The soccer stadium groundbreaking in St. Paul was largely ceremonial — a line of children and officials draped in Minnesota United scarves shoveled dirt while shivering supporters looked on.
But Monday’s event included some updates about when dirt will really start to fly at the empty lot in the Snelling-Midway neighborhood. Stadium developers said Xcel Energy began working on power lines at the site a few weeks ago, and major construction will start after the ground begins to thaw.
“I think it will be spring when the big dig will occur out there, particularly focused on the remediation,” said Bill McGuire, one of the team’s owners.
Team owners Monday also presented new renderings of the $150 million stadium and said design work is nearly complete. The updated building design lowers the stadium height by 4 feet, extends a section of its roof and adds a restaurant on the north end that could be open year-round, McGuire said. It also sets the initial capacity of the building at 19,916, with the potential to reach 24,474 in the future.
McGuire has previously said he expects the stadium to be completed sometime in 2018. He was less committed to that time frame Monday.
“Sure, it’s possible,” he said. “It just depends on what kind of things come up.”
Ken Sorensen, a senior vice president with Mortenson Construction, said Mortenson will begin construction on the south end of the Metropolitan Council lot and will likely work through next winter.
Several pieces of the project still need to be figured out ahead of construction, including a key land use agreement.
The bulk of the stadium will be built on an empty 10-acre lot the Met Council owns. But site plans show part of the building on the property to the north, owned by RK Midway. The RK Midway site has a shopping center, part of which would have to be torn down to make way for the stadium.
When asked about reorienting the stadium so it ran east-west instead of north-south, McGuire said, “We’ve looked at a number of options and that’s certainly a possibility. That’s not preferred.”
In addition to the land negotiation, stadium developers need to complete a number of regulatory steps.
They have not yet pulled demolition or building permits for the site, according to the city. The team is still working on a long list of conditions in the city’s stadium site plan, including getting stormwater permits and completing the design for sidewalks and street lighting.
The city would also need to issue a final plat approval before the team can begin construction, said Mollie Scozzari, spokeswoman for the city’s Planning and Economic Development Department.
The developer can do some work without the permits, including soil borings, environmental testing and some utility work, Scozzari said.
A state property tax break for the Met Council site, which was not finalized during the last legislative session, remains another complicating factor. There was bipartisan support for the tax break, and McGuire said the team is continuing work on the site in good faith that the tax break will come through in the next session.
Fans watch for progress
McGuire said it was important to hold the ceremonial groundbreaking now to celebrate the new designs and raise excitement about the team.
“We’re getting people geared up for purchasing season tickets,” he said.
Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber spoke at the groundbreaking, along with McGuire and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman. Many United supporters turned out in gear with the team’s loon logo.
St. Paul residents Ansley and Andrew Lovgren were among them. They had already bought season tickets and were looking forward to the team having its own stadium.
“We support the team and this is an exciting moment. It’s cool to see progress,” Andrew Lovgren said.
The United plans to play in the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium until work on the St. Paul stadium is finished. Team owners have asked about pricing and scheduling at U.S. Bank Stadium, but McGuire said they were just looking into that for big events.
“We have a contract. We’re set to play in TCF Bank Stadium. There’s no question about that,” he said.