The major announcement coming from Major League Soccer and Minnesota United’s Bill McGuire on Wednesday doesn’t figure to be that major in actual news. It will be confirmation that McGuire and United have been chosen for an expansion team in the Twin Cities, assuming he and his allies can come up with a soccer-specific stadium.
In other words, the main obstacle remains: The fact that McGuire has been able to find no meaningful encouragement from politicians to support the cause.
When push comes to shove, it could be that McGuire and his allies, the Pohlad family and to a degree Glen Taylor, will be asking for only the basics in public assistance:
Some help with securing the land behind Target Field, a waiver of sales tax on building materials, and putting the stadium under a public entity to avoid paying property taxes.
That would make this by far the least-reliant on public help among our new venues of this century: Xcel Energy Center, TCF Bank Stadium, Target Field, the Saints’ new ballpark, the remodeling of Target Center and, come 2016, the Taj Ma Zygi for the Vikings.
Yet, the McGuire group has a powerful enemy and that’s the Vikings. Pre-emptively, the Vikings folks spent weeks twisting arms at the Legislature to speak out against a soccer-specific stadium. The idea was that, thus discouraged, the MLS would zero in on awarding the expansion franchise to the Wilfs and it would play in the new dome.
The Vikings have no more loyal pal at the Legislature than Tom Bakk, and he also happens to be the Senate Majority Leader. Bakk has been so willing to do the bidding of the Vikings and the Wilfs that he called up Don Garber, the MLS Commissioner, and said the McGuire group would not receive a dime’s worth of assistance from the state.
Bakk has done a fine job making this sound as if he’s protecting the taxpayers, but the folks he’s really been trying to protect are the real estate developers from New Jersey. They own the Vikings and soon will have an almost-free (when you subtract NFL money, naming rights and seat licenses from their investment) palace that will instantly make their franchise worth four times more than $600 million that they paid for it.
An 18,000-seat soccer stadium would be the best deal the public has received in the arena/stadium orgy of this century, but Bakk is more interested in taking care of his Purple pals than finishing off the re-development of that once-blighted area of Minnesota’s most-vital city.