- Associated Press - Thursday, March 31, 2016

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Officials with Minnesota’s Major League Soccer team cranked up the pressure Thursday on the Legislature in their quest to secure tax breaks for a new stadium, warning that the franchise awarded by the league last year could be lost if a financing plan doesn’t move forward.

After chipping in $25 million for a new minor league ballpark in St. Paul to the state’s nearly $500 million share of the new Minnesota Vikings stadium in Minneapolis, some are weary of ponying up for professional sports venues. Legislative leaders rebuffed Minnesota United’s request for help last year, and have made no promises in 2016.

Team owner William McGuire spoke with lawmakers Thursday during a Senate committee hearing, stressing that the $150 million-plus proposed stadium would be privately financed and that their request of the state is relatively modest - an exemption from property taxes and a tax break on construction materials. Those two measures would be worth tens of millions of dollars over the life of the stadium, though the final tab for the property tax break is unclear.

“I think it would be problematic and a high possibility, if not probability, that the franchise would be lost without this,” McGuire said. “What some might say are small dollars are actually very meaningful dollars for us.”

The tax breaks could get wrapped into a larger tax bill later this session, and several members of the Senate’s Tax Committee expressed their support for the funding.

But Democratic Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk and Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt have both expressed doubts, with Bakk saying he’s not sure where the soccer stadium will fit in with their other spending priorities.

“I made it very clear to them that there is a tremendous amount of stadium fatigue in this building,” he said.

The bill’s top sponsor, St. Paul Democrat Sen. Sandra Pappas, said the team’s request shouldn’t be a heavy lift, noting the Legislature has approved similar tax measures in past stadium deals almost as an afterthought.

St. Paul resident Tom Goldstein asked lawmakers to put the financial help on hold, arguing there are more direly needed projects than another installment in the Twin Cities’ “stadium frenzy.”

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