Residents decry stadium plans

At a public meeting last week, St. Paul citizens questioned a planned $120M soccer complex.

by Taya Banjac

In St. Paul, plans for a new Major League Soccer stadium have stirred concerns in residents.
The city secured a bid for Minnesota United FC’s new stadium in October, but as plans for development of the area edge forward, neighborhood residents voiced concerns at a public meeting at Concordia University Tuesday.
St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and Rep. Rena Moran, DFL-St. Paul, hosted the event to discuss plans for the nearly 12-block site between Snelling Avenue and Pascal Street North.
Coleman said at the meeting the new stadium will make St. Paul and Minnesota more inclusive. 
“The stadium will bring the world’s game to St. Paul and to the state of Minnesota,” Coleman said.
Moran called the stadium and accompanying redevelopment a “win-win” for the city.
“This stadium, I believe, is going to really spur private development to come in and really clean up that whole area,” she said, adding the redevelopment will be worth its cost in construction time.
But traffic, noise, parking and the effect on birds were among concerns raised by Hamline Midway residents, who said they feel as though they are a last consideration in soccer stadium conversations.
Redevelopment plans would demolish the site’s Midway Shopping Center to build affordable housing, office and retail space, theaters, hotels, fitness centers and grassy areas.
Nan Fergen, who lives a block from Snelling Avenue, said the Green Line and other construction projects have stymied area traffic for years, and the stadium would only worsen it.
“This is going to take several summers or years, and then once it’s done, we’re going to have all this influx,” Fergen said. “I just don’t think they’ve given any thought to the people who live here.” 
At the meeting, Coleman said parking and transportation studies for the area aren’t done, but the city wants as many people as possible to get to games via public transportation.
United owner Bill McGuire said businesses planned for near the stadium will give fans reason to arrive and leave gradually, which could ease traffic.
The estimated $120 million, 20,000-seat stadium will be fully funded by the team and completed in 2018. The team agreed with the city of St. Paul to pay for building maintenance, security and vendor outreach.
On March 2, the St. Paul City Council voted to give $18.4 million for public streets and sidewalks, plazas, water and parking near the stadium.
Neighborhood Resident Tom Goldstein said this project would not create new jobs beyond the construction phase except for minimum wage vendor jobs.
“There has been 30 years of stadiums. We’ve poured a fortune into stadiums … and the local development from that has been minuscule,” Goldstein said.
A bill submitted in the State Senate Thursday asked the state to exempt the stadium from property tax and its construction materials from sales tax, and it requested a liquor license for the venue.
Moran said Minnesota hasn’t collected property taxes from the barren lot — known as the “bus barn” — in almost 30 years.
“It’s a really simple ask that doesn’t take anything from the state to invest in this initiative,” she said.
Despite their concerns, Coleman urged residents that their city needs to take advantage of this opportunity.
“To take a piece of land that … looks like a bombed-out third world country and turn it into a vibrant place and help spur the development on the north side is what we as a city owe ourselves to do,” he said.
The City Council will review and vote on the site plan and master plan for the area by mid-summer.