Minnesota United FC emerged from the legislative session with victories in two of its three stadium-related requests.
Lawmakers agreed to a property tax exemption for the St. Paul land where the soccer team wants to build a 20,000-seat stadium and approved a liquor license for the stadium. However, the team didn't get a sales tax exemption on construction materials.
After a whirlwind end to the session Sunday, officials with the city and team were waiting to see what Gov. Mark Dayton signs into law before weighing in on what's next for the stadium. Team officials declined to comment Monday on how they will proceed.
But Sen. Sandy Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, who pushed for the stadium tax breaks and liquor license, said the team is excited by the outcome and plans to start construction soon.
The approvals are seen as key to Minnesota United beginning play as a Major League Soccer franchise. The league granted the team a franchise last year with the expectation of landing a new stadium, saying then that it would begin MLS play as early as 2017 and no later than 2018.
At a news conference Monday afternoon, Dayton said the team is getting most of what it asked for and could apply for a refund on the construction materials sales tax.
Pappas said that while an upfront tax exemption on construction materials was "cleaner and less bureaucratic," the refund process also will work. City officials said they used the refund method during construction of CHS Field for the St. Paul Saints.
The property tax exemption, included in the $259 million tax bill, and the stadium liquor license were approved on the final day of the legislative session.
In a statement, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman said he respects Dayton's need for time to review the bills before determining his next steps.
"I am grateful for his continued support of [a] property tax exemption for the soccer stadium site," Coleman said.
Much of the stadium would be built on a 10-acre plot once used to store buses for Metro Transit. The Metropolitan Council owns the largely vacant site, which has been off the tax rolls for decades.
The stadium has spurred a major redevelopment plan for the surrounding area: a 34.5-acre tract at the southeast corner of Snelling and University avenues. RK Midway, which owns a strip mall next to the stadium site, plans to overhaul it with new offices, retail, housing and plazas.
The property tax exemption granted by legislators would apply only to the stadium and related parking facilities, not to the larger development, according to the tax bill.
Pappas said the effort to secure assistance for the stadium was more difficult than it should have been.
"These are three such easy asks compared to our other stadium projects," she said. "This is an incredible gift to St. Paul."
Private investors would pay to construct the open-air stadium at an estimated cost of $150 million. Once it is completed, the team would turn over stadium ownership to the city but continue to cover maintenance costs. United owner Bill McGuire has said he hopes to complete the stadium in time for the 2018 MLS season.
In the meantime, United officials have been working on other options for MLS home games next year, including TCF Bank Stadium and Target Field. The team, which is now a member of the North American Soccer League, one tier below MLS, currently plays at the National Sports Center in Blaine, which has less than half the capacity of the proposed St. Paul stadium.
Staff writer David La Vaque contributed to this report.