St. Paul appears to be the choice of Minnesota United team officials as the home for a new Major League Soccer team and stadium, sources told the Star Tribune Wednesday.
If the city’s proposed stadium site wins the approval of MLS officials, the $150 million venue — to be paid for by an ownership group led by Bill McGuire — would be built on a vacant and transit-friendly tract on Snelling Avenue between University Avenue and Interstate 94 in the Midway district.
Several sources with knowledge of the situation said an announcement could come this week. The sources declined to be publicly identified because they weren’t authorized to discuss the deal.
The team and MLS had no comment Wednesday.
The deal also is expected to include the establishment of a practice facility at the National Sports Center in Blaine, where the team now plays in a minor league capacity.
A Sports Center spokesman confirmed Wednesday that the center is talking with Minnesota United officials to become the team’s training facility.
An 18,000-seat soccer stadium in the heart of St. Paul would be a remarkable turnabout for the city, which originally was given little chance to land the facility.
St. Paul’s prospects got a series of boosts in recent weeks, starting with MLS Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott’s Aug. 12 visit to the 10-acre site once used by Metro Transit to store buses.
Last week, the St. Paul City Council approved a resolution backing a property tax exemption for the site if a privately built stadium rises there. The next day, Gov. Mark Dayton said he would support legislative action to enact the tax break.
Meanwhile, officials for the St. Paul Port Authority, an independent agency that often works with the city on development projects, confirmed a meeting with the Metropolitan Council, which owns the site, about a plan to lease it for the stadium and apply the proceeds to regional transit operations.
While McGuire had shown interest in locating an MLS franchise in St. Paul as far back as 2013, Minneapolis clearly was the preferred location of the ownership group — which includes the Pohlad family and Glen Taylor, owner of the Star Tribune — when the league awarded it a franchise in March.
The group had its eye on industrial property near the Farmers Market in the North Loop, not far from Target Field. The group asked Minneapolis to waive property taxes and sales taxes on construction materials, and sought legislative action.
But when a July 1 deadline set by MLS for a Minneapolis stadium plan passed without action by the city, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman invited the owners and the league to consider the Midway site. He cited its central location, the redevelopment potential of adjacent property and its accessibility by bus, train and bike as well as car.
Although Minneapolis set up a working group on soccer, and Hennepin County commissioners have offered a county-led financing plan to secure a stadium, efforts on the west side of the river had lost momentum.
Just this week, an option held by a team-affiliated developer to buy most of the Minneapolis property expired, with the land owner saying he had no intention of doing further business with the team.
Minnesota United currently plays in the North American Soccer League, the second tier of U.S. professional soccer below MLS. The team’s home is the National Sports Center, a sprawling, state-owned sports complex in Blaine, which typically draws under 10,000 fans per game.
“We have been in ongoing discussions with Minnesota United,” NSC spokesman Barclay Kruse said Wednesday. “We’ve made it clear from the beginning we support their city stadium bid … We are trying to make sure the team lives here as far as training. The team will be here five or six days a week.”
The training facilities, including fields and locker rooms, likely will be improved once a stadium deal is finalized, Kruse said.
Staff writers Rochelle Olson, Shannon Prather and Eric Roper contributed to this story.
Kevin Duchschere • 651-925-5035