Excavators sit ready to work on the MNUFC Stadium. Photo by Brian Quarstad.

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Minnesota United Midway Stadium Construction Finally Begins But Two Acres Remain to Be Purchased

by on 16 June 2017

After months of delays, an early access agreement has been struck and a permit for soil remediation and excavation for Minnesota United’s Midway stadium has finally been granted. Even though earthwork is set to begin next week, there are still delays in acquiring the two acres needed at the north end of the stadium. FiftyFive.One has learned that it could be mid-August before that issue is resolved.

A permit was requested and granted this week to begin work on Minnesota United’s MLS stadium in the Midway of St. Paul, Minn. Heavy duty excavators moved onto the property and gravel was laid out at the four entrances to the bus barn site.

According to Paul Johnson with NTH, Inc, who is hired by the City of St. Paul to coordinate the infrastructure work at the 35-acre “superblock” site, work is expected to begin today or early next week.

“You’re going to see some select ground remediation in the next week,” said Johnson. He explained that environmental remediation will be the first activity, soon followed by excavation. The permit allows the contractor, Mortenson, to move forward with those items.

“For now, we are just focusing on the environmental portion of the plan,” he said, explaining that Mortenson has yet to request a permit for any footing and foundation work needed before actual stadium construction.

Everything in sync

According to Lee Krueger of the St. Paul Port Authority (SPPA), the team had to coordinate with the Met Council (who owns the bus barn property), Rick Birdoff (who owns Midway Center), and the City of St. Paul to allow early access to the site. This includes both the bus barn property and the southeast corner of the “superblock” owned by Birdoff. Krueger said that early access may seem like an easy ask, but contingencies must be met, such as a plan for restoring the property to its original state should the deal fall apart.

Minnesota United still cannot get permits for physical construction until it has control of all the property needed for its stadium plan… the hold up is a two-acre parcel now held by Birdoff at the north end of the proposed stadium.

Minnesota United still cannot get permits for physical construction until it has control of all the property needed for its stadium plan. As reported previously, the hold up is a two-acre parcel now held by Birdoff at the north end of the proposed stadium. This property is leased to SuperValu’s Rainbow Foods and numerous other tenants. Birdoff has a separate mortgage on that portion of his property and has investment partners who may be bogging down negotiations.

Birdoff previously told FiftyFive.One that he is making money on his Midway Center as things currently stand. He also explained that he is excited about the redevelopment of his property. However, it is possible that his investors may not share that same enthusiasm, nor would they profit from the move to redevelop.

The SPPA became involved when there were difficulties in finding a resolution. They created a master lease with Irgens, a developer based in Milwaukee. The goal is to help both the team and land owner work through the complicated land deals involving different tax parcels, mortgages, and leases.

The master lease was agreed upon by all parties but the loan approval has lagged for months. “The loan document is not the Port [Authority]’s, it’s not McGuire’s, it’s not the city’s, and it’s not the Met Council’s. It belongs to Rick Birdoff. So the delegation to get the letter of approval from the bank can’t really be done by anyone but him,” explained Krueger. “There are restrictions on the loan – things that we did that we thought we had met their criteria but we just haven’t got them to sign off on it yet. As is the case in many commercial loans, there are different prepayment penalties and prepayment prohibitions. So when you put it all together you just have to go through the process. And the lender is in control.”

“A timing issue”

In late May, FiftyFive.One asked team owner Dr. Bill McGuire about the delays in approval. He replied that he didn’t think it was “a problem as much as a timing issue.”

Mortenson Construction’s new St. Paul Midway office.

“It’s really just a matter of bringing all those things to bear – synchronizing this with the understanding that there are some mortgages on some of the properties and they have to be honored,” explained McGuire.

FiftyFive.One has learned through several sources with knowledge of the stadium and redevelopment of Midway Center, that the “timing issue” McGuire referred to could be referencing Aug. 20 — the date the loan on that parcel could be paid off early. In doing so, it would no longer need bank approval. Even if McGuire and his ownership group paid off the loan and took possession of the property on that date, they would still need to give the current tenants a 60-day notice before demolition could occur.

That timing may not actually slow down construction on the site, since there is still much work to be done in preparation. However, getting control over that two-acre parcel will be the last major obstacle to be crossed before stadium construction can go into high gear.

A tax exemption breakthrough

Last month, the Minnesota State Legislature passed tax exemptions for both stadium construction materials and property taxes. It was the third attempt in as many years to get legislative approval.

Mortenson Midway Office cubicles. Photo by Brian Quarstad

Meanwhile, there is more evidence of progress in stadium construction. Mortenson, the contractor for the venue, has opened an office adjacent to the site on Snelling Ave. at Shields Ave. Schematics of the stadium can be seen on the walls, with Minnesota United stickers on the office refrigerator.

Neither Mortenson Construction nor Minnesota United returned numerous calls inquiring about the early access to the site or the August 20 date.


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