I congratulate Minnesota United on being awarded a Major League Soccer franchise. It speaks to their professionalism, hard work and success. It also speaks to how great a city Minneapolis is. This is a big deal!

Bill McGuire and other members of the Minnesota United leadership have met with me about their desire to build a soccer park in the city’s Fifth Ward, which I represent on the City Council. Given what I’ve seen, I’m a little surprised at the mayor’s unwillingness to even engage with a group that wants to spend $250 million in the city, and specifically in a part of town that has been overlooked for generations. I’m also a little surprised that some of my colleagues have seemingly closed the door to negotiation even before it has started.

While a stadium won’t be some magical force that transforms the North Side, and so much more must be done, the proposed stadium could help spur more economic development in an area that desperately needs it. Last week, we lost most of the 900 block of West Broadway to fire, and its redevelopment must be quick but deliberate. The needs of the neighborhoods, the business community and the North Side must be considered and incorporated. Any new development will need to be a mix of both commercial space and, ideally, good, affordable housing. And any new development will almost certainly rise as a partnership of the city, the county, the state and private developers.

Minnesota United wants to create a space that would not be just a soccer stadium, but also an interesting mixed-use development that brings to mind the Midtown Global Market (but with a farmers market and a light-rail station). An area that has been neglected for years would get the attention that it deserves. And there would be more job and business opportunities for my constituents closer to home.

Minnesota United has two requests of the government. First is an exemption on sales taxes on the materials they use to build the stadium. That is an issue for the Legislature. Second, it would like a property tax exemption. Like most of my colleagues, I would like to know more about the cost and impact of this request. As well, I am always conscious of the bounds set by the city charter. Similarly, I’m not particularly comfortable with the idea of a property tax break in perpetuity.

But I cannot, and I will not, dismiss out of hand someone who is willing to put $250 million on the line to develop in the Fifth Ward. The answer may not be the things that Minnesota United has asked for — and it may not work out at all — but I at least want to give it a try.

 

Blong Yang is a member of the Minneapolis City Council.