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Soccer players at Capitol to urge tax breaks for builders of St. Paul stadium

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There's no stoppage time at the Minnesota Legislature.

So members of the state's top soccer team came to the Capitol Monday to remind lawmakers that the clock is ticking toward their adjournment date (May 23) and they have not yet acted on three requests by the group ready to build a new stadium in St. Paul.

Members of Minnesota United FC went through some practice drills on the lawn that faces the Capitol and the Senate Office Building, WCCO reports. It was their way of encouraging legislators to approve tax breaks and a liquor license for the team's owners.

The ownership group has said if they get those approvals they're ready to pay for a new $150 million stadium in the Midway neighborhood that would allow United FC to move up to Major League Soccer.

What are they asking for?

Mayor Chris Coleman emphasized Monday that United FC's owners – led by former UnitedHealth Group CEO Bill McGuire – have agreed to pay the full cost of building the stadium, as well as operating and maintaining it, the Pioneer Press reports. Those expenses are in addition to a $100 million expansion fee United would pay to join Major League Soccer.

But to make that happen, McGuire has said the ownership group needs three things from the Legislature:

  • Permission for the site to be exempt from property taxes. Most of the site – 10 of the 12 acres – has been off the tax rolls for decades because it is owned by a government agency, the Metropolitan Council.
  • An exemption from sales taxes on the materials purchased to build the stadium.
  • A license to sell liquor in the 20,000-seat stadium.

Are they close to getting it?

Not right now.

There are some signs of life, though. A big tax bill that includes the property tax exemption is slated for a Tuesday vote in a Senate committee.

That bill does not contain the sales tax break. But Sen. Sandy Pappas, a St. Paul DFLer, tells the Pioneer Press: "We see other avenues for getting that in....This is a moving product."

The legislature's wheels will stop moving in less than two weeks, though. United FC's in person appearance Monday was meant to prod lawmakers toward a long-awaited goal of soccer fans before that deadline arrives.

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