Updated at 5:35 p.m.
A proposal to build a soccer stadium near downtown Minneapolis got its first formal -- though somewhat neutral -- boost from the Minneapolis City Council on Friday.
The council voted 12-1 to create a working group examining infrastructure needs, development sites and tax implications of a new professional soccer stadium. MN United FC team owner Bill McGuire has proposed building a $150 million facility beside the city’s farmers market, but has requested a sales and property tax break to make it possible.
Friday's vote, on a resolution authored by council President Barb Johnson (see below), appeared to be an indication that the wheels were still turning after the Legislature adjourned this spring without taking action on a subsidy package. Major League Soccer has given McGuire and his investment team — which includes Star Tribune owner Glen Taylor — until July 1 to develop a firm plan for building a stadium.
“We are not shutting the door, is largely what this vote signified,” Council Member Jacob Frey said. “I really can’t speak for others, but we’re not shutting the door on Major League Soccer and the potential it can bring.”
The group will be composed of the mayor, Johnson and four other council members, as well as a variety of top city staffers. It will examine the “need or desirability for improved public infrastructure” supporting a stadium, the “impact of an MLS stadium and potential future development on the city’s tax capacity,” development sites around the proposed stadium, and “a legislative strategy, if any, to support an MLS stadium.”
Mayor Betsy Hodges, who has publicly opposed McGuire’s subsidy request, joined the council’s discussion to say the working group will create a helpful forum for the stadium discussions.
“This is potentially a great thing for the city, if done right, and depending on how we move it forward,” Hodges said. “This will give us an opportunity to get information, ask questions and figure out how to move forward from there.”
She later added on Facebook that she continues to oppose a property tax subsidy..
Whether the creation of the working group adds any leniency to the July 1 deadline remained unclear Friday; the team declined to comment on the development. The stadium plan “needs to be something that’s final enough so that we understand and know that it will ultimately be built," Mark Abbott, MLS’ deputy commissioner, told the Star Tribune earlier this month.
Johnson, who help lead the effort to fund a new Vikings stadium in downtown, said she was reminded of sports' benefits for the city after witnessing Twins fans yesterday cheer for a home run and later flood the bars along 1st Avenue.
"In my opinion, we want to be encouraging the development of such a facility," Johnson said.
The lone ‘no’ vote came from Council Member Cam Gordon, perhaps the council’s staunchest opponent of pro-sports subsidies. Gordon said the public should have more time to weigh in on the matter, which ultimately may also be unecessary if the July 1 deadline is in fact a firm one.
He also took exception with some of the points of the resolution trumpeting the potential benefits of a new soccer facility. “Not only do our sports facilities bring benefits to us, but they are an incredible drain on us,” Gordon said.
Photo at top: Minnesota United FC's Aaron Pitchkolan (4), Pablo Campos (9) and Miguel Ibarra (10) celebrated a goal by Ibarra with fans during the second half against Jacksonville Armada FC this May (Aaron Lavinsky)