Taxpayer-funded stadium? Soccer booster won’t say ‘no’

There isn’t a pauper among the groups trying to bring Major League Soccer to Minnesota, but that’s never mattered before when it comes to public handouts for sports facilities.

Soccer is likely to join the “big leagues” of taxpayer financed facilities, the Star Tribune reports today.

Bill McGuire, the former United Health boss, is in the group that’s competing with the Wilf family — beneficiary of a public subsidiary, partly on the assumption that if an MLS franchise were to be awarded to the Twin Cities, it’d go in the new Vikings stadium.

“We’ll see when we confirm in our own minds the where’s and why’s of all of that,” McGuire said on the question of whether he’d seek public money for a separate soccer stadium in Minneapolis. “And depending, who knows? We haven’t asked [yet for public money]. I mean, there’s no formal ‘ask’ out there,” he said.

That’s not a “no”, which usually means a “yes” in the lingo of sports stadium efforts.

But McGuire confirmed he had spoken to Mike Opat, the Hennepin County board chair who is supporting McGuire’s soccer plans and said he prefers a soccer-only stadium near Target Field. Opat was instrumental in securing public money for the Twins ballpark. “Obviously, we’ve talked to him, and he knows our thinking about soccer,” McGuire said.

The high-stakes competition for an MLS team involving some of Minnesota’s wealthiest sports team owners has complicated a bidding process many initially thought the Vikings were well-positioned for. “It didn’t occur to us that there were going to be other folks trying to do the same thing,” said former Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, the lead House author on the Vikings stadium legislation in 2012 that gave the Wilfs exclusive rights to bring a MLS team to the facility. “I bet that hit the Wilfs by surprise.”

In addressing his group’s relatively low public profile, McGuire said this week that “participating in hypothetical debates in the media doesn’t enhance” his overall efforts. While he acknowledged that MLS’ timetable for awarding its next expansion franchise “obviously influences some of what we do,” McGuire was vague on when details of his plan would be made public. “I don’t know — I think when we decide that it is appropriate and feasible,” he said.

  • Gary F

    Let’s increase e-pull tabs! That should get us there!

  • John O.

    I’m a soccer fan, but I fear that the likelihood of an upcoming McGuire v. Wilf bout will result in mutual assured destruction of both efforts. I predict MLS will pass on an expansion franchise in MSP and go elsewhere. McGuire has a long and well-documented history with the former Minnesota Thunder side, so it’s clear former Rep. Lanning didn’t bother to do any homework on this in 2012. He was too busy listening to sweet nothings being whispered into his ear by the Wilfs and their flaks.

  • Brandon

    I generally look at his comments about public money as making sure nothing is taken off the table. If he were to say no public money now and ask for even a sidewalk later, the torches would be lit.

  • Chris Hatch

    The MLS is definitely the only pro sport I would consider going to on a regular basis, but how many stadiums do we need? and how much am I going to have to keep paying for them as a Hennepin Cty/Mpls resident? Enough already.

    Honestly the Vikings stadium will be way to big for an MLS team. The best stadium locally would be the Bank. It’s a great size for Soccer.

    • BJ

      except the bank is to narrow, only 68 yards wide. fifa international play on 75 yards wide. Vikings stadium design seems to only call for a 72 wide playing area with hardly any, 2-3 feet, sidelines (usually another 3 yards).

      • Dave

        I have an idea. Put a goal at each end of the TCF field, and play soccer.

        There. I just saved you $200m.

        • Connor

          Except he just explained why TCF is a poor choice, in the comment you are replying too even. It’s too narrow. Watching the games there was not an enjoyable experience since no one had the room they needed to play the game.

  • achuzzlewit

    Just out of curiosity, even leaving the money aspect aside for a moment….where would this stadium go exactly? Target Field was already shoe-horned into a tight spot.

    • mixo45

      There hasn’t been any official news on this but it’s been speculated (read: rumored) that it would probably be over in the Farmers Market area near Target Field. Again, there is nothing that currently confirms this though.

  • BJ

    First off asking for $400 million or $200 million or $40 million (last three stadiums) is all much higher than what anyone is suggesting McGuire may ask for. A good stadium for MLS run about $200 million (most expensive ones are in that range) most are well under that. I think, and I have no insider knowledge, that any ask would be in way of help in acquiring land near the farmers market (if in Minneapolis) or street and other infrastructure.

  • BJ

    One last note, no where in the article, besides the headline, does McGuire say ”
    United owner says public money might be needed” that statement is a click bait headline and is not equal to the quote give in the story of “And depending, who knows?”

  • MikeB

    This is reflective of a cultural problem, rich sports owners with their unhealthy and destructive dependence on government

    • jon

      It’s really our fault for allow a culture of dependency to flourish among those people.

  • Didier

    Minnesotans who have actually supported pro soccer for years hope for one of two outcomes:

    1. Minnesota United privately finances its own soccer-specific stadium downtown.
    2. Minnesota United remains in the NASL.

    What we don’t want is anything to do with the Vikings or the Vikings massive, indoor stadium.

    • BJ

      Agree. mostly, or maybe actually design the Vikings stadium for soccer (75 wide) have real grass and not limit who can be tenant (only wilfs can have MLS team in it).

  • Gary F

    Without tailgating and drinking, the Saints will not need their stadium very long.

    Wait a minute, that will not help a MSL franchise here. Because from what I can remember, is the only reason 50% of the people went to the Kicks games, was to drink and tailgate.

    • BJ

      Good thing you haven’t been to a recent professional soccer game in minnesota, like the Thunder, or Stars (now called United). Where we tailgate, drink AND care about soccer.

      • Gary F

        I was at the Bank for Man City last summer. If Man City is on tv Sunday mornings I watch.

        Been a Man City fan for years. I have friends who had connections with the previous Thai ownership group.

        • BJ

          I was there as well, what a miserable day (90+ with humidity). Did you stay for the Minnesota United game that followed, the goal by Rameriz was pretty cool.

          • Gary F

            Through most of the second game. We sat in the shade for the second game. The weather got us.

  • David P

    I’m also a soccer fan, and I would go see a team in town. I’ve never been to see United in Blaine. Not interested in heading up there. But there’s just no way that it makes sense to ding taxpayers yet again for this. Taxpayer funding for these things is always just-plain-stupid economics, but now we seem to have taxpayer owned or funded stadia all over the place. Saints, Xcel Center, Target Center, TCF Stadium, Target Field, whatever that is going up on the Metrodome site.
    I would LOVE for McGuire to assemble a bunch of his rich buds to build a modest stadium in Minneapolis or Saint Paul with NO taxpayer money. I’d go. I think having an MLS franchise play in the new Vikings stadium would be ridiculous – a terrible space mismatch, indoors in our fantastic MN summers, on turf. They should build a privately-financed, outdoor, soccer-specific stadium with capacity of 15-20,000 and design in the potential to expand if demand is there.

    • BJ

      >Not interested in heading up there.

      The NSC stadium in Blaine is easy to get to, less than 20 minutes North of MPLS on 65 if the lights go your way, and has free parking and great tailgate area. I suggest you come out.

  • kevinfromminneapolis

    I’m no longer an insider but my hunch is this will go about as far as I can kick a soccer ball, which is there’s a good chance I completely miss and it goes nowhere and I look stupid for trying.

  • Jack

    I voted no because as a Hennepin County taxpayer, I think I’ve paid for more than my fair share of stadiums already.