong challenge to re-election because of his involvement in the Vikings stadium deal, if he had run again. I rather suspect that's why he retired.

Lesson Learned

Sandy Colvin-Roy, the popular, long-serving City Council member from the 12th Ward, concluded that her support of the Vikings stadium may her un-reelectable in her previously safe ward.

re-election

Rybak could have spent $5 and campaigned solely by reciting his poetry and would have won in a landslide.

Amen

Amen

Where do stadium supporters buy their rose-colored glasses?

Where do you stadium supporters buy your rose-colored glasses? You always seem to look back on the history of public money spent on stadiums past and only see one side of the equation. Let's consider the Metrodome... You say the $55 million spent "was about as good a deal as one could hope for and paid for itself with ease." It was built on the cheap and this fact was recognized at the time. It was a bargain basement stadium, one that was re-financed during the early 90's if I recall correctly. It's life-span of just over thirty years makes it one of the shortest-lived major sports venues in the country. And, as a further contradiction to your rose-colored view, the bonds to pay for its construction were still being paid for AFTER the Twins had already left for the greener pastures of Target Field. The Metrodome missed being demolished before it was fully paid for only by a few short years, if that.

And as far as the Target Center is concerned, it's been a major sponge of public dollars. So while Target Field may be widely recognized as a clear asset, raising the question of our public priorities is still required when another ownership group comes to the citizens with hat in hand.

The question is this: what priorities do we have for our limited public dollars, and how are we treating competing priorities? Schools, transit, infrastructure maintenance and development, etc. We always seem to find reasons to short-change these priorities under the rationale of reducing the burden on taxpayers. Where is the concern over the burden on taxpayers when billionaire sports team owners are looking for handouts?

Mayor Hodges did her job by keeping an eye on competing priorities for public dollars and calling Minnesota United owners out for talking the talk of private financing but failing to walk the walk by asking for tax preferences. Mayor Hodges recognized that there are a lot of citizens who are sick and tired of public dollars being used to subsidize the ventures of people who are perfectly capable of gambling with their own money.

A lot of citizens recognize that the public has more important things to do with our tax dollars than build stadiums. Good grief.... the metro is littered with them. How many is enough? Let's spend a sufficient amount to repair our roads and bridges and improve the public schools before we build billionaires another stupid stadium. If Minnesota United owners want one so bad, and if it's such a great investment for the community, let them build it and reap all the benefits, along with all of the risks. I'm all for MLS and for a local team. Great idea. But let's get one thing straight: it's time for billionaire sports team owners to quit sticking their grubby hands into the pockets of Minnesota citizens in order to find the money to build their playgrounds. We, the people, have more important things to do with our money.

This proposal isn't the others and has no impact on priorities

You, like most other staunch opponents, are neglecting the fact that this proposal actually doesn't ask for any money to complete the construction, so your arguments about priorities is still true but it doesn't really apply in this case.
This proposal doesn't ask for any public money to be given to the team to complete construction. Instead it asks that the taxing authorities not collect the windfall of construction material taxes or increased property taxes on the site. The team just wants to maintain the status quo. So the state would miss out on a little less than $3-million in one time taxes and the property tax on the site would stay at the same rate being collected now. And to go one step further, this proposal will actually generate tax income that your taxing bodies can spend on those priorities you cite. If you look very closely at this specific proposal (a one time tax avoidance of $3-million and about $700K annually in property tax), this proposal would be a strong net generator of tax income streams that would have profited the city/county/state. It was a rare chance to make the right call and Mayor Hodges missed it.

Let's keep in mind that St.

Let's keep in mind that St. Paul has two pro sports venues--one for the tiny Saints and one at Xcel for hockey--and that city didn't pay anything for either one. They got the state (and county/Metro) to cough up the money, so essentially Minneapolis taxpayers, and all of Minnesota, are paying for pro sports there.

Contrast with Minneapolis, and we've been hit by the lousiest stadium "deals" known in the U.S. We're laughing stocks for the Vikings boondoggle, and as Peter McLaughlin has admitted, we're generating oodles of sales taxes for the Twins stadium that the county doesn't know what to do with. Minneapolis sales taxes are high, and to exempt the soccer moguls (the Nelson here is a Carlson-Nelson, one of the wealthiest women in the entire world) would rub salt in our very open stadium-related tax wounds. "Philanthropy" on the part of these soccer nabobs, to take property off our tax roles forever, and pay no construction materials taxes, either? A hilarious word to use for getting huge subsidies from taxpayers.

This article needs to add a bit about why the guy that owns the Minneapolis property the soccer folks considered refused to renew their option or have anything else to do with them. He closed that door with a slam; if the slam was because he'd been "sold a bill of goods" by the sterling but love-hungry soccer guys (they may have assured him that all they had to do was kick the ball and Minneapolis would let it into the goal without even a pretend goaltender), then that's their fault.

I'm really surprised that this article blames Mayor Hodges for the failure of this consortium of our wealthiest to get their way, yet again, in Minneapolis. She's a politician, and she's responding to a deep and burning constituent rejection of any further pro stadium funding by Minneapolis taxpayers. She did the right thing. We'll all be able to hop on the Green Line train and get to Midway in ten minutes for soccer. NO BIG DEAL, boys!

Hodges

Hodges gets blamed because any rational mayor would have jumped at this deal. Instead, what she supported was a far bigger subsidy to a billionaire sports owner in renovating the Target Center. Coleman took the good deal. Hodges took the stupid one. She is a fool and a hypocrite. Minneapolis under Hodges (and because of Hodges) will be spending far more subsidizing billionaires than St. Paul.

It's the residual resentment over the Vikings stadium

McGuire, et al, and certainly the people at the top at US Bank just don't realize how thoroughly Minneapolis voters resent the way the Vikings ("US Bank") stadium got crammed down our
throats.

"No mas!"

Hodges

Hodges was among the 3 candidates I ranked, or voted for. Have to say I'm disappointed in her leadership on this issue. Her blog post did little to convince me that her opposition to this project is genuine and fact-based rather than ideological.

The soccer deal was so remarkably different than those of Target Field and "Wilftown" that to even implicitly compare them is disingenuous.

I'm a man of the left, but to consider tax breaks or exemptions "subsidies" says a lot about Hodges' approach to our tax dollars. Casting a lack of taxation as a subsidy is rhetorical jujitsu.

Leadership?

I think it's safe to say that a large majority of the people of Minneapolis did not want another stadium. It doesn't matter that it would be "remarkably different" from Target Field or Stately Wilf Manor--the people did not want it. Mayor Hodges probably had enough sense to see that "leadership" in this context would amount to getting the people to swallow something they didn't want. That may constitute an "ideological" basis for her stance, but it is based on the genuine fact of public opinion. The economic benefits from a stadium would be marginal, at best, and the optics are terrible. Why waste time and political capital on that kind of effort?

It is telling to me that most--not all, but most--of the very strong vitriol directed at Mayor Hodges over this decision comes from people who don't live in the city.

Minneapolis does not need or want more stadiums.

It does not matter if this was a "good deal" as far as stadium deals go, if we do not need or want a stadium. That McGuire was stunned and stung by the reaction only shows that he is completely out of touch with the interests of most people in Minneapolis, who have zero interest in subsidizing yet another sports team.

I am extremely pleased that Hodges took the position she did, one that represents most of her constituents, and one that leaves this real estate open for redevelopment by entities that will actually contribute to the city.

Just so we're clear

High rise luxo apartments for the rich, to profit rich developers, to be managed by large corporate residential management organizations A OK (unless you have a better idea for something that might actually be built on that site). A relatively cheap stadium, of any sort, (even one that might benefit groups traditionally shut out of large community creating gatherings) no way, because other rich people might benefit. Perhaps you can explain the difference in evilness between these groups of rich folks, because I only see one of them turning your fair city into a gentrified oasis for what were once called "young urban professionals" (both the originals and their millennial successors).

Are you responding to the right comment?

Because your answer has nothing to do with anything I wrote. I didn't rail against rich people or call them evil at all. In fact, I don't think rich people are universally evil, nor do I have a problem with the people you call "young urban professionals" (as if there were something wrong with being a young person with a job?).

However, having dispensed with your strawman: hell yes I'd prefer to see apartment buildings. I prefer neighborhoods with people living in them, people who work and shop and dine and party in our city year round. You might not enjoy areas like the North Loop—I don't live there either—but they are vibrant and cool and full of perfectly fine people and small businesses as well as large ones. And you can't call it gentrification if there's no pre-existing neighborhood there to gentrify.

To me, and to a lot of people: stadiums are useless. Sports teams are useless. They do not spur economic growth or benefit the city in any way*. Every dime spent on them, every square foot of space they take, is wasted.

*citation: http://news.stanford.edu/news/2015/july/stadium-economics-noll-073015.html

And of course...

If you ask any number of North Loop residents (and I have) what they like about their cool new neighborhood a majority will always mention proximity to Target Field. The Stanford citation above applies specifically to single use, 10 game per year NFL stadiums. Something that even US Bank Stadium is not. All these venues are used extensively year round and every one has proven to be a worthwhile civic investment. And the soccer field "investment" of waiving sales tax on building materials and freezing property taxes is minimal and probably less than a subsidized apartment complex would seek from the city. To say these teams are useless and of no benefit is the perspective from a pretty gray view of life: the 87 and 91 World Series victories, the first year at Target Field, countless Viking games, a Super Bowl and 2 Final Fours were immensely enjoyed and appreciated by hundreds of thousands of local residents.

There won't be much subsidy after the first year

If the stadium has 18,500 seats and sells out all its games, plus preseason and post season, there would be more than $1,000,000 generated in taxes on tickets alone. (this is not at all unlikely since the current minor league team sells 9500 seats per game) Add to that the sales tax on food and beverages the city would have collected, along with increased property tax for the adjoining properties and you can easily see that there wouldn't really be much at all of a subsidy. Those who are staunchly opposed who claim there is going to be an unfair subsidy aren't looking closely enough at this specific deal. Yes the state would give up a one time ability to collect $2.5-million in sales on construction equipment and yes the city would not be allowed to get a windfall of new higher property taxes on the stadium site (the team didn't want it to be tax free....it wanted to simply pay the current property tax), which I've read would be about $700,000 the city wouldn't collect. But the city would have profited from the deal, unlike all the other stadium proposals because they asked for so much money. This plan asked for almost nothing and would have profited millions to the state and city.

No Fact Begins with "If"

You are making a lot of assumptions, and they start with the premise that all of the games (are postseason games a given in MLS? Serious, non-rhetorical question. I have no idea) sell out. This would require that the crowd for each game is almost double the size of the crowd that goes to the minor league games (I have no doubt that the gate will be bigger, but that much bigger? For every game?). You are also assuming that the attendance stays consistently high after the first year. Sooner or later, the novelty will wear off.

As far as the sales taxes: Are these new collections, or is it just money that would have been spent somewhere else? Stadium development tends, at best, to shift spending from one area to another. It doesn't create new spending by consumers. Entertainment dollars in family are not created just for something new.

"This plan asked for almost nothing . . ." Almost nothing is still something.

It's not a big stretch at all

Your generic argument is going to be proven wrong by statistics. The current average attendance of MLS games is 19,148. Right now there are 9,500 coming to minor league soccer games in Blaine and it will easily double going to MLS. Your argument would be like saying the Twins won't draw 25,000 a game because the Saints only draw 7,000. Post season games are a big part of MLS and the playoffs do take most of the teams but even if there was no post season,the fact is that the ticket tax would still generate close to $1-million per year. What novelty are you talking about? The novelty of soccer? You might want to go to a game in Blaine and see the fervor. It is not novelty. I went to the exhibition game this season against Club Leon where more than half the crowd were Liga MX supporters. There is a big untapped potential of non Minnesota native soccer lovers who would support the team. Sure the team generates current sales tax at its current location but far, far less than this proposal. My point is that there are detractors like you who are not looking at the specifics of this very proposal and trying to say that this plan won't profit whatever municipality it will end up in and I'm saying that's not correct. When you look at the details of this plan, it will be a net generator of tax benefits, not a tax drain like some assume.

Well, where would it go?

"As far as the sales taxes: Are these new collections, or is it just money that would have been spent somewhere else? Stadium development tends, at best, to shift spending from one area to another."

Do the Wild, Wolves, Twins, Vikings, Lynx and so on math and you come to almost 1/2 billion dollars of tickets and concessions, let alone all of the other revenue areas. The naysayers always point to "the money would just be spent somewhere else" argument. It's gonna take a lot of "somewhere else" to consume 1/2 billion dollars. These fans prioritize and target sports events as a key element of their quality of life, leading to spending that will not "just go somewhere else".

Where?

You seem to be saying that the folks who would spend money going to a sporting event would hoard their cash if they couldn't buy tickets to a live event. That just isn't the case. A few years back, when the Wild players were on strike, Ramsey County suffered no net loss in sales tax revenue. The merchants around the Xcel suffered, but overall, county revenues did not take an appreciable hit.

Call them naysayers but the consensus among economists is that sports facilities are bad investments of public money. As the St. Louis Fed put it a few years back (https://www.stlouisfed.org/Publications/Regional-Economist/April-2001/Sh...):

"Economic impact studies also tend to focus on the increased tax revenues cities expect to receive in return for their investments. The studies, however, often gloss over, or outright ignore, that these facilities usually do not bring new revenues into a city or metropolitan area. Instead, the revenues raised are usually just substitutes for those that would have been raised by other activities. Any student of economics knows that households have budget constraints that are binding, which means that families have only so much money to spend, particularly on entertainment. If the family chooses to spend the money at the ballpark, for example, then those funds cannot be spent on other activities. Thus, no new revenues are actually being generated."

Look, I get that soccer is way cool, especially when compared to other pro sports, such as football (for my money, static apnea is a more interesting sport than professional football). I also get that the deal requested for the soccer stadium is nowhere near as bad as the one given to the Vikings. Those two factors are not enough, in my mind, to justify a new stadium.

I guess...

The question would be is the purchase of a new TV from China better, worse or no different from a partial season ticket package from the Twins from the perspective of impact on the local economy. A Twins season ticket package for 2 can easily hit $10,000. Would a vacation to Hawaii have a better, worse or no different effect? I am a weak and emotional person and greatly enjoyed standing on my seat screaming for an entire half as Brett Favre beat the Packers. It's a part of the over all quality of life for many: big for some, small to non-existent for others. We have created a very fun and vibrant sports entertainment district with Target Field, Target Center and the First Avenue bar and restaurant scene. The Farmer's Market is also a very special and fun destination. Linking the two with a sports / outdoor concert venue seems a logical move from the current warehouse/light industrial area and the Soccer stadium finances would be seen as a no-brainer if not for local stadium fatigue.

The "somewhere else" argument

The "somewhere else" argument is a real one: most people do have limited discretionary funds for entertainment, etc. But it's a bad argument against stadium development, because part of the point is to concentrate those resources into a particular area to spur development. When you can bring 15000 people from all kinds of different communities and a wider region into a concentrated area to spend their money those same dollars mean more then if they were just spent on random date nights. None of the economic studies ever deal with secondary economic benefits of stadium development on community redevelopment (a prominent stadium opponent and economist admitted as much to me). And part of it is they don't know how to value it. When an economist can't assess value they always seem to either assign a dummy value or ignore it. Considering the minimal public subsidy involved, the soccer stadium doesn't look like a bad public investment.

The Saint Paul site is a better location than Minneapolis for a number of reasons, however. 1) the Saint Paul site is in serious need of development and has no current prospects. The Mpls site has other options for development. 2) There's no real hit to Saint Paul's bottom line, since the site isn't on the tax rolls and they're getting no real benefit. 3) the transportation infrastructure is already in place with close access from I-94 and the light rail. (yes, Mpls has this too)

I get the "stadium fatigue". Especially after the Vikings saga; NFL stadiums are the most expensive, have the least flexibility and broader utility, inevitably cost the public the most, and is a subsidy for the league that needs it the least. After going through that crap, who would want to deal with a stadium? But this is a good opportunity for community development and it's a sign of leadership that Chris Coleman would buck the trends to make the right move for the city.

The Twin Cities are a good location for MLS. Saint Paul has a smart location for a stadium and the deal is a reasonable one with a minimal public subsidy.

I agree

I cannot find any way to disagree with the logic for the Midway soccer stadium site. My point remains that Betsy Hodges had a great deal in front of her and declined to act on it because of a timid leadership style that reflects the values and sensibilities of those lucky enough to live in Linden Hills.RT Rybak would never have let this deal slip through his fingers, only to be pounced upon by Chris Coleman who shares a Rybak like appreciation for a good deal when he sees it. Betsy's longevity on the job will not be affected, but she will be seen as a caretaker mayor with no vision or enthusiasm for what the city can be.

I applaud St. Paul for accepting the new soccer stadium

Soccer is the sport of the future; more kids play soccer than football now in this part of the country. The soccer fans can use the white elephant vikequeens stadium once the nfl evaporates. No more excuse for I didn't know that I could sustain a concussion. LOL

Another point - the new generations support

Soccer than american football (nfl), which is critical to the issue of building stadiums. Lacrosse will be more well known than football soon.

Rybeck vs Hodges

I am surprised to see some posters on here saying Rybeck would have loved this deal and would have promoted it. I guess they are forgetting that Rybeck was one of the politicians who pushed for the new Vikings stadium. He was the one who figured out the end-run around the referendum ordinance. He said the general election would be the referendum on the stadium, then announced that he was not running for re-election.
I respect Hodges more for taking a principled stand. She is not trying to cram this down the throats of the voters.
Last point - if pro sports and stadiums are such good investments, why do they continually ask for public money?

Clear, balanced report

This clear, well-written article is the first account I've read that doesn't treat the outcome of the soccer stadium deal (or near-certain deal) as a tragedy. Hodges has nothing to apologize for. The Midway location is easily reachable by I94, the green line, and several bus routes. If we get a great midsized soccer stadium (at such a small cost) and if pro soccer flourishes in the Twin Cities, I don't care which city the stadium is in. Callaghan doesn't seem to, either. Good work!