The likelihood that a professional soccer stadium will land in St. Paul instead of Minneapolis seemed to grow Monday with the expiration of a deal securing land near downtown Minneapolis.
A development entity associated with Minnesota United FC had secured the exclusive right to purchase industrial property near the city’s Farmers Market for a $150 million stadium. But time ran out on that deal Monday, and there was no sign it was extended.
The team, which is seeking a tax break from the city, declined to comment on the implications of the deadline for a Minneapolis stadium. But property owner Robert Salmen told the Star Tribune last week that he has no interest in doing business with team owner Bill McGuire following the agreement’s expiration.
Salmen, who owns about 80 percent of the property proposed for the stadium, did not return a request seeking comment on Monday.
The team has grown increasingly interested in a site near the Midway shopping mall in St. Paul, where local leaders are willing to forgo property taxes on the facility. Minneapolis and Hennepin County officials weren’t giving up hope Monday, however, amid the team’s public silence.
“This is a private deal between the team’s ownership group and a private landowner, the city is not privy to their negotiations,” read a joint statement by Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges and Council President Barb Johnson. “We still believe that Minneapolis is the best location for a new stadium and will continue moving forward with our working group.”
The working group of top City Hall leaders has met once on the issue in July. Hodges publicly opposes granting the stadium a property tax exemption.
Hennepin County Commissioner Mike Opat, who has recently proposed a county-led plan for the stadium, said his proposal is contingent on the team securing the Farmers Market site. The plan would use excess Twins ballpark taxes to pay for infrastructure improvements and have the public Minnesota Ballpark Authority own the facility — absolving the new stadium from a tax burden.
“I would just offer that real estate options expire on a regular basis,” Opat said. “I don’t think that there’s any kind of a death sentence for that site because of it.”
Regarding Salmen’s stated unwillingness to work with McGuire, he added, “Negotiation comes at various volumes. This one seems to be coming at a little bit of a higher one now.”
Others were less optimistic, however. Council Member Blong Yang, whose ward includes the stadium area, had received no update on whether the Farmers Market site was still in play.
“Most people are putting their bets on St. Paul getting this,” Yang said. “There might be a sliver of a chance on our end, but we’ll see.”
The other parcel needed for the stadium is owned by Stark Electronics. Reached Monday, Stark Vice President Sandy Forberg said, “We have an option also that expires the 31st.” After putting a reporter on hold, she returned and said, “I was totally wrong about that. But we don’t have any comments at this time.”