Brooklyn Park is courting Major League Soccer.
City Council members said Monday that they’ll approach the Minnesota United team to explore building a Major League Soccer stadium along Hwy. 610 near the Target corporate campus, the proposed light-rail extension and a $90 million luxury apartment project under construction.
It’s likely to be a hard sell. Minnesota United is pursuing Minneapolis for its stadium site, and leaders there have put together a working group to continue that conversation.
Brooklyn Park leaders say they have what the team needs: acres of undeveloped farmland, infrastructure and soccer fans. The sixth-largest city in Minnesota is 20 percent foreign-born.
“Soccer is an international game, and we are an international city,” said City Manager Mike Sable.
“We have all the pieces to make this a major league location,” said City Council Member John Jordan, who brought the stadium idea to the council. “We need to think big. … If you don’t take risks, you don’t win the race.”
Sable said it’s too soon to discuss subsidies, but that the city has invested heavily in the 610 corridor, including funneling millions of dollars in subsidies for the luxury apartment complex being built by Doran Companies.
Jordan said some kind of subsidy is possible. “The city would look at smart investment that make sense to the taxpayers,” he said.
Brooklyn Park throws its hat in the ring as the clock ticks down on a July 1 deadline for the franchise holders to finalize plans for a soccer-only stadium in the state.
In March, Major League Soccer awarded a franchise to a group led by former UnitedHealth Group executive Dr. Bill McGuire. It includes the owners of the Twins and Glen Taylor, the owner of the Timberwolves and Star Tribune.
The McGuire group pledged to privately build a soccer stadium in downtown Minneapolis, but sought a series of property-tax breaks and other tax reductions.
That plan was waylaid when the Legislature declined to take up the issue, fearful of what Gov. Mark Dayton has called “stadium fatigue.”
Minnesota taxpayers have helped build three Minneapolis stadiums for the Vikings, Twins and University of Minnesota football in recent years.
Minnesota United declined to comment Tuesday.
Minnesota’s pro sports teams have occasionally flirted with building in the suburbs, but the moves were largely seen as attempts to gain negotiating leverage. The Vikings had high-profile talks with Anoka County and then Arden Hills in northern Ramsey County before eventually settling in Minneapolis.
“It was my opinion they absolutely used Anoka County to compel a better deal out of Minneapolis. I don’t think they ever had any intention of locating in Anoka County,” said Anoka County Commissioner Scott Schulte, who was a Coon Rapids City Council member at the time. “Unfortunately, both Anoka and Ramsey County didn’t realize that, and paid a lot of money courting the Vikings.”
Still, major league stadiums have been built in suburbs in other parts of the nation and if you look back far enough, in Minnesota. The Vikings, Twins and North Stars all once played in Bloomington.
“There are a number of successful suburban stadiums that have proved to be economic drivers, not just for the region but the suburban community,” Schulte said. “It comes down to the ownership of the team and where they want to be.”
Jordan, a former college soccer player, said Brooklyn Park is the ideal location for major league soccer. “Is it a long shot? I don’t know, but you don’t make sales if you don’t make calls,” he said.
In May, McGuire met with St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman.
“The mayor has made it very clear he has no intention of interfering in the conversation in Minneapolis, which is ongoing,” said Tonya Tennessen, Coleman’s spokeswoman. “If they don’t reach a deal, he is interested in preserving soccer here in the state and would be open to having a formal discussion about a possible stadium in St. Paul.”