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St. Paul signs off on soccer stadium, $18 million in upgrades around it

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St. Paul city council members have approved a plan to build a pro soccer stadium in Minnesota's capital city.

Council members (meeting as the Housing and Redevelopment Authority) approved a lease and development agreement for a site in the Midway neighborhood overlooking Interstate 94 near Snelling and University Avenues.

The deal calls for owners of the Minnesota United soccer team, led by Dr. Bill McGuire, to pay the estimated $150 million cost of the stadium and then turn it over to the city. Wednesday's vote by the city (watch it here) also approved spending $18.4 on improvements to the area around the stadium, such as sidewalks, lighting, sewer and water pipes, and other infrastructure.

The 5-2 vote in favor of the soccer plan followed a long public hearing at which dozens of people testified in favor of the stadium plan and four spoke against it, the Pioneer Press reports.

The newspaper says the council members who voted against it felt the $18.4 million could be spent on projects needed elsewhere in the city and argued that the process was rushed, with studies of parking and transportation in the area not yet finished.

Others on the council and at the hearing said the stadium will turn around a blighted site that's been vacant since Metro Transit tore down a bus garage there fourteen years ago.

Cornerstone of larger redevelopment

Architectural plans released last week show parks and plazas around a stadium seating at least 20,000 people.

As the Star Tribune reports, the 12-acre stadium is seen as the centerpiece for redevelopment of a 34.5-acre parcel of land now anchored by an aging strip mall.

Soon after council members approved the plan Mayor Chris Coleman applauded their vote in a statement, saying it ushers in new opportunities for growth in the Midway area.

Coleman says St. Paul will put three stadium-related requests before the Legislature when the new session begins next week. The city wants approval to keep the 12-acre site off property tax rolls, it's asking for a sales tax exemption on construction materials, and it will seek a liquor license for the stadium.

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