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Mayor bids to bring soccer stadium to St. Paul under Minneapolis' nose

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The mayor of St. Paul has invited Major League Soccer officials to tour an undeveloped piece of land he hopes could become home to Minnesota United's MLS franchise.

In a news release on Thursday, Mayor Chris Coleman says a stadium on property at Snelling and University avenues is "the only viable path at this point" for Minnesota.

The mayor is hoping to capitalize on the reticence of Minneapolis officials to commit to tax breaks that would allow the club, led by Loons owner Dr. Bill McGuire, to build a $150 million stadium near the downtown farmers' market.

The Pioneer Press notes that the MLS had set United a July 1 deadline to get funding sorted for a stadium in Minneapolis, but when that deadline passed with no agreement reached, attention turned to alternative locations such as St. Paul.

"There is a small window of opportunity to make sure Minnesota has a Major League Soccer team," Coleman said in the news release.

"The St. Paul site is the only viable path at this point. Not only would a stadium at this location take advantage of all modes of transportation, but it would substantially accelerate redevelopment in the area," he added.

The MLS awarded a franchise to Minnesota United, currently playing in the North American Soccer League, in March and said they would be able to enter the league in 2017 or 2018 provided they get a stadium built.

The team currently plays at the National Sports Center in Blaine, at a 9,000-capacity stadium that is not suitable for the MLS.

The Snelling site is currently a mixture of public and private ownership, with the Business Journal noting it has an area of 15 acres and includes the former Metro Transit bus barn.

The site would have good transport links, sitting next to the Green Line light rail, a rapid transit bus stop, and Interstate 94.

"A soccer stadium would anchor a complete transformation of this site into one that includes retail, housing and green space," St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce President Matt Kramer said in the news release.

Although a downtown Minneapolis stadium was a "primary factor" in Minnesota United's bid being chosen by the MLS, deputy commissioner Mark Abbott previously said that he's not ruling out the club's relocation to St. Paul.

"We do want to come out and have a meeting with people in St. Paul to make sure we can make a fully informed decision," he said, according to NBC Pro Soccer Talk, but added: "If somebody in Minneapolis came forward with a plan that would be tremendous, because that’s what we’ve always wanted."

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