The city of Minneapolis could soon be home to Major League Soccer, an exciting prospect for those who love the sport as well as our city. We have the opportunity to capitalize on a privately funded soccer stadium near the Farmers Market to transform a historically overlooked area into a new urban center.
For years, public agencies have been trying to cultivate redevelopment interest in this disconnected and isolated area, which is so close and yet so far away. No major private investors have stepped forward until now. Here’s an opportunity in real time — with real money — to make it happen.
Civic leaders have the chance to look beyond the stadium footprint and make critical investments in the public realm to connect the many assets planned and already there, with the goal to create a place where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Start with the preservation of the Farmers Market and add to the mix walkable streets (North Loop Master Plan), a light-rail station (Southwest LRT), district heating and cooling (Hennepin County Energy Recovery Center) and links to the surrounding neighborhoods — Near North, Sumner-Glenwood and Harrison — that have long been underserved. Any public subsidy should be tied to city building — with a fresh collaboration of leaders fostering a unifying vision to inspire and strengthen community.
The partnership pursuing the MLS franchise has pledged $150 million to construct a soccer stadium. Taken alone, that’s an exciting proposition and, as some would say, a “gift.” As a cornerstone to broader redevelopment, it could be transformative.
Not all stadium projects are alike. The project to replace the Metrodome has worn thin with the public. Murky financing, a billion-dollar price tag and now petty wrangling among members of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, charged to protect the public interest, have caused many to turn a deaf ear to any talk of yet another stadium.
For inspiration we need only look down the block. Target Field is a national model for best practices, with transparent financing, careful stewardship and a design with connections that encourage further investment.
Leaders in city government have taken an important step in forming a working group to undertake a needs analysis. We urge expansion of this group to include other potential public and private stakeholders including Hennepin County, the Minnesota Ballpark Authority and the MLS partnership. Collaboration between the public and private sectors is key.
Deadlines can be our friends, especially when urgency helps us focus our civic resources. The MLS July 1 stadium deadline is in front of us. It’s time to step up and work together to realize a win-win, a worthy goal both on and off the field.
Chuck Leer is a Minneapolis real estate developer. Mary deLaittre is principal and founder of Groundwork: The Foundation for City Building. Mark Oyaas is managing partner of Neerland & Oyaas, a public-affairs consulting firm. They are the founders of 2020 Partners, a public- and private-sector collaboration dedicated to revitalizing the area around Target Field.