Bill McGuire, the owner of Minnesota United FC who has been granted a Major League Soccer franchise, said he remains confident the soccer team will play in the MLS in 2017. There have been delays in calling a special session of the Legislature, during which the team hopes to have a property tax exemption approved for its new stadium’s site and a tax break on construction materials.
Gov. Mark Dayton and legislative leaders have announced a tentative plan for a session in the third week of August.
“There’s always that danger [of not being ready to play]; it’s a hot sport and not just here,” McGuire said. “The numbers around the U.S. for MLS are dramatically up again this year. The Copa America Centenario was hugely attended, averaged over 46,000 people for some 32 games or so, [with] big TV audiences. Of course, the European championships [played] to big audiences. There are a lot of cities interested in this, and we can go down the litany of them, but it is, it’s something that’s always out there. We have to be cognizant and the people behind this want to make sure we procure this and retain it for Minnesota.”
MLS Commissioner Don Garber has recently mentioned cities such as Charlotte, Cincinnati, Louisville, Miami, Oklahoma City, St. Louis, San Diego, Detroit, Sacramento, San Antonio and Austin as possible MLS locations. The league already has announced plans to expand to 28 teams by 2018, so there’s a high demand for these franchises.
McGuire explained more about the commitment the team needs from state legislators.
“We, of course, are anxious for them to complete what they started,” he said. “That’s important to us. As you know, there was almost unanimous support for the fairly simple retention of the current tax status that is now on the property we’re interested in.
“The Legislature passed that and sent it on to the governor. There were some other issues that rose around the tax bill, and so right now, we’re working on the good faith that the legislative leaders and governor have all been very supportive of this and they’ll get it done. We’re continuing to do the things you have to do in anticipation of putting the shovels in the ground and get the stadium under construction.”
All $150 million for the 20,000-seat stadium, planned for near Snelling and University avenues in St. Paul, will be privately financed and publicly owned. The lone issue remaining is the ownership’s request for tax exemptions similar to what the Vikings received for U.S. Bank Stadium.
McGuire was asked why some people are against building the stadium.
“They’re around things like, ‘How is it going to work? What’s going to be in there?’ ” he said. “We’re quite assured that what’s going to be around the stadium will be dramatically advanced and improved, really catalytic improvement for the whole community, and something that will work for retail and residential and some office and other entertainment and just public space for people.”
Excited and ready
With stadium construction on hold, McGuire said the team is preparing other aspects of the project to make sure it can start right away when a bill is passed, which he believes is just a matter of time.
“We’re continuing to work on it,” he said. “We’re spending the money, have schematic drawings, done initial pricing bids and stuff. We’re ready to move. There is, of course, a lot of things to do.
“You have to handle the remediation of the site [to ensure environmental safety], but it’s underway. We’re working on all of that awaiting this final legislative action. As I say, all indications from the legislative caucus leaders and the governor are highly supportive. We’re putting confidence and faith in them for those commitments.”
In my column last Friday, I quoted Pat Smith saying he was removed of his duties as the Gophers football team’s doctor after 31 years by University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler, but that was ultimately not accurate.
Brad Nelson, an associate professor of orthopaedic surgery at the University of Minnesota, wrote in an e-mail that the University of Minnesota Physicians (UMP), a multi-specialty group practice within the medical school, have served as team doctors for all Gophers sports teams for several years except for the football and wrestling teams.
The UMP will now oversee the football team. Smith had a chance to oversee the transition for a year and work with the new doctor, Joel Boyd, but declined. Nelson said the decision to get rid of Smith was his, though Kaler supports it.
Nelson said Smith wasn’t let go because of anything he did wrong but rather because of the planned transition.
To me, it still makes no sense, because Smith will still be the physician for the wrestling team, although that arrangement, according to Nelson, is being discussed.
Having watched Smith serve Gophers teams for 31 years, I think he will be tough — maybe impossible — to replace.
• Rest assured Twins interim General Manager Rob Antony will not make any trade without the blessing of manager Paul Molitor.
• Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau said one of the big plusses of signing wing Brandon Rush is that he is coming from a winning organization at Golden State. “He started 25 games for them last year,” Thibodeau said. “His versatility at 6-7, 6-8, his ability on the defensive end and his ability to play multiple positions [are valuable], but the shooting was the main thing.” Rush is a career 40.3 percent shooter on three-pointers in eight years in the NBA.
• In addition to Wolves point guard Tyus Jones being named MVP of the NBA Summer League, a big surprise was the great performance of center Adreian Payne, who averaged 15.5 points and 7.6 rebounds and shot 41.3 percent in eight Summer League games. Payne averaged 2.5 points and 2.2 rebounds for the Wolves last season.
• Red Wing native Ryan Boldt, who played college baseball at Nebraska, was Tampa Bay’s second-round pick in the June amateur draft. The lefthanded-hitting outfielder was only 9-for-59 with only one RBI in his first 12 games with Hudson Valley of the New York-Penn rookie league, but he has gone 12-for-39 with eight RBI in his past 10 games to raise his batting average to .214.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. firstname.lastname@example.org