Every city in the U.S. still thinks it can get an MLS franchise, and you know what that means

Sacramento Republic FC has chosen a designer for a new soccer stadium if it makes it to MLS (not that it doesn’t already have design renderings — hope you know how to design magical purple glowing radio towers, HNTB!), and the mayor of San Antonio is looking to help bring an MLS team to an expanded stadium in her city even as the local NASL owner is selling his franchise, and some developers in Las Vegas want to convert the 51’s minor-league baseball stadium for an MLS team, and…

…you know what? I’m going to go watch some baseball at the place with the free tickets. If there’s any important stadium news the rest of this week I’ll check in. If it’s just more MLS expansion teams, it can wait till next week.

Meanwhile, enjoy your vaportecture porn:


St. Paul to vote on giving United tax break, because property taxes on vacant land are magic

Is this Minneapolis vs. St. Paul war over Minnesota United on, or what? The St. Paul city council is expected next week to vote on a resolution asking the state legislature to approve a full property tax exemption for a stadium site in St. Paul, in the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s words, “so long as the owners build it with their own money.” (This would be totally different from requiring United to pay property taxes like everyone else, but giving them an equal amount of cash for a share of construction costs, because … well, just because, okay?)

Then there’s this pair of sentences from the Strib:

Mayor Chris Coleman has said he would support a tax break for the proposed 10-acre stadium site, since it hasn’t paid property taxes for more than half a century….

Some believe that the city should stick with plans for an urban village on the site that would include housing, commercial space and parkland.

So it’s been vacant for more than half a century, and clearly it will never get developed, except for the plan to develop it that would now be set aside for a stadium. Got it! You said “free money,” that’s all I heard!


Latest Minnesota United plan would take money from libraries, do end run around mayor on property tax breaks

More details are in on two Hennepin County commissioners’ plans to help Minnesota United build a new stadium in Minneapolis, and it looks like they’re offering more than just some future sales tax money, as was reported yesterday. Rather, Mike Opat and Peter McLaughlin are looking to siphon off sales tax money currently going to such things as libraries and youth sports, while doing an end run around Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges on exempting the stadium from property taxes.

The sales tax money first. As the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports:

Opat and McLaughlin’s plan would add United’s stadium to the 0.15 percent countywide sales tax that helped build Target Field. Under that legislation, sales tax proceeds were limited to five projects: retiring the bond debt, additional library hours, youth sports activities, operating the Ballpark Authority and capital expenditures around the park.

The soccer stadium would be added to this list, as well as youth sports spending in Hennepin County suburbs.

That’s nice that they want to increase youth sports spending for the suburbs, but it’s important to note that adding items to the list of things funded by the sales tax surcharge doesn’t actually create any more sales tax revenue. Yes, sales tax revenue is currently coming in faster than expected, but adding more items to be paid for out of that fund inevitably means either 1) the tax will have to be continued for longer than it would be otherwise, taking more money out of taxpayers’ pockets, or 2) spending on other items on the list will have to be reduced. The Target Field bond debt has to be paid off one way or another, so that leaves only library hours, youth sports, and Ballpark Authority operations on the chopping block — your guess which one will end up drawing the short straw.

As for the property-tax break, that’s even more devious:

The deal would solve one major problem for United, which wants to be free of property taxes. Under Opat’s plan, the team would buy the site — for $30 million, according to the team — and give it to the Ballpark Authority.

“They would operate it, we would own it,” Opat said.

Mayor Hodges has refused to have the city take ownership of the stadium land, since that would exempt it from the property tax rolls — but the county is likewise tax-exempt, so it could get United its tax break just by agreeing to take on the land itself, thus cutting Hodges out of the loop.

What all this would cost the public is up in the air, since Opat and McLaughlin haven’t said how much sales tax money would go to United. And it’s all still in the spitballing stages — the sales tax change would need approval of the state legislature, and this hasn’t even gotten a hearing from the full county commission yet. Still, it looks even more clear that United is trying to repeat the magic that its co-owners scored with Hennepin County nine years ago, when that body agreed to throw public cash at a new Twins stadium when neither the state nor city would. As I always like to point out, in the stadium-demand game, you only have to put up one win, and you’re good forever — or at least, for the couple of decades before it’s time to demand a new stadium.

Hennepin County officials on United’s St. Paul footsie: How about some sales tax money? You like that, right?

Remember how when the Minnesota Twins owners wanted public money for a new stadium and the city of Minneapolis wouldn’t give it to them, and the state of Minnesota wouldn’t give it to them, they finally found a willing partner in Hennepin County, which agreed to raise its own sales taxes to fund the project? Looks like Minnesota United, which is co-owned by the Twins owners, may be headed down a similar path:

[Hennepin County Commissioner Mike Opat] said Hennepin County’s soccer plan would seek to snare some of the 0.15 percent countywide sales tax collected to pay for Target Field. Bonds for the baseball park, which opened in 2010, are on track to be paid off about a decade early.

Opat envisions the money being used for enhancements like streetscapes or plazas surrounding a new soccer stadium on a site near the Minneapolis Farmers Market.

So instead of retiring the sales tax surcharge early, or directing it to something that would actually benefit Minnesota taxpayers instead of a private sports team, Opat is hoping to use it as a sweetener to get United principal owner Bill McGuire to place its stadium in Minneapolis instead of across the river in St. Paul. It’s not clear how much money this would amount to, and it would require not just a vote of the full county commission but approval by the state legislature as well, and it still doesn’t resolve the standoff between the team owners and Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges over around $45 million in tax breaks for a soccer stadium. But it’s still a pretty sweet payoff for a couple of league press statements hinting that St. Paul might be an option. You have to hope that MLS commissioner Don Garber will get something extra nice in his Christmas card from McGuire this year.

St. Paul considering tax breaks and/or TIF kickbacks for MLS stadium, total cost nobody knows

The Minneapolis Star Tribune has a big story today on contention over plans for a Minnesota United stadium in St. Paul, and it sheds a smidge more light on what the public expense could be for such a project:

  • St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman has suggested that the city-owned portion of the site could be offered to United tax-free.
  • City staffers have also itemized other possible subsidies that could include a sales-tax exemption (this would presumably require state approval) or a tax increment financing district to kick back property taxes from the project (or from surrounding parcels?) to pay for needed infrastructure.

That infrastructure piece is going to be key, as the site needs a fair bit of prep work to make it ready for development: A study last year concluded that, in the Star Trib’s words, “the cost of streets, parking and landscaping for an urban village would outstrip the site’s property value, making it risky for developers.” Minnesota United owner Bill McGuire still hasn’t said squat about what he wants out of the deal: Also up in the air is whether he’d pay for the land, and if so how much, with city officials having indicated they could “assemble” the part privately owned parcel for the project, but not what if anything they’d get paid for it once assembled.

It’s possible we’ll know more after today, when MLS deputy commissioner Mark Abbott will meet with Coleman to discuss the site, or tonight, when there will be a public forum at Midpointe Event Center about community concerns about any stadium project on the site. (As one community activist told the Star Trib of the land involved, “It’s way too important a parcel to be wasted on grass, period.”) Given that the former will be behind closed doors and the latter won’t involve anyone with any inside info, though, probably best not to hold your breath.

MLS commissioner decides “intrigued” is properly enthusiastic yet noncommittal word for St. Paul stadium

Sometimes I like to picture the offices of sports league commissioners, and alongside what I assume are the usual office accoutrements (a money printing press, the mounted heads of city officials and labor lawyers defeated in battle), I figure there must be a hefty thesaurus. Why? For times when it’s the job of a commissioner to express just enough enthusiasm for a stadium project to keep local boosters on the hook, but not so much that you’re actually committing to anything. Like, here’s MLS commissioner Don Garber, talking to the Associated Press last week about a new stadium for Minnesota United:

“We’ve now become intrigued by a possibility of having a stadium be in St. Paul,” Garber said.

Intrigued. You have to figure Garber thought, “‘Excited’? No, that’s way too positive. ‘Interested’? Too blah. Wait, ‘intrigued’! That has the perfect blend of ‘I’m not promising anything, but keep talking.’ Yeah, that’ll do nicely, and won’t hamstring me if I decide after all that the team should play in Minneapolis or Sacramento or Kuala Lumpur.”

Garber also said of David Beckham’s proposed Miami MLS stadium, “We believe Miami will be a great MLS market and we look forward to bringing the whole project across the finish line.” Which is pretty much a long-winded way of saying “intrigued,” but it’s bad form to repeat yourself, so cut the man some slack.

None of this actually means anything in terms of where either the Minnesota or Miami teams will end up playing, in case you were wondering. For that, await some real news involving actual money.

Miami’s deal with Marlins gives Loria right to dictate terms for Beckham’s soccer stadium

So it turns out there are some problems with the Miami soccer stadium site next to Marlins Park, beyond any possible need for public subsidies and evicting old people from their homes. And, surprise, surprise, these stem from the horrible Marlins stadium deal, which keeps on being horrible. As uncovered this week by Miami Today’s Michael Lewis:

  • A soccer team in a stadium next door to the Marlins facility wouldn’t be allowed to sell naming rights until the Marlins had done so first. And Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria hasn’t sold naming rights to his building yet because it is a monument to waste with a hideous sculpture and gets rain delays despite a costly retractable roof.
  • If allowed to sell naming rights, the soccer team wouldn’t be allowed to conflict with the Marlins’ sponsor — so, no two competing banks or airlines or what have you.
  • “No soccer exterior ads may conflict with a major Marlins sponsor. But if soccer sells an exterior ad that doesn’t conflict, the Marlins can then sign a conflicting sponsor and the soccer sponsor can’t renew.”
  • Neither soccer games nor soccer stadium construction can take place before, during, or after Marlins games, and the Marlins can set their own schedule as they see fit. And can change it at will, and the soccer team has to lump it.

Clearly, somebody in the Marlins’ lease-writing division was thinking ahead to having a soccer team as a neighbor, and the city and county lease negotiators decided to sign off on whatever the baseball team wanted. Which should come as no surprise, since it’s pretty much what they did with the entire stadium deal, but it’s going to create some headaches for David Beckham’s stadium plans. One can only hope that Miami isn’t asked to kick in public money to make up for some of these obstacles, but I wouldn’t hope too hard, given Miami’s track record here.

DeKalb County subsidies for Atlanta MLS practice field could be worth as much as whole practice field

The Atlanta United FC MLS team struck a deal last week to build a practice facility in DeKalb County (that’s the other county that part of Atlanta is in, along with Fulton), and yawn, soccer practice facility, right? Except that today the indefatigable Atlanta Journal Constitution has dug up how much money and tax breaks the county would be providing for the project, and yowza:

  • The county would provide $12 million to United owner Arthur Blank for new parks department offices and demolition and land preparation.
  • The county would provide 41 acres of government-owned land for free.
  • The whole thing would be property-tax free.
  • The county would “” a pedestrian walkway to the nearby MARTA transit station.

Okay, that’s still not a huge amount as these things go — I don’t know how much property taxes would be (and the AJC doesn’t say) or how much a pedestrian walkway costs, but counting the cash, total maybe $20-30 million tops? How much is the practice facility going to cost, anyway?


On the bright side, the county would get a whole 15% of any naming-rights fees for the complex (which will include a 3,500-seat grandstand, because everybody wants to watch MLS players practice, right?), plus the county can use it when United doesn’t have dibs, which given that the MLS season runs March through November is likely to be not very often. And to think that some county commissioners aren’t convinced this is a great thing! Freakin’ NIMBYs.

Minneapolis pol proposes breaking deadlock over giving United public money by giving them more public money

Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin has an idea for how to break the deadlock over giving Minnesota United $45 million in property tax exemptions for a new stadium: The state ballpark authority could buy the stadium from the team, thus taking it off the property tax rolls, and also the county could redirect sales tax money to infrastructure improvements once it’s done paying off the Twins stadium with it — hey, wait, that’s even more public subsidies! You’re going in the wrong direction, Peter! Don’t you know anything about deadlocks? Yeesh.

Best part of this article, meanwhile, remains the disclosure at the end: “McGuire’s investment partners include Glen Taylor, who owns the Star Tribune.” Not that I think this explains the paper’s failure to point out that McLaughlin’s idea doesn’t make any sense (or at least doesn’t actually solve the objections to the original United plan), but it certainly can’t help.

Minnesota United owner wants $40m worth of St. Paul land for “stadium, office, retail, housing, etc.”

I’m going to forgive Andy Greder of the St. Paul Pioneer Press for implying that I compared St. Paul with Harrison, New Jersey — I brought up Harrison as an example of a place where development is happening as much in spite of a new soccer stadium as because of it, but it’s a very different place than St. Paul — because he also reported this tidbit about Minnesota United‘s stadium demands:

Minnesota United FC would need less than 10 acres to build a stadium in St. Paul for Major League Soccer, but city emails in June show team owner Bill McGuire saying an adjacent 25 acres “now is essential.”

“Concept would involve the stadium, office, retail, housing, hospitality, etc.,” wrote McGuire, who also inquired about the possibility of city or state government offices moving into the proposed spaces.


If I’m reading this map correctly, the adjacent 17.75-acre parcel is valued at about $20 million, so for 25 acres we’d be talking about $28 million in land value, or almost $40 million when counting the 10-acre stadium site. McGuire didn’t quite come out and say he wants this land for free, but then, he hasn’t really said anything about financial details of a St. Paul stadium. You know he’s going to ask for something, because he says he can’t make money without subsidies after paying a $100 million expansion team fee. “I spent all my money, can I have some more?” doesn’t work for my 12-year-old, but I guess no one ever taught McGuire that lesson.