Not content with a stadium, MN United owners eye major project in St. Paul

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After a cool reception in Minneapolis, the owners of Minnesota United are now flirting with St. Paul as a location for its new Major League Soccer stadium – but they may want more than just a stadium.

Correspondence obtained by the Pioneer Press between the club's ownership and the City of St. Paul show that the team isn't just interested in building an 18,000-seat stadium near Interstate 94 and Snelling Avenue, it may want to develop a much larger parcel of land.

MPR reported last week that team owner Bill McGuire has been toying since 2013 with relocating the team to the site in St. Paul from its current home in Blaine.

While the stadium would be built on just under 10 acres of land owned by the City of St. Paul, McGuire and his partners – which includes proposed developers United Properties – are interested in also taking on the 25 adjacent acres owned by commercial developer RK Midway, and has written to the company asking for pricing expectations.

In emails seen by the Pioneer Press, McGuire now considers the extra development space "essential" as part of United's broader plans for its stadium site, which would include the construction of commercial properties, houses, hospitality facilities and open space next to the arena.

It could bring new life to what has been somewhat of a run-down area, but MPR notes that among the vacant units, the land is still home to a Rainbow grocery store, a Big Top Liquor, and a strip mall with an Office Max, a Walgreens and other shops.

St. Paul has moved into pole position

The debate over United's stadium shows no sign of going away and now pits St. Paul against Minneapolis – with St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman showing enthusiasm for the project that appears lacking in Minneapolis.

McGuire revealed earlier this year the team intends to privately finance a $150 million stadium by the Farmers' Market in downtown Minneapolis, but his request for relief on property and sales tax to help with the project has not been wholly welcomed in the city – hence the discussions with St. Paul.

In his column this week, the Star Tribune's Sid Hartman says St. Paul has moved into pole position to secure the stadium, and says Minneapolis will have to act quickly if it wants to bring the team to Minnesota's biggest city.

"Word is that MLS officials are going to meet or have already met with St. Paul politicians," he writes. "While they prefer Minneapolis and the farmers market location, they probably would go with St. Paul if the city can fund it. If Minneapolis wants the MLS franchise here, it better act in a hurry. St. Paul is not a pawn in this situation."

MPR says that a potential sticking point for McGuire is that despite the enthusiasm in St. Paul, it does not have the power to offer all of the tax breaks sought by the team – meaning it will still require some state approval.

MPR notes that St. Paul city leaders are expected to meet with United and Major League Soccer officials in late July or early August.

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