The dream of local Major League Soccer took a decisive step toward reality this month with the announcement that Minnesota United will officially join the pro sports league for the 2017 season. Along with that news were assurances that a stadium for the team will be built in St. Paul’s Snelling-Midway area.
The crowd that gathered for the announcement Aug. 19 cheered like crazy for good reason: The team will be called Minnesota United and will begin playing as a professional Major League Soccer team next year. And team owners, elected officials and MLS leaders stood together to confidently confirm that the 20,000-seat stadium will go up on the long-neglected former bus-barn site at Snelling Avenue and Interstate 94.
Beyond the 1,500 die-hard fans who heard the announcement at CHS Field, residents from throughout the region should applaud, too. As this page has argued throughout the process, there is a strong case for professional soccer in Minnesota. Take, for example, the recent sellout crowd at the U.S. Bank Stadium’s opening when just over 64,000 fans turned out for an exhibition soccer match between Chelsea and AC Milan.
Major League Soccer will attract fans from the entire region, bringing social and economic vitality to the blighted site. The stadium will help encourage development and jobs in the area around one of the most highly trafficked intersections in the city.
Numerous college campuses are located near the site, with an age cohort that grew up playing the international sport. In addition, the state’s rapidly growing immigrant communities are certain to be part of the fan base. They and their families come from countries where soccer (or futbol, as they call the sport) is the national pastime — both to play and to cheer on.
Gov. Mark Dayton, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, team ownership group leader Bill McGuire (the group includes Star Tribune owner Glen Taylor) and MLS Commissioner Dan Garber joined forces to announce the team’s upgrade from minor to major league. The team will play at TCF Bank Stadium next season and possibly beyond.
A date has not been set for groundbreaking for the privately funded $150 million stadium, as key tax breaks for its construction were tied up in a 2016 legislative impasse.
Dayton promised that the tax bill, including relief for the stadium, would be passed early in the 2017 session. If it does, construction on the stadium is expected to begin next year and be completed in 2018.
That’s worth celebrating. We’ve seen the vitality and development that have come with the last three stadiums built in the Twin Cities. The new MLS venue will put another major league city feather into the twin towns’ cap.