In Woodbury, pro sports and local government won’t mix

Minnesota United players conducted a soccer clinic when Bielenberg Sports Center opened in Woodbury in 2014. The team has pulled out of a deal with the city, but will continue to provide clinics. Photo: Bielenberg Facebook page.

Woodbury, which owns the sprawling Bielenberg sports complex, has lost two of the three partners it intended to help pay for a massive 90,000 foot field house which was completed last fall at a cost of nearly $22 million.

Minnesota United, the Blaine-based soccer club, approached the city as construction was about to get underway with the idea of making it the training home of the team.

The city, anxious to tap into the cachet of professional sports for its destination venue, went all in on the replacement for the original Bielenberg complex, built around 1995 for $6 million, altering the design in exchange for $1 million from the team, and signing a deal with a Stillwater restaurant group to open a 200-seat upscale restaurant in the dining-out challenged city. Now, both of those partners are gone.

The restaurant idea collapsed last summer after the city filed suit against the company left the city holding the bill for the cost of the building the restaurant space. The space is now vacant.

The soccer team told the city in the fall it will now stay at its current facility in Blaine, the Woodbury Bulletin reports, leaving the facility with extra space that was built for the team. That’s 5,600 square feet, offices, showers, and locker room facilities the team said it needed when it approached the city. The team paid for exterior work on the new building. A marketing agreement between the two remains in effect.

The team also committed to finishing the interior at its expense. That’s the agreement that the team has walked away from, according to the Bulletin.

“We have absolute confidence we’re going to find the right use for that area,” city administrator Clint Gridley said. “There’s no shortage of options for us. We’re going to be working with the city council in 2015 to figure that out.”

What’s behind the team’s move? Team boss Nick Rogers wouldn’t say specifically, according to the Bulletin. “It became apparent the needs of both parties would not be sufficiently met,” he said.

The team is one of two organizations — the Minnesota Vikings’ owners are the other — vying for a Major League Soccer franchise with new facilities in downtown Minneapolis.

Archive: Taxpayer-funded stadium? Soccer booster won’t say ‘no’ .

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