About 30 Shakopee community members and stakeholders gathered at Canterbury Park Thursday, Oct. 24 to learn about proposed plans for a more than 8,000-seat baseball stadium adjacent to the park in Shakopee.

The plans for the stadium, which would house the future Metro Millers, are still in preliminary stages, and the team is searching for investor partnerships to get the ball rolling.

Although this is the first time most Shakopee residents have heard of the new proposed baseball team, those involved have been working on and off on the project for at least 12 years.

Rep. Brad Tabke, D-Shakopee, who started working as a media relations consultant for the team about two years ago through his consulting company, Grepoli Inc., presented the plans to Shakopee residents Thursday, who sat at tables taking notes and munching on giant pretzels.

Most residents met the plans with excitement, some of whom smiled or softly clapped throughout the presentation. A few residents grumbled, worried about traffic and wondering whether the fan base would draw enough spectators to the venue.

A resurgence

The St. Paul Saints once held a rigid rivalry with the other side of the river when the Minneapolis Millers held a name for itself as a former incubator team for the Boston Red Sox and the New York Giants. The Millers baseball team was born in 1884 and ended in 1960.

Tabke said the proposed Shakopee Metro Millers stadium would house 1,140 luxury club seats, 3,092 priority club seats, 1,880 grand stand seats and 1,000 spots for viewers to watch in the grass. It would be located in the city's RiverSouth entertainment district, and could also house soccer, lacrosse, BMX racing, concerts, hockey games and other events. The structure will be built with the possibility of adding a potential dome roof in the future, but the plans do not currently include a dome structure.

Although the Minneapolis Millers used to be a minor league baseball team akin to the St. Paul Saints, Tabke said Metro Millers isn’t yet sure what league the team would belong to.

“We’re working on getting everything done for the stadium to see if there’s a fan base first,” Tabke said in an interview last week.

But at the Oct. 24 presentation, Tabke added, “There’s no secret about it: we absolutely love the St. Paul Saints. So we are working really hard to make sure we have as successful a team as the St. Paul Saints have.”

Steve Becher, the chief manager for the Metro Millers, said there are people in Shakopee who refuse to drive north of the river to attend Twins and Saints games because parking and traffic is too much of a hassle.

“I’ve been south of the river for a long time, and I will not go downtown,” Becher said. “Here, you’ll park and walk just a short distance… I’d come to Shakopee (from downtown) but I wouldn’t go to any of those games downtown.”

The stadium will be privately funded through the MnVest platform, which is a crowdfunding platform for small businesses Tabke likened to a GoFundMe page. The minimum investment will be $1,000, and there are six investor tiers ranging from $1,000 to $25,000, each with their own incentives for stakeholders.

If the project does not raise at least $600,000 through MnVest, all the investors will get their money back, Tabke said. The most amount the Metro Millers can raise through MnVest will be $1.5 million.

Tabke said he’s been in communication with the city of Shakopee but hasn’t submitted any applications because the team needs to have money to show first. But he did say the land the Metro Millers is interested in, adjacent to Canterbury Park, is already zoned appropriately.

“The goal would be to have this be completely privately funded and not use tax money,” Tabke said.

'Buying stock’ in the team

Zach Robins, who is the legal council to Metro Millers Baseball and co-drafted the MnVest law in 2014, said the website essentially allows Minnesota residents to buy stock in private Minnesota businesses. The idea was spawned by a crowdfunding company start-up site called Kickstarter.

“What Kickstarter and others can’t do is sell equity,” Robins said. “MnVest allows the public to directly invest in the company. It allows companies to advertise their need for capital, and for any investor to invest.”

The minimum investment will be $1,000, and there are six investor tiers ranging from $1,000 to $25,000, each with their own incentives for stakeholders.

If the project does not raise at least $600,000 through MnVest, all the investors will get their money back, Tabke said. The most amount the Metro Millers can raise through MnVest will be $1.5 million.

Robins said the MnVest platform is merely a stepping stone in the buildout process of the project. The total amount needed to build the stadium is estimated at $45 million, but that price tag will vary depending on the league, land control and other factors, Tabke said.

The Metro Millers MnVest online portal will open up to investors online when the Department of Commerce finalizes the MnVest application, Tabke said.

Excitement, apprehensiveness

Residents supporting the baseball stadium say the entertainment destination would be another asset to Shakopee’s already fast-growing community. Longtime resident Bryan Casey agreed with Becher’s statement, saying he’d love to see the stadium succeed so he can steer clear of the downtown traffic.

“It’s exciting to have baseball in our own city,” Casey said.

Bill Scar, another Shakopee resident, said he’s excited about the stadium because it shows Shakopee’s growth, meaning his property value will go up.

“Is there ever a need for a baseball field? Probably not,” Scar said. “But I think the fact that there’s a baseball field looking to set up in Shakopee tells that Shakopee is growing, and growing in a good direction. I’d imagine my house property value would raise a little bit, and plus, I could go a mile from my house and see some live baseball.”

Casey said he’d consider investing in the stadium since he and his family have grown deep roots in the community.

Shakopee residents and baseball fans Bill Schleper and Eric Ho seemed more apprehensive to the idea of the Metro Miller stadium plans. They said the timeline seemed aggressive and added the southwest metro already hosts plenty of amateur baseball teams.

“Whether this is going to happen or not, I don’t know,” Schleper said. “It’s a pretty aggressive timeline.”

Ho and Schleper said if Metro Millers could find a way to partner with major league baseball and create a minor league team, there would probably be a draw for Shakopee residents. But if they can’t, they seemed to question the fan base. They also disagreed with Becher’s statement that Shakopee residents don’t like to travel to the city, saying from their experience, the opposite is true.

“I don’t think it’s true; people do travel to see the Twins play,” Ho said. “I know plenty of season ticket holders.”

Schleper also wondered what would happen with traffic along Highway 169, saying there is already heavy traffic when there are events at Canterbury park.

“Who is going to pay for that infrastructure?” he said. “We know that won’t be privately funded.”

Not the first pitch

In 2008, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported a resurgence of the minor league team almost occurred in Burnsville, when a group of investors shared plans for a proposed $27 million, 7,300-seat stadium with the Burnsville City Council. While the reporting said council members seemed excited about the proposal, plans for the stadium eventually fell through.

“We’ve got a very different group of folks working on this now,” Tabke said. “I first met them when I was mayor, and after I was done they asked me if I’d come on board to figure things out.”

Since then, the Metro Millers have privately tried to plan stadiums in Lakeville and at another location in Shakopee, but those plans fell through before anything was made public. Terry Fredrickson, who has been involved with the planning and said he will play some sort of leadership role with the team, whether it’s as a general manager or an adviser, said this project is “really starting to pop.”

“I think it’s probably going to happen,” he said.

Tabke said the stadium has already received its first round of investments — all from private investors to fund renderings of the project — and that a second round is in the works, this time to finalize the engineering of the stadium.

The Minneapolis Millers played most of their home games at Nicollet Park in Minneapolis, before they moved moved to Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington until 1960. They won 10 league championships and two junior world series.

Maddie DeBilzan graduated with a journalism degree from Bethel University. She’s interned at Salon Media and the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Outside of work, she sifts through Goodwill clothing racks, listens to Ben Rector's music and goes on long runs.


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