After predicting that architectural renderings of St. Paul’s proposed Major League Soccer stadium will be revealed by the end of this month, the lead owner of the team said that at least one iconic feature of Twin Cities architecture won’t be part of the stadium plan.
Bill McGuire, the owner of the Minnesota United, told the community advisory committee in St. Paul Thursday that he shared their impatience when it came to designs for the stadium and the surrounding redevelopment of the RK Midway shopping center. But he also said he didn’t want to show lovely renderings that he wouldn’t be able to deliver on.
“No one more than me,” McGuire said of the desire to have a design in place, adding that he didn’t want to show pictures of “something that says, ‘That’s gorgeous and I’m excited’ and then not produce it. So we have to be sure of our design, we have to consider the whole surrounding area.”
He said he thinks the owner of the property that surrounds the stadium site, RK Midway, will also have renderings of their renovation will look like at the same time. “We would hope that in the month of February, not too far out, we will be able to show you something that envisions all of these things plus the stadium,” McGuire said.
McGuire said he has been in contact with RK Midway owner Rick Birdoff and expects the area, which is now a strip mall with massive parking areas, will become more urban, with streets cutting through that sync up with streets in the surrounding neighborhoods. “Part of what will make this better is a grid,” McGuire said. “Chop it up a little. Not have the big expanses.”
But one thing McGuire knows for sure, he told the committee: Unlike some other pro-sports venues in the two cities, neither the soccer stadium nor the surrounding redevelopment will have skyways. “There are people in Minnesota who love skyways,” he told the group. “I think they’re a blight because they take people off the streets. No skyways.”
Committee member Becky Landon said she worries that the area will be laid out to include development sites and open spaces that could then be disrupted when a business decides it wants a certain location.
McGuire took the question to mean that open space could be taken over by future development. “What I will promise you … what will be laid out will feature some public spaces that will not be detracted from,” he said. “They will be integral to the process.”
He cited Gold Medal Park in Minneapolis, a park that he created, as an example. He said that one of the reasons for the park was to set aside the land to prevent a building from taking away views of the Guthrie Theater.
McGuire has said he would like to break ground on a 20,000-seat soccer-specific stadium this summer. The stadium will cost “at least” $120 million and would be ready for the 2018 MLS season, which runs from spring to fall. There is still a possibility that MLS officials will ask United to be ready to play in 2017, and the team has been looking at temporary locations, including TCF Stadium at the University of Minnesota or Target Field in downtown Minneapolis.
While the redevelopment of RK Midway will take time, McGuire predicted that the first activity will be on parts of the shopping center that are currently not occupied. “You’re talking about eventually tens of millions of dollars of investment in your community, hundreds, over the period of upcoming years,” he said.
One member of the advisory committee asked about concerns for safety at the site’s nearby intersection of University Avenue and Snelling. That corner has the highest vehicle traffic counts in the region; it also accommodates the Green Line on University and will soon have the region’s first arterial bus rapid transit line on Snelling. The committee has discussed the safety risks of adding pre-and-post game traffic as well as increased population from a redeveloped shopping center.
In response, McGuire said he hadn’t been aware of those concerns when he decided on the bus barn site for the stadium, but that it wouldn’t have deterred him if he had. “I frankly am excited that this gives us an opportunity to improve it,” he said. “I don’t look at it as an established bad place that can only get worse. I say, ‘This is an opportunity to make it better.’ There isn’t one thing that’s going to fix it. There are lots of things, and they will all form the fabric that will give us the opportunity to change things.”