After more than 20 years, Minnesota soccer is finally coming into the Twin Cities fold.
At a press conference held today, Friday, October 23, at the Midpointe Event Center in St. Paul, Minnesota United FC team owner Bill McGuire and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman announced that Minnesota’s professional soccer team is getting a new stadium, to be built at the former Metro Transit “bus barn” off University and Snelling avenues. “Soccer is the world’s game and it belongs in Minnesota, in St. Paul, and on this Midway site,” Coleman said. “We’re so excited to bring it here.”
The announcement comes after months of debate over where a new stadium would be built in the Twin Cities. (The team currently plays at the National Sports Center in Blaine.)
Minnesota United was awarded an expansion spot in Major League Soccer, the nation’s premier pro soccer league, on March 25. They currently compete in the second-tier North American Soccer League.
The offer from MLS came with the stipulation that a new professional stadium be built for the team. The first location discussed was in Minneapolis’ North Loop neighborhood. But when that effort went nowhere, rejected by Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges and city residents sick of stadium tax talks due to the new Vikings stadium, MLS turned its attention to St. Paul.
The chosen St. Paul location once held Metro Transit’s bus storage facility, which was torn down in 2002, and is located in the Midway neighborhood, in Ward 1. Dai Thai, city councilman for the Ward, said the stadium will bring economic opportunity for residents of the area, who are “hardworking, creative, union workers. There’s still a lot of work ahead,” he continued, “but we’re optimistic about this opportunity to define the future of this region for those who live, work, and play here. “Let’s get this done.”
Construction on the $250 million stadium is projected to begin in May 2016, with the hopes of completion by the 2018 season. It’s being paid for by MLS.
Asked about the location, McGuire said the decision was three-fold: it’s centrally located between Minneapolis and St. Paul, has great public transportation access (Green Line, current and in-progress bike trails, bus lines, and the freeway), it’s large enough for expansion possibilities. Currently, the space is nothing more than 10 acres of empty asphalt. MLS Commissioner Don Garber gave his blessing to build a soccer stadium on the property in September.
Professional soccer has been a part of the Minnesota sports scene since 1976, first with the Minnesota Kicks, then Minnesota Thunder, Minnesota Stars, and, finally, Minnesota United FC.
The team plans to start competing in the MLS once the stadium is complete.