Many Midway-area residents have seen the pictures -- the artists' renderings showing a translucent, glowing soccer stadium where now sits only a long-vacant lot. And, indeed, the proposed plans for the old Bus Barn site and its surrounding 35-acre "Super block" near I-94 and Snelling Avenue -- mainly comprising a mostly worn-out-looking Midway Shopping Center -- were taken out and shown off once again.
But this community meeting, the third in a series of four to be held on what is pitched to become the home pitch of a new Major League Soccer franchise, featured lots of not-impressed questions for Mayor Chris Coleman and city officials. Such as: What are you going to do to keep fans from parking their cars in front of my house? Or, what are you going to do to ease the awful traffic congestion already in the area?
At this meeting, held Tuesday evening at Concordia University-St. Paul, some neighbors were not happy with the drawings and the plans. Or, rather, they were not happy with what they fear will come with them.
Tim Mangan, who said he has only one way off his block on Iglehart at Pascal and fears what the increased traffic from a nearby soccer stadium will mean for access to his home, said loudly: "You're going to shut down my only egress. Where are all those people going to go?"
Nan Fergen, who for 26 years has lived near Hamline University -- about a half mile north of the site -- said she struggles with students and others taking up all the spaces near her home. The city has put parking restrictions in place, she said, but has not required residential permit parking -- often leaving her shut out from parking near her own house.
"What are we supposed to do to get to and from our daily lives?" Fergen asked.
Sandy Vincent and her husband live a block north of the site, on Sherburne Avenue just west of Snelling. There, behind the popular Turf Club, their house has a one-car garage -- but they own three cars. "Twenty thousand people coming to these games? Where do you think they're going to go?"
Vincent said she plans to petition soon to require residential parking permits in the area.
To be sure, there were other questions and concerns. Area resident Tom Goldstein, a former school board member and a 2015 candidate for the city council, decried the lack of public input into the process and handed out fliers challenging what he called "corporate giveaways in St. Paul."
While Minnesota United and its principal owner, Bill McGuire, plan to build the $150 million stadium with private funding, the St. Paul City Council recently voted to spend more than $18 million to improve infrastructure around the stadium site. The city also is advocating for the team at the Legislature to preserve a property tax exemption for the stadium site, as well as an exemption from sales taxes on construction materials.
While Coleman was lauding the taxes that the extensive proposed associated development around the site will bring to the city once it goes up, Goldstein held signs of protest -- one of which read: "Want Soccer? Build More Parks, Not Stadiums."
Coleman assured residents that he hears their concerns and hopes an upcoming traffic study for the area will address some of their fears. The goal, he said, is a development that weaves into the fabric of the neighborhood and to which many fans come by bicycle, bus or train.
"We want this to blend in with the neighborhood," he said. "We don't want this to be a State Fair atmosphere."
Patty Thorsen, a downtown resident who is disabled and volunteered to be on the project's Citizens Advisory Committee, said she understands the complexity of issues -- and the wide range of concerns. For her, the big issue is whether planners will adequately take into account the capacity of public transit and whether the development will be sensitive to the many needs of those living in the neighborhood as well as those coming to games.
This process, which really only began in October when the team announced it would make its home in St. Paul, has been quite short, she said. Proponents hope to begin breaking ground toward the end of the summer.
"I think it's going to suffer for it," she said of the project's accelerated planning. "This has to last a long time. And it's not just about the stadium, it's about the whole area."