The St. Paul city council voted 5-2 yesterday to approve $18.4 million in spending on infrastructure for a new Minnesota United soccer stadium, as was revealed last week would be the city’s price tag. United’s owners are now just awaiting state legislative approval of a full exemption from property taxes and construction sales taxes, and then they say they’ll begin construction.
So what exactly did the St. Paul council agree to? There are a whole lot of documents, but the most interesting one is the “playing and use agreement,” which is effectively the team’s lease. It says, in short:
- United gets all rights to the stadium and “appurtenant” areas. (Whoever wrote this document really likes the word “appurtenant.” As they should, because it’s an awesome word.)
- United will pay the city $556,623.96 a year in rent, which is the exact amount that the city will have to pay the regional Met Council in rent for its land.
- The city can use the stadium for high school sports and stuff, unless United doesn’t want to let it.
- United will be responsible for all operations, maintenance, and capital improvement costs to the stadium. The city gets to maintain the sewers, because that’s why they’re paid the big bucks.
This answers most of the remaining questions about the deal, and is mostly reassuring — you could argue that the city might have wanted to shop around to see if someone else would pay more for development rights to the land, but at least the public’s costs do seem to genuinely be capped at $18 million. Plus whatever the property tax and construction sales tax break would be worth, of course — previous estimates of the property tax break have put it at around $2.4 million a year, rising over time, which would come to around $54 million in present value, while the construction sales tax break would add about another $3 million.
So the final total public subsidy looks to be $93 million — on a stadium that will cost $150 million to build. Which just goes to show that there’s a big difference between mostly reassuring and all reassuring.