The owner of industrial land proposed for a Major League Soccer stadium says he is convinced that Minnesota United team owner Dr. Bill McGuire plans to seek public money to help build it, though details of the financing plan remain under wraps.
The professional soccer league awarded McGuire’s group a franchise last week, contingent on the construction of a new soccer stadium. A development group representing McGuire has secured temporary exclusive rights to purchase land owned by Robert Salmen for the facility just west of Target Field in the Farmers Market area.
Salmen, who has never met McGuire, says he has not been told explicitly how the roughly $150 million stadium would be funded. He says the option on the land expires sometime in late summer — despite the group’s recent request for an extension.
“I’ve told them they don’t have to worry about extensions and stuff, because all they have to do is write a check,” Salmen said. “And they say, ‘Well we have to go through the Legislature.’ ”
Salmen said he believes “this whole deal is contingent upon government money.”
Salmen said Friday that he had been in talks with developer United Properties, but clarified Monday that the option is held by a development entity — not United Properties — whose name he would not disclose. McGuire said last week that he has an option on the properties through “the organization.” Team spokesman Eric Durkee declined to comment about Salmen’s comments in an e-mail Monday.
Both Gov. Mark Dayton and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, have said in recent weeks that there is no appetite at the Legislature for additional stadium subsidies.
A Star Tribune analysis of stadium projects since 2000 shows that taxpayers have financed more than $1.1 billion in unadjusted dollars toward building five sports facilities, nearly half of it for the new Minnesota Vikings stadium.
McGuire assembled a team of powerful financial partners, who are also professional sports team owners, to aid in the effort. It includes the Pohlad family, which owns the Minnesota Twins and United Properties, and Glen Taylor, who owns the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Star Tribune.
Salmen expressed frustration that the deal hasn’t closed, since the group could easily share the cost of a $150 million stadium. “We’ve taken two years to get to this point and we’re nowhere so far,” Salmen said.
Hennepin County Commissioner Mike Opat, who aided the effort to secure the franchise, remained mum late last week about what — if anything — he might propose relating to the area around the stadium. “Nothing is imminent,” Opat said.
Another commissioner, Jan Callison, said stadium funding is a “challenge.”
“People are wary to say the least, and in some cases clearly hostile to the idea of a public subsidy into a stadium,” Callison said.
The Farmers Market area is dominated by a potpourri of businesses that perform a wide range of functions. Salmen’s two warehouses include Target photo studios, as well as legal archives and a fulfillment office for Shapco Printing Inc.
Development talk not new
A proposed Southwest light-rail stop on Royalston Avenue, adjacent to Salmen’s property, promises to reconnect the area long divided by freeways from the rest of the city.
But several nearby owners said they are still recovering from the swirl of development speculation in 2011 around building a Vikings stadium in the area, an idea that never came to fruition.
“There was a 12-month period of time where we were afraid that a spaceship was going to come and unload a stadium right on top of us,” said Mike Higgins, CEO of the seafood wholesaler The Fish Guys, which recently outgrew its Royalston warehouse and moved to St. Louis Park. “So this kind of development isn’t new to us.”
Bob Iwaskewycz, whose business Accent Store Fixtures sells display fixtures to retailers like jewelry shops and grocery stores, said he directs occasional development inquiries to his attorney.
“The sharks are in the water. They smell blood,” Iwaskewycz said. “So they’re attempting to pad their own pocketbooks.
“The funny thing about it, the majority of the sharks that are in the water have one way or another probably something to do with the Pohlad group.”
But at least one business that fought the Vikings plan, nearby Sharing and Caring Hands charity, isn’t planning to oppose the MLS effort. While the Vikings stadium would have forced the charity to close, director Mary Jo Copeland does not currently have the same concerns about the soccer proposal — which would be built just west of her building.
“Nobody’s said a word to me,” Copeland said.
“There’s no way they can take me down. I wouldn’t let them.”