After years of planning and construction, Allianz Field in St. Paul is nearing completion — but negotiations with local leaders, residents and business owners are far from over.
City Council members and neighborhood leaders are calling on Minnesota United to pay into a "community benefits fund" to support the people who live and work near the stadium. Though there are few details at this point, officials say whatever the fund pays for — whether it's public art, facade improvements for small businesses or cleanup after major events — will be based on what residents want.
More than 50 people attended a meeting about the fund on Wednesday evening at Midpointe Event Center, located in the shadow of the stadium.
"We are all here in this room because we love our city, we love our community, and we love the Midway and we love the people who make up this whole area we call home," said Council Member Mitra Jalali Nelson, whose ward is adjacent to the stadium. "Even as things change and as we are seeing our community evolve, us coming back together like this helps us be clear about what we want."
How much money will go into the fund, and how that money will be used, has yet to be decided. In other cities, community benefits funds have paid for affordable housing developments and scholarship programs. Council Member Dai Thao, whose ward includes the stadium, said he wants the fund to provide jobs for young people.
A Minnesota United spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.
When the City Council approved the stadium in 2016, council members floated the idea of a fund to address issues that might arise. In a resolution, the council called for a task force to be created to figure out the details of the community fund, including who will contribute and oversee it.
The task force, which includes representatives from the neighborhoods surrounding the stadium, started meeting over the summer. The group aims to submit a proposal to Minnesota United in January, said Hamline-Midway Coalition Secretary Mike Reynolds, who serves on the task force.
Wednesday's meeting was the first chance for community members to share their ideas.
Wes Burdine, a Hamline-Midway resident who recently opened The Black Hart of St. Paul on University Avenue, said he'd like to see the fund incentivize small businesses to fill empty storefronts.
"This is a great opportunity to really think about how this neighborhood can change for the good," he said.
The goal is to create a resource the community can draw from long after the stadium opens, said task force member Megan Conley.
"Whatever issues or whatever challenges we may face in the first two or three years are going to be different from year 12 or 13," she said. "A community fund with a long-term perspective is really what we're looking at."
To complete an online survey about the community benefits fund, visit bit.ly/2r6kF9I.
Emma Nelson • 612-673-4509