The St. Paul City Council next week is expected to pass a resolution backing a property tax exemption for a Major League Soccer (MLS) stadium in the Midway district, so long as the owners build it with their own money.
The resolution, sponsored by Council Members Chris Tolbert and Dai Thao, justifies the tax break by noting that a stadium at Snelling Avenue and Interstate 94 “would be a catalyst for future private investment and development” in the adjacent shopping area and “increase the property tax base for the city of St. Paul.”
Tolbert said that he was “very confident” the resolution would pass. While the proposed stadium site is in Thao’s ward and north of his district, Tolbert said Midway redevelopment would be a boon not just to the neighborhood, but to the city and region as well.
“We thought it was important to demonstrate the support that the city of St. Paul has for bringing an MLS team to that site … and to let them know that it’s not just the mayor that’s supportive, but that the City Council wants to make the stadium work,” Tolbert said.
With City Council elections little more than two months away, the soccer stadium could become a campaign issue. Both Tolbert and Thao are running for re-election, although Tolbert is unopposed.
Mayor Chris Coleman has said he would support a tax break for the proposed 10-acre stadium site, since it hasn’t paid property taxes for more than half a century. It’s owned by the Metropolitan Council and was used for years by Metro Transit as a bus barn location.
A property tax exemption would require legislative approval, but Coleman said last week he was sure that would happen if the MLS and team owners approved the site.
Owners of the potential Minnesota MLS franchise have said they would not seek public funding to design and build the $120 million stadium.
Some believe that the city should stick with plans for an urban village on the site that would include housing, commercial space and parkland. Tolbert said a stadium could make that happen on the adjacent 25-acre site where the Midway Shopping Center sits.
“This is the ideal site, both transportation-wise and soccer population-wise,” he said. “It would introduce so many different people to the Midway neighborhood and would just be fantastic. It’s the best site in the Twin Cities for this.”