St. Paul soccer stadium talks get serious after joint agreement is OKed

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The planning for a new professional soccer stadium to be built in St. Paul has reached a new level, after three public entities all agreed Wednesday to formally pursue the idea.

The city of St. Paul, the St. Paul Port Authority and the Metropolitan Council have all signed off on a "joint powers agreement" which says they'll work together on a long-term lease for the land they have in mind for the stadium, the Star Tribune reports.

The 10-acre vacant lot in St. Paul’s Midway neighborhood, at I-94 and Snelling Avenue, is owned by the Metropolitan Council, which operated a Metro Transit garage there for decades until shutting it down in 2002.

The owners of the Minnesota United, which currently plays in the second-tier North American Soccer League, have said they will pay for construction of the 19,000-seat stadium at an estimated cost of $150 million.

But they want the Legislature to approve a sales tax exemption for the purchase of construction equipment and materials to build the stadium.

According to the Star Tribune, the three parties are looking at an arrangement that would keep the Met Council as the owner of the site so it would remain public property and would be kept off the property tax rolls. The state would need to sign off on that, as well.

Team owner Bill McGuire and the MLS would both need to approve the land deal, and the Star Tribune notes the league may not act for several months.

But St. Paul's efforts got a big boost last month when MLS Commissioner Don Garber said he favored the St. Paul site for the new stadium.

When the new franchise was awarded to Minnesota in March, McGuire talked about building a new stadium in downtown Minneapolis, near Target Field and Target Center.

But Mayor Betsy Hodges and other top city leaders balked at some of the public expense that might be involved, and the Legislature failed to act on the team's request for a tax break by the deadline of July 1.

St. Paul saw the opening and has been aggressively pursuing the team ever since.

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman announced Wednesday the city is creating a 20-person citizen advisory committee that will provide input on the design of the stadium and the related development that may occur in the neighborhood, according to KSTP.

Applications for the committee are being accepted now, and the panel will begin meeting in December, the Star Tribune reports.

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