New MN United Stadium – What You Need to Know
With the groundbreaking ceremony occurring this past Monday, December 12th, it seems most people still have an abundance of lingering questions surrounding the new Minnesota United Stadium. Not to mention with the wonderful cold days that are among us, it might be nice to think about a warm sport like soccer to take your mind off not being able to feel your feet.
On March 25, 2015, The Minnesota United, our state’s premier soccer club, heard news that they had been selected as an MLS expansion team, with plans to join the league starting the 2017 season. At the moment, they are members of the NASL (North American Soccer League), a US Second-tier soccer league.
The jump from NASL to MLS was headed by United majority owner Bill McGuire, with the backing of investors such as the Pohlad family, Wendy Carlson Nelson, and Glen Taylor. In order to secure a possible bid for an MLS expansion team, the key for the group was proposing that the team play in a new, larger stadium…but not U.S. Bank stadium.
The Wilf family, owners of the MN Vikings, also put in a bid for an MLS expansion team around the same time that McGuire’s crew got their proposal together. The ultimate difference maker that resulted in Bill McGuire winning the expansion, was that the Wilf’s were seeking an MLS team to be housed within U.S. Bank Stadium, and their opposition was willing to build a stand alone new stadium.
The National Sports Center in Blaine is the current home of the MN United, where they play in a stadium fixed to hold nearly 10,000 fans.
With the plans for the new stadium to hold around 21,500 fans, not only is the capacity for fans at games much higher, but it is also much more practical than the team playing in the 60,000 seat U.S. Bank stadium.
Estimates on costs are usually on the front end of discussions when stadiums are built, and this one is no different. The price tag that is estimated for the project is north of $150 million and will realistically end up closer to $200 million. With U.S. Bank stadium topping $1.1 billion in costs to build, you may be wondering; what can $200 million get you in regards to a brand new stadium.
It turns out, $200 million buys a futuristic, spaceship looking, stadium, that can change colors.
The more important question however is who will be paying for this $200 million stadium? While soccer may not be Minnesota’s favorite sport, the fact the ownership group of MN United has ponied up to privately finance the stadium, may just warm some people up to the idea of soccer here.
This will make the MN United the first professional sports team in the state to build a stadium without public financial assistance. Music to the resident’s ears.
Tax breaks on construction materials worth around $3 million are still up for debate, as well as property taxes had not been finalized as of yet. The most recent word on the street is that the ownership of the team will turn the stadium property over to the city after construction is complete, to avoid paying the monstrous taxes that would absolutely follow construction. The team would instead pay a rental fee on the property worth around $30 million over the next 50 years.
The development of the Snelling-Midway site has been split into two sections, each being headed by an individual development firm. The sections are referred to as the Site Plan and the Master Plan. I’ll run through the highlights and different purposes of each.
The Site Plan consists of the plot that the stadium and concourses will be held on. Kansas City based Populous is the developer chosen to head the Site Plan. With other stadium developments in their portfolio such as Target Field, TCF Bank Stadium, and the Xcel Energy Center, Populous is not only experienced with building stadiums, but they know how to build stadiums for Minnesotans.
Over the last few months of designing and planning, the Site Plan has remained fairly constant, and has been resistant to change. The stadium renderings in particular have kept their integrity and have remained unchanged.
The timeline for the Site Plan will not allow for the team to play their first MLS season inside of their new stadium, so they will instead make TCF Bank their home pitch for the 2017 season. Beginning in 2018 however, the stadium is expected to be completed, with the surrounding area looking similar to the rendering below.
A few of the current buildings on the RK Midway property will be razed in order to make room for the field, but by 2018, a vast majority of the property along University and Pascal will remain unchanged. This is when the Master Plan comes into play.
The Master Plan is is made up of the surrounding super-block along Pascal St. and University Ave. S9 Architecture, based out of New York, has been tasked with the further development of the immediate area surrounding the stadium. Up to this point, the Master Plan has drawn much more scrutiny and controversy than the Site Plan. At the center of the debate has been solving the parking problem.
While the original plans released by S9 showcased fantastic offices, hotels, residential units, and even a movie theater, what they did lack was parking.
Estimates have been made that nearly a third of fans will come to the game by utilizing the light rail and bus system, and another significant portion will arrive on bike or by foot.
The timeline between the Site Plan and the Master Plan is one of the major differences between the two, with the Mater Plan taking as long as 10 years for it to be fully complete. Below is a side by side plan for what will be seen in the near future on the right, and what the ultimate goal for the site on the left.
The rendering on the left still appears to lack parking on the surface, however underground parking is in the works, as well as the possibility of additional parking above the ground floor retail spaces.
One of the big worries among residents that has been raised at council meetings, is how they can be assured that the Master Plan will be followed through on. The planners and developers of the project have captured their audience by uttering the words “green space” and they can be assured that the residents of St. Paul will hold them to their word.
While the renderings released by S9 Architecture envision a sleek looking urban environment, it will remain to be seen what the final product becomes.
While a soccer stadium is the catalyst for the development of this site, property owners and developers alike are hoping that more than just this super block will flourish as a result of the stadium. Project leaders are looking to spur economic growth in a neighborhood that has come to lack much improvement over the last few years. Attempting to revitalize this area that has deep rooted history in the development of St. Paul and Minneapolis, is a commendable act, and one that we all hope can find success in the coming years.
Matt Michalski Jr.