St. Paul’s bid for a Major League Soccer stadium moved ahead Wednesday, as the City Council conditionally backed the project and the Port Authority said it is working on a plan to make the proposed site available for stadium construction.
Meanwhile, Mayor Chris Coleman met again with Bill McGuire, owner of the Minnesota United soccer franchise, and attorney Sam Kaplan. Details were not disclosed.
But Coleman spokeswoman Tonya Tennessen said the mayor has asked the Port Authority — an agency that operates independently but often works with the city to guide development — to meet with the Metropolitan Council, which owns the vacant Midway site, on options for control of the property once used by Metro Transit to store buses.
Within the last week, according to Port Authority spokesman Tom Collins, the authority has begun talks with the Met Council about leasing the bus barn site for construction of an MLS stadium, with lease proceeds going to regional transit operations.
Met Council spokeswoman Bonnie Kollodge said Wednesday the council is crafting a “feasibility study” on the site’s potential regardless of a stadium. Development would be weighed with the council’s transit-oriented development policy and federal guidelines, she said.
A potential lease with the Met Council, which Collins said would be long-term and taken out either by the authority or the city, would be contingent on team owners choosing the Midway site at the intersection of Interstate 94 and Snelling Avenue for their proposed $150 million privately funded stadium.
City Council action
The framework for a possible lease agreement was hinted at in Wednesday’s City Council resolution, which passed unanimously despite lingering concerns that team owners might be using St. Paul to squeeze a stadium deal out of officials in Minneapolis.
The resolution put the City Council on record as backing a property tax exemption for the Midway site if a stadium goes there.
It also says a stadium deal “should involve payments to the Met Council (owners of the site) that should support the operations of the region’s transit system” — the kind of effort Collins said the Port Authority is following.
While the resolution doesn’t commit the city to a course of action, it lays out conditions should the team choose to build in St. Paul. They include use of the stadium for other public events; a corresponding plan for new streets, sidewalks, public spaces and nearby parking; and evidence that it will prompt “additional investments” at the privately owned Midway Shopping Center next door.
“I know that there’s a lot of fears and uncertainty about the possibilities for a stadium,” said Council Member Dai Thao, whose ward contains the proposed stadium site. But the resolution, he said, offers a “real opportunity to make this a vibrant destination.”
It was approved by all seven council members, including Dan Bostrom, who has expressed skepticism about the owners’ motivations in talking with St. Paul.
Although a July 1 deadline passed without a financing package for Minneapolis, that city has an active stadium working group.