On Wednesday afternoon, Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman spoke with a small group of media via conference call to recap the previous days visit from MLS President and Deputy Commissioner, Mark Abbott.
“We had a chance to show off,” said Coleman. The Saint Paul mayor said they showed Abbott demographics of the community with the number of people that have access to the facility and how many can get to CHS in a thirty minute drive. Then they toured the area, showing him not only CHS stadium but the areas around the stadium. Coleman said they “loaded themselves into a van” and drove through downtown St. Paul, up Summit Avenue and over to the new Vintage on Selby project at Snelling and Selby with market rate apartments and Whole Foods as the anchor tenant. From there they even ventured into Minneapolis to show him the new Surly Brewing building off of University Avenue.
“We wanted to give him a sense of how the whole corridor is being developed,” said Coleman.” Obviously he saw much of the new housing on University Avenue and we had a chance to show him the colleges and universities and where they are in relationship to the Midway site.”
The possible MLS stadium site in Saint Paul is within 2 miles of 4 colleges and universities where 13,000 undergraduates attend school. The site is also a 10 minute light rail ride to the University of Minnesota which has 30,000 undergraduates.
Coleman said they actually walked the site at Midway Shopping Center and bus barn site to talk about the redevelopment possibilities.
The Mayor said there were no decisions made but he believes the President of MLS saw and understood the opportunities that could be had in the area. “I think he understood why we are so enthusiastic about the possibilities of that site.”
Coleman stated that he is one hundred percent confident that the site will be redeveloped. He said the question is when it will be developed explaining it could be a ten to twenty year build-out or could possibly be done in the next three to five years. The Mayor pointed out that the property is owned by RK Midway and the Met Council and the city also has several easements over some of the parcels that gives them a role in how decisions will be made when moving forward.
The mayor may have also tipped his hand that United Properties development corporation, owned by the Pohlad’s, may also play a roll in redevelopment of the site. The Pohlad’s have become partners with Minnesota United team owner Bill McGuire for the MLS bound team. The Pohlad’s and United Properties are currently working on another project in Saint Paul. They will be redeveloping the property that the old Midway Stadium (retired home of the St. Paul Saints) sits on.
Coleman said that RK Midway is open to other development possibilities and stated there were “other developers” willing to work with RK Midway. He explained the he was confident that not only could they get the site redeveloped but that they could get a vision laid out to incorporate an MLS facility and do it in a way that enhances the rest of the property. He also felt that the stadium will not only have a positive effect on the 25 acre Midway Shopping Center site, but the whole University corridor.
When Coleman was asked if he had already agreed to giving Minnesota United tax breaks on the site he responded by saying he was in favor of it if the team officially asked for it, but it would still need to go to the city council, the legislature and the governor before anything like that can happen. He also said there were lots of areas that would need input on the matter, including the community.
A month ago when the Mayor held a similar press conference he stated that all the details did not have to be perfectly in place for MLS to be satisfied with the progress that Minnesota United owner McGuire and his ownership group where making towards a stadium. Coleman said then that “MLS needed a plan rather than a hope,” clearly referring to United’s plans to build a stadium in the Minneapolis West Loop that received no support from Mayor Betsy Hodges.
Asked if MLS now had a plan and if so what that plan was, Coleman paused. “I think we are getting a lot closer to a plan from the hope. With the Commissioner being able to walk the site yesterday and understanding where that stadium can go, I think it answers one of questions that the team had, which is would this be an acceptable location for MLS. I don’t want to speak for the Commissioner or MLS but having seen the site and all the things around it I think it’s clear that this would be not only a viable but a premier site for a facility and that includes the redevelopment opportunities,” said the Mayor.
Asked what the next step is, Coleman said he didn’t have a scheduled meeting yet but hoped to meet with the team in the next week and start planning on what needs to be done. He emphasized that these things are fluid and that he wanted to outline the things he can control and the things he cannot.
“I told the Commissioner and the team yesterday that there are two things I know for sure: If they want to move forward we can get a stadium built and if they do than it will be successful,” Coleman said.
Coleman said the city had already had some businesses interested in being on that site and those discussions have accelerated relative to discussions of an MLS facility.
“If you look at companies and the challenges they face in attracting talent, they want to be in a vibrant dynamic community. When you pair the accessibility of the site via transit and then start adding things like a soccer stadium, it becomes very attractive for a company that is trying to attract talent who are competing with companies across the country. I think the interest is now accelerated and I see a great location for corporate headquarters as well as mixed housing, retail and commercial site. It’s large enough that a lot can happen here,” said Coleman.
Coleman finished the press conference by saying this was not a Minneapolis versus Saint Paul issue. Instead it was about getting Major League Soccer into the Twin Cities and the State of Minnesota. “We aggressively pursued that when it looked as if there was no path forward in Minneapolis,” concluded the mayor.