All is still quiet on the eastern front. Behind the chain-link fence and Mortenson Construction barriers that surround the open lot near the intersection of Snelling and University avenues, there is no activity on sunny weekday.
Last summer, the 20,000-seat "world class" facility's early 2018 debut was dangled as bait to perspective season ticket holders. That's not happening. Neither is a subsequent pledge from the Loons' front office that "construction on the new facility is expected to be complete during the 2018 MLS season."
The latest estimate comes from team owner Bill McGuire, who now hopes the new digs will be ready for the 2019 opener. (The team current's agreement playing at the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium expires at the conclusion of next year's MLS season.)
Starting actual construction on the $150 million home recently scored a big win. Governor Mark Dayton signed the tax bill Tuesday night, which includes property and sales tax breaks for the project. McGuire now says building should start sometime in June or early July.
But the heaviest lifting possibly remains on the horizon.
The St. Paul site, a 35-acre former bus yard, will house a glass-like polymer mesh oval facade, surrounded by retail, office, and residential space.
Complicating McGuire's grand vision was the fact it required the cooperation of eight separate parcels, including the Midway Shopping Center, which is owned by RK Midway.
The structure's footprint needs two more acres on the north end. Right now six different businesses are located on that real estate, including SuperValu’s Rainbow Foods.
The St. Paul Port Authority has apparently struck a deal with four landowners, but the financing hasn't been finalized.
"There's been some speculation the bank that holds the mortgage on the SuperValu property wants a big early pay off fee," says Brian Quarstad, who blogs about soccer at fiftyfive.one. "Who knows how much that might be if it's true. I will say with the tax breaks now from the state, it won't be long before construction kicks in."
It's anyone's guess when that actually happens. The smart money says it'll come later rather than sooner.
If and when a lender approves the financing, the existing businesses will likely need no less than a 60-day notice to vacate. Only after that would any demolition. And that's when serious construction would likely begin.
University of Michigan professor of sport management Mark Rosentraub, an expert on stadiums and their economic impact, is of the mindset the Loons' new barn could be constructed in a year.
"Building a soccer stadium is not as a heavy of a lift as, say, building a U.S. Bank Stadium," he says. "It's one of those things you can throw as much money as you want to to build it faster. You don't need to lay the kind of foundation you would need to support 70,000 seats and a roof.… A lot of the [building material] is prefab so you just haul it to the site.
"If they're willing to spend the extra money on labor, and since the site is right off the freeway, you can have trucks hauling in materials all the time and this thing could get done a lot faster than one might think."
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