Taxpayers may be asked to build soccer stadium

In December, Bill McGuire, the former United Health boss, who is in the group that’s competing with the Wilf family for a Major League Soccer franchise in Minneapolis, wouldn’t say whether he’d seek taxpayer help for a soccer stadium.

“And depending, who knows? We haven’t asked [yet for public money]. I mean, there’s no formal ‘ask’ out there,” he said when asked by the Star Tribune.

As I wrote at the time, the lack of a “no” probably means “yes”.

The Star Tribune reports today that McGuire met with Senate boss Tom Bakk in February, looking for $150 million who told McGuire there’s no stomach for a taxpayer assist. The Strib said McGuire is “taking the temperature” of public officials on their involvement with the $150 million stadium.

The meeting happened after Bakk called the MLS commissioner to point out that the taxpayers have already ponied up for a new soccer stadium — the one in which the Minnesota Vikings will play football. When it was being sold to “the people”, officials noted it could also be used for an MLS franchise being sought by McGuire’s competitor.

The meeting with the highest-ranking DFLer in the Legislature came amid new signs that McGuire, who already owns the lower-level Minnesota United FC team, is emboldened as he privately takes the temperature of a range of public officials to help finance the project. Only last week Minnesota Twins president David St. Peter, representing the project, discussed a soccer stadium with Minneapolis City Council President Barb Johnson, who has already voiced concerns about building another stadium in the city.

In an interview Thursday, Bakk said he told Garber that he did not want a repeat of what MLS is facing in Miami, where the league wants to locate a team but does not have support from public officials to build a stadium. “They still haven’t been able to figure out how to get the stadium built, and I don’t want to put the league in that situation again in Minnesota,” Bakk said.

McGuire has kept his stadium maneuvering out of the public eye, and had little comment when reached Wednesday. “I don’t have anything to say about that,” he said. “I’m working on other things.”

Bakk also suggested McGuire and Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor — the 782nd-richest person on the planet (for whom taxpayers are spending $50 million for the Target Center renovation) — have the means to build their own stadium.

But stadium proposals have a hard time dying.

The Star Tribune says McGuire’s attempt to get public help for another stadium may be gaining traction, and the MLS may be delaying awarding the city a franchise until it finds out how it works out.

The MLS reportedly would rather have a soccer-only, outdoor stadium.

For sure, this is all speculation. But that’s invited when the ownership group doesn’t rule out public subsidies in some form for another stadium in the city.

Related: Soccer stadium subsidy? United owner says public money might be needed (Star Tribune).

Game Changer – United isn’t saying, but they’re saying MLS (MLS4MN).

Investors eye site near Mpls. Farmers Market for MLS soccer stadium (Minnesota Public Radio News).

  • Jeff

    World’s smallest violin.

  • Leo Eris

    There is no problem here.

  • BJ

    Oh, my gawd. Bob I love you, but you are wrong. No one has asked for $150 million.

    • Yes, fixed this reference.

      • BJ

        Thanks.

      • uhclem

        Drawing a single line through the phrase so that is still readable does not mean it is “fixed”. Many online authors, commentators and posters use this device as a form of air quotes; a way to communicate the subtext “This is what the facts are, but I cannot back this up with anything but my suspicions”. Now, whether you are using the device in this manner IS speculation on my part. But until you either confirm or deny it, I guess “all speculation…is warranted”.

        • You don’t understand the conventions of blogging. You use “strike” to indicate a mistake corrected, rather than eliminate it and pretend there wasn’t a mistake earlier.

          It’s common practice that is an example of transparency unique to blogging. It’s how I’ ve done it for more than 7 years and I’m not going to stop now.

          That’s a fact. If some people misuse the tag, that’s their problem, not mine.

          • uhclem

            So, you deny using the single line in that manner. Okay, I’ll accept your word on that. But the device is vulnerable to abuse, and that does become a problem for you. Your “convention of blogging” isn’t a law or set in stone. The fact that other internet writers are commonly using it in the way I described leaves your use unclear without the clarification. Perhaps using the word “withdrawn” in parentheses immediately after the stricken phrase would help to enhance the clarity.

            As for your claim that it is a fact, can you post a reference link on that?

  • Matthew Becker

    **nitpicking alert** It’s just “MLS,” not “the MLS.” **nitcpicking alert**

    And the public money debate aside, the vast majority of MSP soccer fans also would prefer an outdoor, soccer-specific stadium for an MSP MLS franchise.

    • Right. But as you point out, that’s a different, separate issue.

  • Ben

    They could call the team Hennepin United, maybe add the word County in there for English style, and swing some deal similar to the one the Twins got.

    I agree with the nitpicking comment, nobody would ever say “the MLB” when referring to Major League Baseball, unless you’d never heard of Major League Baseball.

  • Gary F

    If we don’t build it for them will they leave for Los Angles?

    • BJ

      Los Angles has 4 professional Soccer teams. With 1 new one getting added to Major League Soccer in 2018, for 5.

      • Jeff

        Would it be cheaper to export fans to LA?

        • BJ

          Except I’m a fan of this team, not the ones in LA.

  • bob

    bob

    “But stadium proposals have a hard time dying.”

    Maybe the focus should be team owners ?

  • uhclem

    I’m sorry, Bob, but I find your commentary not very helpful in furthering this discussion in a productive manner.

    It appears to me that you let your dogmatic biases bulldoze over the issues involved. And your intermingling of your opinion with “facts” which aren’t always facts. “The lack of ‘no’ probably means ‘yes'” isn’t fact. The fact is that you don’t know what it means. You weren’t at the meeting you mention. Nor have you been told what transpired by anyone who was there. Yet, your statement bears no indication that it is pure speculation on your part. At most, “the lack of no” indicates “maybe”.

    Then, in your responses to comments left, you repeatedly state that studies prove that sports stadiums produce no economic benefits for the public at large. The reality is there are a variety of studies that come to all sorts of conclusions; positive, negative and mixed. The main variables are what kind of investment were made, where it was made and what the terms between the government and the tenants of said stadium were.

    And as far as infrastructure, when attempting to build a large facility of almost any kind, it is necessary for private parties and government to work together. Whether it is a factory, a mall or a stadium, they will have a need for infrastructure adaptations that other, smaller structures might not need. Some of these needs can benefit the public as a whole. In the case of the stadium, road alterations could ease traffic congestion. It is reasonable for a government to alter infrastructure to enhance economic development and to spend public money to do so. How much? Depends on the situation.

    I’ll state that I would prefer that the stadium, itself, be privately financed. As to ancillary costs, I’ll wait to see the proposals before I venture an opinion.

    And to condemn the project without knowing what’s involved seems unfair to me.

    As to the question of the people not getting to approve or disapprove a deal or project, well, that one of the disadvantages of representative democracy. Sometimes the officials elected do things you or I disagree with. If you are dissatisfied with their actions, work to vote them out.

    But I am curious, just where is the line as to how much should be put in front of us to decide on. I’m sure you don’t want us to directly vote on the salary of every government employee. Where, in your opinion is the monetary line to be drawn? At what figure should an expenditure be put directly to the ballot?

    All in all, I say, “Check the deal first, then come to a decision to approve or disapprove.”