Capitol abuzz over new stadium proposal

No state general fund dollars would be used

T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol Reporter

Now it’s up to the Legislature.

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton, Minnesota Vikings’ Mark and Zygi Wilf, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and others on Thursday, March 1 presented a long-awaited Vikings’ stadium proposal to build a $828 million, fixed-roof stadium in downtown Minneapolis at the Metrodome site.

Other on-site work pushes the total project cost to $975 million.

“Not a single tax dollar from the state general fund,” intoned Dayton at the Capitol of the state’s $398 million contribution towards the project, a contribution that looks to electronic pull-tabs as a funding source.

“It’s the best deal we could negotiate,” Dayton said. “I’m not entirely pleased with it,” he said of the proposal for “The People’s Stadium.”

But he pointed to the thousands of construction job building a new stadium could bring.

The state’s contribution, at $398 million, is about $100 million beyond the $300 ceiling Dayton for a long time placed on any proposed stadium project.

“There was no where else to go but the state,” said Dayton of finding additional public dollars.

Legislative stadium bill authors urged legislative action.

“The time has come for Minnesota to make a decision,” said Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead. “This will not happen unless it has bipartisan support.”

Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, said the stadium initiative has moved into a new phase.

“Today’s the official hand-off,” Rosen said. “It’s time for our work to begin. I cannot believe what they’ve (the Vikings) been through,” she said of team officials attempting to craft a stadium solution in a political environment.

The Vikings would contribute $427 million towards up-front stadium construction costs under the proposal.

The Wilfs would not detail where these dollars would come from other than to say private sources.

Zygi Wilf called the agreement between the team, the governor, and Minneapolis city officials as offering an “exciting day.”

“The dream of keeping the Minnesota Vikings here for generations to come is close at hand,” Wilf said.

“Here we are at the cusp of getting this done,” he said.

The actual location for the new stadium would be back from the existing Metrodome. The new stadium would feature a large public plaza on the west side.

“It’s is truly a People’s Stadium,” said Ted Mondale, Dayton Administration stadium point man.

The facility would be owned by a sports authority with a five-member board.

The total stadium funding, over a 30-year life time, would be more than 50 percent private, Mondale said.

The stadium builder, which could be the authority, would be responsible for stadium construction cost overruns, he explained. “We think the authority is well funded,” Mondale said.

A third-party operator would be hired to actually run the facility.

The agreement requires the Vikings to commit to a 30-year lease at the stadium — the new stadium in design would resemble Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

“The revenue related to football – the naming, the marketing, the suits — all that revenue would go to the Vikings,” Mondale said.

Other stadium revenues, such as from soccer or hosting a concert, would go to the authority.

Since stadium construction could begin while the Vikings remain at the Metrodome, the team would only need to play one season at TCF Bank Stadium at the University of Minnesota, Mondale said.

Under the proposal, the city of Minneapolis would contribute $150 million towards up-front stadium costs.

City officials look to the continuation of local sales taxes until 2045 as a means of funding their portion of the cost.

“That’s the nut of this deal,” Rybak said.

Rybak said companion legislation would be offered to give the city more control over its local sales taxes.

A true sounding of the receptiveness of the Minneapolis City Council to stadium proposal hasn’t been taken, argued Rybak, because things were up in the air. “There has not been a solid proposal yet. And there has not been a solid vote,” said Rybak of city council action.

Dayton cited a number of advantages to the use of charitable gambling revenue as funding source, one being that it’s unlikely to get bogged in litigation. The governor has often suggested that was the Achilles’s heel of other gambling revenue sources.

Dayton said that even if lawmakers do not act on the stadium this session, he wouldn’t give up.

“I’ll be working on this project until it gets done,” he said.

Rosen, Lanning, and others praised Dayton for showing leadership on the stadium issue.

“He’s been tough when he’s needed to be. He’s been impatient when he’s needed to be,” Rybak said.

“And now every single politician is going to have to make a tough decision,” the mayor said.

Labor leaders expressed support for the stadium proposal.

“Not only will this project put thousands of Minnesotans back to work, it will have an economic multiplier effect that will benefit communities throughout our state,” Minnesota AFL-CIO President Shar Knutson said in statement.

Others felt differently.

“Building shiny new projects simply distracts us from tackling obstacles to future prosperity,” said Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, in a statement.