Soccer team’s strategy of silence is paying off

It would be fascinating to take a look at the new stadium playbook the Minnesota United is using to get a new stadium for its Major League Soccer franchise.

The Pioneer Press’ Andy Greder, for one, has noticed that the United is approaching asking for public help in a different way than any of the big-three sports franchises in town used to extract taxpayer money for a venue.

“Some owners will look to work the media a whole lot and will be very public about what they want and what they are demanding,” said journalist Neil deMause, who has studied dozens of stadium deals in the U.S. since 1995. “Others figure that instead of being a lightning rod for criticism, let’s just put out there: ‘Hey, we have a team and let the politicians and the media fight it out.’

“They’re just different strategies; I don’t think either of them are particularly preferable,” added deMause, co-author of “Field of Schemes: How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Money into Private Profit.”

Since the news of a stadium push surfaced last December, Minnesota United owner Dr. Bill McGuire has kept the media at arm’s length when it comes to answering questions about what exactly he wanted in the way of public support.

“We’ll see when we confirm in our own minds the where’s and why’s of all of that,” McGuire said then on the question of whether he’d seek public money for a separate soccer stadium in Minneapolis. “And depending, who knows? We haven’t asked [yet for public money]. I mean, there’s no formal ‘ask’ out there,” he said.

We know now that he had a pretty good idea of what he wanted and while there wasn’t a formal “ask” at the time, he could’ve answered the question just fine.

To the casual observer, McGuire’s strategy didn’t work. Lawmakers told him not to bother when the team tried to cut in line in the waning days of the legislative session, and public opinion — outside of soccer fans — was against public assistance even if that consisted of infrastructure improvements and some tax breaks for the land on which the Minneapolis stadium would sit.

And yet, here McGuire is, wooed by St. Paul with the riches that could come up with a currently useless piece of property along Interstate 94. The soccer stadium plan is growing into a major real estate play, according to documents that MPR News obtained a few days ago.

What’s the problem with the media being able to tell you what’s going on?

Information leads to debate on proper public policy and that could scuttle McGuire’s dreams.

That fits the needs of soccer fans. Whether it fits the ethic of public involvement in policy is a debatable question.

A meeting in St. Paul with officials from United, MLS and St. Paul is expected to occur in late July or early August, the Pioneer Press reports.

Maybe you’ll find out some significant information about the project and proposal at that time. But probably not.