#Neighborhood Living
Governor Dayton and the Minnesota Legislature
United States of America

For more than a decade, the former Bus Barn site in the Midway neighborhood has been “considered among the premier commercial development opportunities in the Twin Cities” and “in terms of prime, re-developable property, near the top of the city of St. Paul's list.”

Yet during that time, the Met Council has done little to market or develop the site, choosing instead to keep the land vacant and more recently using it as a staging area for Light Rail construction. At the same time, the city of St. Paul completed a Snelling Avenue Station Plan but otherwise did little to promote redevelopment of the site.

However, four years ago city of St. Paul pursued a $27 million grant from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) to help fund what became a $65 million ballpark for the St. Paul Saints—absorbing nearly $7 million in cost overruns to clean up the polluted former Gillette Building site. The city has also, through the St. Paul Port Authority, granted $11.2 million in tax increment financing for redevelopment of the vacant former Macy’s building downtown so that the Minnesota Wild can have a new practice facility.

And now the city is poised to obligate taxpayers for another $18.4 million of infrastructure improvements primarily designed to benefit the proposed soccer stadium for the Midway—including up to $6 million in cleanup costs to make the site “shovel ready” for soccer.

That’s nearly $100 million devoted to professional sports facilities while St. Paul’s streets, bridges, and sewer infrastructure remain in a serious state of disrepair and several rec centers have been demolished or privatized. At what point do we as a community say “enough is enough?”

There is no question that soccer is the world’s most popular sport, and its growing popularity in the U.S. is not in dispute. However, there is a major difference between providing recreational opportunities for those who wish to play soccer versus promoting the professional game to potential ticket-buying fans.

What does the community really get from a $150 million tax-exempt soccer stadium in the Midway beyond more traffic, parking headaches, and noise on game nights?

Will our quality of life best be improved if one day we might be able to pay on average $28 for a ticket to a professional soccer game—or by promoting redevelopment that will create living wage jobs and broaden the property tax base, thus helping to relieve the burden of continuing to subsidize tax-exempt properties like the Bus Barn site?

The vacant Midway site is unquestionably an eyesore in the community—but an eyesore that elected officials have permitted to remain that way for nearly 20 years. Why are we now prepared to clean-up this prime piece of real estate for a tax-exempt soccer stadium—but unwilling to do so in order to maximize its revenue potential as part of a competitive bid process?

If professional soccer is to come to the Midway, it must be accompanied by specific improvements that will clearly benefit the neighborhood—not merely soccer fans and the billionaire owners of Minnesota United.

We, the undersigned, demand that Governor Dayton and the Minnesota Legislature protect the residents of St. Paul from another ill-conceived stadium project by refusing to grant a tax exemption for the former Bus Barn site unless:

1) The City of St. Paul ensures that the design and building of the 5-acre park planned along Griggs Avenue will be funded and completed at the same time that the proposed soccer stadium opens for the Minnesota United team;

2) The City sets aside $15 million as a revolving loan fund to benefit small businesses and entrepreneurs in the Midway that do not have regular access to capital;

3) The St. Paul City Council agrees to place the issue of building a soccer stadium on the ballot for this November’s election and makes funding of the stadium’s necessary infrastructure contingent on the ballot measure being approved by a majority of the voters going to the polls.

The Neighbors Against Corporate Subsidies for Stadiums and Billionaire Team Owners petition to Governor Dayton and the Minnesota Legislature was written by Neighbors Against Corporate Subsidies and is in the category Neighborhood Living at GoPetition.