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Minnesota United announces Midway is the chosen stadium site

Posted on 09 November 2015 by Calvin

By JANE MCCLURE

Soccer Ball In GrassIt’s official: soccer is coming to the former Midway “bus barn” site. The announcement in October by Mayor Chris Coleman and Minnesota United FC owner Bill McGuire has a launched a flurry of community planning, as well as a continued debate over the pros and cons of pro soccer here.

One thing is for certain. Soccer will bring change to a part of the Midway that has been eyed for redevelopment since the 1980s. The 10-acre bus barn site and about 25 acres of land owned by Midway Center owner RK Midway/RD Management make up the “superblock” bounded by Pascal St. and St. Anthony, Snelling and University avenues. Almost a dozen different ideas have been vetted for all or parts of the site, ranging from hotels and movie theaters to a home improvement retailer.

Applications closed in early November for a community task force that will spend the next several months debating issues around stadium development. Recommendations need to be in place before an anticipated May 2016 groundbreaking. Games would start in 2018.
Dozens of soccer fans packed an Oct. 23 press conference for the announcement, as McGuire and Coleman announced that they will work together to build an 18,500-seat stadium by 2018. They erupted into chants and cheers, lined up behind the mayor, McGuire, and elected officials.

“This is a very exciting opportunity to bring the world’s game to the state of Minnesota,” said Coleman. “I will guarantee you that there will be no better place for soccer than the Twin Cities, on this site.”

McGuire praised the site’s location and the potential for redevelopment there, citing its proximity to Green Line light rail and the proposed A Line Metro Transit bus line. He also cited its convenient freeway access.

RD Management will work with United Properties of Bloomington to work on redevelopment plans for its properties. While this isn’t formally part of the stadium plan, the two developers and soccer team are expected to work together. Shopping center ownership and United Properties representatives said they expect to announce a master plan in three to six months.

Several business owners were at the press conference, including the Applebaum family, owners of Big Top Liquors; MidPointe Event Center owner Marcy McHenry and several members of Midway Chamber. The Chamber, which recently passed a resolution in support of a stadium, has stated it “seeks to help engage the community throughout the design and development process to engage the community to ensure the voices of Midway businesses and residents are heard.”

For Big Top, redevelopment will mean working to make sure a new liquor store would meet the city’s separation requirements from other liquor stores. Other existing Midway Center businesses don’t face the same types or restrictions, but there is much speculation as to whether or not they will stay or go.

Area residents’ reactions range from excitement about soccer to concerns about noise, spillover parking into the neighborhood and losing businesses they use. The site is in the Union Park District Council (UPDC) area. That group has had a task force looking at Midway Center and bus barn development for several months. Eric Mohlo, who chairs the UPDC task force, said that while there is a lot of excitement about redevelopment, “we have a lot of issues that are unknowns. We don’t know what this will do to traffic and parking, and we don’t know about other long-term issues.”

Not everyone at the press conference was cheering. Ward Four City Council candidate Tom Goldstein handed out a 2007 Securities and Exchange Commission press release describing the $468 million settlement by McGuire of civil fraud charges related to a stock options backdating scheme. Others from the St. Paul Strong group, which is advocating for change and openness at City Hall, were also on hands to raise concerns about the proposal.

McGuire said the $120 million stadium would be built with private funds. The city, St. Paul Port Authority and bus barn site owner (Metropolitan Council) recently approved a pact to work together on a lease agreement for the property. City officials have said it’s likely the soccer stadium would be turned over to the city once it is built.

McGuire described the site as “ideal” and “iconic.” Details of what a stadium would look like haven’t been released.

While the team owners would cover stadium construction and any cost overruns, the city would be responsible for infrastructure such as streets and sewers.

One huge question mark is whether the 2016 Minnesota Legislature will sign off on the tax exemption the stadium needs. At a recent legislative forum, some state lawmakers said they don’t want to see the city lose out of its other needs, such as Local Government Aid or bonding requests if the tax exemption goes through.

There is also a need for the Federal Transit Administration to sign off on the new use for the 10-acre parcel, because of funds it provided years ago for the bus barn.

Another wrinkle is timing for Major League Soccer. The team is currently in the North American Soccer League, and would transition into the higher league. But if that happens before the 2017 season, the team would have to find an interim space.

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