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Soccer deal makes too much sense for Hodges

Soccer deal makes too much sense for Hodges Soccer deal makes too much sense for Hodges

CHS Field is the new ballpark for the Saints, the ballclub in the independent American Association. It is at the St. Paul end of the train line in Lowertown. I was there last Saturday to see the other tenant, Hamline, debut the stadium with a doubleheader against the Concordia Cobbers.

It is very nice. The youth are going to love the areas to stand and drink beer that circle the ballpark. The Saints are going to go back to being a hot ticket for the next several years.

The ballpark came with a pricetag of $63 million and there is $52 million in public money, between the state and the city of St. Paul.

Fair enough. St. Paul deserved at least a small taste when the state was coming up with its scores of millions to help finance the Taj Ma Zygi for the Vikings in downtown Minneapolis.

The state and the city of Minneapolis now have been handed a sweetheart deal to build a stadium and bring Major League Soccer to this town.

The MLS expansion franchise will take care of all interests when it comes to professional sports in this sport: NFL, NHL, NBA, American League baseball, minor league (unofficial) baseball and soccer.

Finally, after decades of promise, soccer has become a well-followed sport in this country. The MLS and soccer fans would much prefer to follow it in a smaller outdoor stadium built specifically for the game, than as a secondary tenant in a mammoth edifice with a fixed roof.

Bill McGuire saved pro soccer in these parts through buying the Minnesota Stars and turning them into Minnesota United FC. Then, he started investing in talent that has turned United into a power in the North American Soccer League, the second tier of America’s pro soccer.

The MLS was impressed with that commitment. The league also had to be impressed with McGuire’s partners: Glen Taylor, the Pohlad family and the Carlson family.

The McGuire group received the expansion franchise. And on Tuesday, they came to the State Capitol with what should be a layup for the politicians:

Waive the sales tax on construction materials (estimated $3 million), waive the property taxes, and the McGuire group will buy the land ($30 million) and build the 18,000-seat stadium ($120 million estimated).

The fact there is also a $100 million expansion fee doesn’t figure in the math. That’s always going to be the owners’ issue.

There are public landlords for all other pro facilities in the Twin Cities, and thus none of the teams pay property tax.

And now important politicians are going to decide that’s a big obstacle to a soccer stadium, while investing nearly a half-billion dollars in Zygi’s stadium, and allowing him to rip off the public for another $125 million in seat licenses, and get no property taxes from him?

You’re going to allow the public to pay 82.5% of the cost for a St. Paul ballpark for a pro team that’s not officially minor league, and you’re going to whine about waiving the property taxes for  a soccer stadium where the public (through not collecting sales tax on construction materials) would be covering 2 percent of the $150 million cost?

Betsy Hodges, the mayor of the city that would benefit from the revamping of a ramshackle area between Target Field and the Farmers Market, the mayor of the city that owns the nearby parking ramps that would do more business on dozens of extra days with the soccer stadium down the street, says she is opposed to it.

So, the Vikings have her honor as a trained puppy, too, apparently, as they do their lap dogs in the Legislature.

Somebody tell her that the bike racks outside a soccer stadium would be jam-packed on game days. That might change her mind. Or maybe logic will do so, eventually.

The McGuire group wants 2 percent, Mayor. Two percent.




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