Dettmer, Vandeveer explain their stadium votes

Clint Riese
Staff Writer

The final Vikings stadium bill received no support from local legislators. District 52A Rep. Bob Dettmer and District 52 Sen. Ray Vandeveer both voted in the minority by casting ‘no’ votes regarding the approximately $1 billion project.

The team’s lease at the Metrodome had expired and owner Zygi Wilf refused to stay at the 30-year-old facility without an agreement in place for a new venue. The stadium push started nearly a decade ago and ended thanks to a 36-30 vote from the Minnesota Senate in the wee hours of the morning on May 11.

Estimates of the final amount after interest vary, but the state is on the hook for $348 million. Over the 30-year life of appropriation bonds, Dettmer estimated the total cost to Minnesota taxpayers to be $1.2 billion including interest and financing costs for the City of Minneapolis’ $150 million contribution.

In the end it was not the concept itself, but the form it took which the local lawmakers could not stomach. They took issue with the idea of expanding gambling in the form of electronic pulltabs to pay for the state’s share of the costs. Dettmer call the pulltab funding an unproven revenue source, while Vandeveer labeled it a dying industry.

“We pursued other funding options, including user fees, but they were unacceptable to the Vikings,” Vandeveer said.

The Republicans from Forest Lake also could not justify supporting a bill that they felt came to be without representation of the public’s interests.

“There was no ‘people’s team’ of finance experts there to represent the taxpayers of our state looking at the Vikings financial statements, etc.,” Dettmer said. “The bill authors were simply handed the ‘agreement’ and asked to put a bill forward to pay for what they were told was the state’s portion.”

Dettmer also felt most constituents preferred the proposed site in Arden Hills over downtown, and that the state taxes brought in from football-related business will never equal the state’s bill.

“This is not a good business arrangement for Minnesota taxpayers,” he said.

Vandeveer said he was unable to reconcile burdening the state in order to give money to a for-profit business.

“We are all witnessing the spiraling debt and the incredible lack of discipline with regard to spending decisions in Washington,” he said. “We must be self-disciplined if we are going to avoid similar problems in Minnesota.”