Can the soccer rift be repaired in Minneapolis?

Raise your hand if you thought it would be soccer that would unite Republicans and DFLers in the state?

The proposal for an 18,000 seat soccer stadium in downtown Minneapolis, with most of the bill footed by Minnesota United, has been mostly panned because the ownership group wants some tax breaks in the deal.

Soccer, the least popular of the major sports around here, is where politicians — who’ve given away more than a billion dollars of taxpayer money to other teams’ owners here — are putting their foot down.

Why this sport? Why now?

Today’s op-eds in the Star Tribune seek to provide an answer.

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges offers a counterpoint to an earlier Strib editorial (the Star Tribune’s publisher is part of the new MLS franchise’s ownership group) that supported the idea.

The Star Tribune argued in an editorial (“Soccer stadium is a gift for Minneapolis,” April 18) that the McGuire group’s proposal is “relatively modest.” I don’t see anything modest about asking taxpayers to give away tens of millions of dollars’ worth of value on the property-tax rolls for decades and generations to come. This loss would not just be to the city of Minneapolis, but to Hennepin County, the Minneapolis Public Schools, Minneapolis parks, the state of Minnesota and other public jurisdictions.

There is absolutely no precedent in Minnesota for a private development being exempted from paying its fair share of property taxes forever. If this subsidy were granted, other Minneapolis homeowners and business owners would simply pick up the property-tax tab for this private development.

Hodges said she’d love to see a soccer stadium at the downtown site. She just wants to see one that pays property taxes.

The paper also provides a counterpoint to the counterpoint. Council member Blong Yang suggests the city — and Hodges — should at least listen to what Minnesota United has to say.

While a stadium won’t be some magical force that transforms the North Side, and so much more must be done, the proposed stadium could help spur more economic development in an area that desperately needs it. Last week, we lost most of the 900 block of West Broadway to fire, and its redevelopment must be quick but deliberate. The needs of the neighborhoods, the business community and the North Side must be considered and incorporated. Any new development will need to be a mix of both commercial space and, ideally, good, affordable housing. And any new development will almost certainly rise as a partnership of the city, the county, the state and private developers.

Minnesota United wants to create a space that would not be just a soccer stadium, but also an interesting mixed-use development that brings to mind the Midtown Global Market (but with a farmers market and a light-rail station). An area that has been neglected for years would get the attention that it deserves. And there would be more job and business opportunities for my constituents closer to home.

Yang says the sales tax exemption on construction material isn’t a matter for the city; it’s a matter for the Legislature.

Meanwhile, Vice looks at the soccer debate with its article, “Minnesota Disunited,” and says the rift over the proposal probably can’t be healed.

Still, the Minneapolis Mayor is not sold, and here’s why: money. Hennepin County financed the Twins stadium with a sales tax (through legislative engineering) and is actually now enjoying a surplus on said tax. Minneapolis, on the other hand, is splitting costs with the Minnesota Legislature on the costs of the Vikings’ new dome. But the legislature is still trying to figure how to pay their part. On March 24, 2015, Minneapolis City officials emailed tax projections for a new MLS stadium and the City stood to gain around $700,000 per year in sales and entertainment tax receipts from home games alone. Guess what Dr. McGuire’s proposal added a few weeks later? Sales and entertainment tax receipts.

Dr. McGuire has the County on his side and a decent proposal, but the clock is ticking. Major League Soccer has given a July deadline for a detailed stadium plan, while the Minnesota Legislature (which may be needed) closes shop in May until January 2016. In McGuire’s basic stadium proposal, he quaintly forgot to include the costs of lobbying local officials for tax breaks (or tax caps). Working against him, the Minneapolis Mayor and Minnesota Legislature clearly don’t want to be on the hook for any more fields of dreams. In fact, the Legislature just voted against tax breaks for a stadium. The biggest fear is that MLS rejected the Vikings because they wanted a soccer-only stadium, but that the well-connected Vikings have already poisoned the political well for other potential ownership groups. For a club renamed Minnesota United, things have never been more fractious in Minneapolis.

Related: When building MLS stadiums, formulas are all over the map (Star Tribune).