A translucent oval open-air stadium that evokes images of flowing water and twinkling stars is what officials from Minnesota United FC envision for a new soccer stadium near University and Snelling avenues in St. Paul, according to renderings unveiled by the team Wednesday.
Designed by Populous, the Kansas City-based sports-architecture firm, the stadium will be sheathed in limestone, glass and a semitransparent skin to keep the harshest weather out and fan noise in. It will be abutted by large open plazas of grass to the north, office towers and a health club to the west and housing and hotels to the east.
The facility, similar to a soccer stadium in Munich, Germany, will reflect the greatest traditions of soccer, said Dr. Bill McGuire, owner of the Minnesota United FC.
“This world-class venue will not only offer our fans an iconic professional soccer experience, but also provide our team with the necessary tools to establish themselves as a top-tier professional soccer club,” McGuire said.
The stadium will hold more than 20,000 fans — including a standing room-only area for 3,000 of the team’s most boisterous supporters — and will cost $150 million or more, he said. Team officials had previously said the stadium would cost $120 million.
The additional money is expected to come from a team of investors who are part of a larger group than previously identified. McGuire declined to name additional investors Wednesday, but partners so far include the Pohlad family, which owns the Twins, and Glen Taylor, who owns the Timberwolves and the Star Tribune.
The team has said it will finance the construction of the stadium, which will be publicly owned when it is complete. McGuire said he hopes for construction to begin in June and be complete in time for the 2018 Major League Soccer season.
McGuire revealed his renderings at the same time Richard Birdoff of RK Midway, which owns the nearby Midway Shopping Center, presented his drawings of what the “urban village” surrounding the 35-acre stadium redevelopment site might someday look like.
Office towers of 15 to 17 stories could line Snelling Avenue from I-94 to University Avenue. And new residential construction would turn Pascal Street at the eastern edge of the development into a walkable neighborhood, Birdoff said.
He said that these plans would be phased in over time. The leases of current tenants and “market forces” will affect the timetable of the project, Birdoff said. But a goal is to begin construction on some of the Snelling Avenue office buildings about the same time as the soccer stadium construction.
Birdoff said the project will “transform the public realm” and that the creation of a village of sidewalk cafes and bustling nightlife presents a chance to revitalize a long-dormant commercial area. “Whether it’s a five-year or a 10-year build-out is to be seen,” he said of the total project.
Team and city officials and community members have been meeting since December to sketch out what the various groups want to see in a stadium and a redeveloped University and Snelling area. Neighbors have expressed concern about parking in the area — whether it will be adequate to keep cars from spilling onto residential streets while also avoiding large surface parking lots.
According to the renderings, much of the additional parking planned for the area will be built into the commercial towers along Snelling and a couple small surface lots near Pascal and I-94.
On Wednesday, the project took another step forward when the Metropolitan Council approved a long-term lease with St. Paul for what has been known as the “bus barn” site — about 10 acres of vacant land near Interstate 94 and Snelling Avenue. That land is the proposed site for the stadium. The city will lease it, but annual rent payments of $556,620 for 52 years will be paid by Minnesota United.
The Met Council will continue to own the land and will pay up to $4.5 million to clean up pollution at the site.
The St. Paul City Council is expected to review the designs next week. After that, state legislative approval will be needed for parts of the plan.
Besides designing sports arenas around the world, Populous was the lead architect for both Target Field and TCF Bank Stadium.
While the team has said it will pay to build the stadium, it is seeking property tax relief from the Legislature for the improvements it makes at the site, as well as a waiver of sales taxes on construction materials. The team will also seek state approval to sell liquor at the stadium.
St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman on Wednesday thanked several of the city’s elected representatives at the Legislature for their assistance and seemed unconcerned about the prospects of success.
When asked how much tax money the city will forfeit because of the stadium, Coleman insisted that the stadium and its associated development will increase the site’s property values “10 to 12 times what they are now. That’s revenue we never would have had without a stadium there.”