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Neighborhoods First! Opposes a Soccer Stadium on University and Snelling Avenues

Neighborhoods First! Opposes a Soccer Stadium on University and Snelling Avenues

The City of St. Paul and Mayor Coleman are moving fast to facilitate the development of the 10 acre former bus barn site, belonging to Metropolitan Council, by the owners of Minnesota United, a Major League Soccer team. The 18,500-seat stadium would be located on the northeast corner of St. Anthony Avenue and Snelling in St. Paul. Neighborhoods First! opposes this location for the following reasons.

1. Increased traffic congestion costs lives. One of the Twin Cities busiest intersections, University and Snelling Avenues, is located within 500 yards of the proposed site. The stadium’s contribution of game-day traffic to a series of already poorly managed intersections adds to the stress of local daily commuters. An even more serious concern is the pollution that goes with this additional traffic.

A recent study by the Minnesota Department of Health and the Pollution Control Agency, “Life and breath: How air pollution affects public health in the Twin Cities”, indicates that the highest concentration of particulate matter in the Twin Cities is found in the urban core, primarily a result of traffic density. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that children, older adults, people with preexisting cardiopulmonary disease, and people of low socio-economic status are among those at higher risk for health impacts from air pollution near roadways. The Snelling – University area is home to the most vulnerable of populations and is already one of the locations with the highest air pollution levels.

2. Stadiums do not build vibrant communities. Stadiums import visitors who arrive for a 3-hour game and then leave, usually spending minimal time and money at local businesses.

Neil deMause, co-author of “Field of Schemes: How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Money into Private Profit,” said the belief that stadiums generate further private development is false.”At this point, the evidence is unequivocal that stadiums in particular are really lousy catalysts for development,” said deMause, who has studied dozens of stadium deals since 1995. “It doesn’t necessarily hurt development, but they’re not going to get you development that you wouldn’t get otherwise.”

Matt Kramer, President of the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce, acknowledged that he views economic impact from a stadium construction both “positively and skeptically.””I will be the first to argue that the economic development argument around stadiums is spurious at best,” Kramer said. “They are job creators when they are under construction, and those construction jobs go elsewhere. They are entertainment creators when you create and design that right mix.””You want it to be an economic destination, not just for people that are going for the entertainment value, but as a hub as an otherwise vibrant neighborhood,” Kramer said.

3. This stadium is not transit friendly. In March 2015, the Met Council released a feasibility study indicating that any redevelopment of this site requires $30 million in public financing for a parking ramp, also concluding that the cost of redevelopment of the whole area outstrips the value of the property. The Met council report did not include the need for approximately 5000 parking spots for soccer stadium attendees [estimate 20% transit users and 2 to 3 passengers per vehicle]. Essentially, the added resources needed for soccer fans who choose to drive to the game come with a higher cost versus benefit ratio for development at the site. Neighborhood advocates have worked hard to expand transit development and access in the area, most notably with the Green Line and the Rapid Transit Snelling bus line, in an effort to mitigate traffic congestion, not add to it.   Any development going into this area should be transit dependent development. This project if not well planned and financed could easily become just a stadium, 3 bars and a huge parking lot.

4. A subsidized stadium will increase our property taxes. On August 26, the City Council unanimously passed a nonbinding resolution backing a property tax exemption to Minnesota United if they locate their stadium at the Midway site. On September 8, the Ramsey County Board also passed a resolution supporting the tax exemption. In essence, the citizens of St. Paul foot the economic bill and the local community pays the price in decreased quality of life and increased health risks. Estimates on the possible revenue from a soccer stadium at this site range from $2.4 to $5.5 million. With a property tax exemption, the citizens of St. Paul can plan on subsidizing the owner of Minnesota United by several million dollars on an annual basis.

Here’s what Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges had to say about a property tax exemption in Minneapolis: “If there were some other developer or some other project, who came to the city and said, ‘we want to put a $250 million development at one of the places in the city that is most ripe for economic development, on which we expect to make a significant profit, and all we need is to never ever pay property taxes on the site of that development,’ they would be laughed out of the city.”

5. We must demand transparency and public input. The most important opinion in this discussion has been missing. Does the local community want a stadium in their neighborhood? Do taxpayers in St. Paul want to subsidize a privately owned stadium? What are the real costs to the taxpayers when all of the infrastructure is included and no tax revenue collected from the project? The Mayor has stated that the stadium would be given to the City once it was constructed, but does that mean that the City pays for maintenance and upkeep?

The City has made offers and courted the Minnesota United’s owner and conferred with the Met Council, the St. Paul Port Authority and Ramsey County, yet has not held one public information forum to ascertain whether the public supports the stadium.  

Before the deal is done, you need to be involved.

Here’s how!

1. The State legislature needs to approve a property tax exemption for the soccer stadium.The Minnesota House and Senate both crafted language a few months ago barring the use of state money for a professional soccer stadium, and the language passed the Senate by a large margin, but did not gain traction in the House.

  • Attend a 6:30 to 8 pm Town Hall meeting on Tuesday, October 6 at Gloria Dei Church (700 Snelling Avenue South), hosted by State Senator Dick Cohen, Representative Erin Murphy and Representative Dave Pinto. You need to tell them that you oppose TIF funding and a property tax exemption for a stadium in St. Paul’s urban core.  
  • If you cannot make this meeting and would like to share your opposition to a Midway soccer stadium, go to this site to find your state representatives and their contact information: http://www.gis.leg.mn/OpenLayers/districts/

2. The Met Council owns the 10-acre former bus barn site. The sale or lease of the site requires Met Council approval.

  • Call or e-mail the Met Council chair and the St. Paul representative, and tell them to oppose the sale of or lease of this site to Minnesota United. Contact information:

Adam Duininck, Chair, 651-602-1390,adam.duininck@metc.state.mn.us

Jon Commers, District 14 representing most of St. Paul, 651-645-4644, jon.commers@metc.state.mn.us

For the complete list of representatives and their contact information: http://www.metrocouncil.org/About-Us/Who-We-Are/CouncilMembers/Council-Districts.aspx

 

3. The Federal Transit Administration must approve the sale or lease of this site because Met Council used federal dollars to purchase the site for the bus garage many years ago.  

 

  • Call Betty McCollum and tell her that you oppose a soccer stadium in the Midway.

Betty McCollum, U.S. Representative: 651-224-9191 or 202-225-6631