The St. Paul Port Authority decided Tuesday to lay the groundwork that would allow the agency to get involved, if needed, with a land deal related to the development of the MLS soccer stadium.
City Council members who serve on the Port Authority’s board, however, were hesitant to sign off on the creation of an industrial development district at the Snelling-Midway site.
The Port Authority can acquire or lease land at the future stadium site only if it is located in a development district, said the authority’s president, Lee Krueger. And the authority may decide to take one of those actions if negotiations do not work out between the United soccer team ownership and RK Midway, the company that owns the shopping center located where part of the stadium is planned.
Council Member Dan Bostrom, who is on the Port Authority’s board, said he did not anticipate that level of involvement from the city or Port Authority, which is a public agency, in the private development.
“I don’t want to be involved in a bait-and-switch deal,” Bostrom said, where St. Paul would be on the hook for more than it expected financially.
Krueger said the Port Authority has created about 80 such districts over the years and in many of those cases it never got involved with the site development. This leaves options open, but board members would decide at a later date if they are willing to lease, purchase or have some other interest in the RK Midway property, Krueger said.
“There is no financial commitment by what we’re doing today,” he said. “We may or may not be part of the solution. Ideally, we are not.”
Bill McGuire, an owner of the United soccer team, has provided little information on the status of land negotiations.
“It is literally too involved and too complex to conduct business in the newspaper,” he said Tuesday at a Midway Chamber of Commerce event about stadium development.
Dealing with the complexity of the site is his top priority, McGuire said. There are many factors to consider, including businesses and people working at the site and community expectations, he said.
“I cannot tell you how complicated it is to do that and still move forward, keep the momentum and meet a timeline,” McGuire said.
The future of the soccer stadium, which McGuire expects will open in 2018, appeared uncertain this spring after Gov. Mark Dayton did not sign the tax bill that contained an exemption soccer officials had anticipated.
At Tuesday’s Chamber meeting, McGuire and state Sen. John Hoffman, DFL-Champlin, said they are confident that legislators and the governor will quickly pass a property tax break for the site this session.
“We do have confidence in our public officials,” McGuire said. “We’re moving ahead with this rather than waiting.”