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Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton on Friday "expressed fresh misgivings about the proposed deal to put a Vikings stadium in Arden Hills, saying it was a good deal for the team but fails to live up to his visions for a 'people's stadium,'" according to Duchschere, Kaszuba & Olson of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. Dayton believes that the Vikings-Ramsey County agreement "cedes too much control and ongoing revenue to the team." In addition, he said that it "still pins responsibility for road improvements entirely on the state." Dayton said Minnesota's contribution of $300M for a new Vikings stadium is "absolutely the limit." State transportation officials have estimated that "road upgrades may range as high as $240 million beyond that." But in a meeting with Minnesota Department of Transportation officials last week, Vikings VP/Public Affairs & Stadium Development Lester Bagley said that the team's "engineering consultant from Minneapolis-based Parsons Brinckerhoff discussed how the roads could be done" for about $80M. The state Legislature is set to adjourn next week, and Dayton said that "passing stadium legislation without the details being resolved -- such as the road improvements -- might be giving the project a 'blank check'" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 5/14). Vikings Owners Zygi and Mark Wilf on Saturday sent a letter to Dayton and "all 201 state lawmakers saying that the cost of road improvements near a new football stadium in suburban Ramsey County shouldn't prevent it getting approved this year" (AP, 5/14). A ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS editorial stated, "We may decide not to pay for a pro football palace during tough times. But we should not rule out the best place for the purple to prosper because of a fear of traffic jams and highway costs" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 5/15).
HEAD FOR THE HILLS: In St. Paul, Sarah Horner noted the Vikings-Ramsey County agreement provides the team with "rights to develop the roughly 170 acres that would not be used for the stadium's footprint." Real estate firm NorthMarq Senior VP Todd Hanson said that the Vikings "likely would look to develop a high-density retail and residential city center." In renderings released by the team last week, the stadium "is joined by a Main Street for retail and restaurants," as well as a movie theater, plazas and parking for 21,000 vehicles (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 5/15). If the Vikings priced those 21,000 parking spots at $40 each on game day, the Wilfs "could enjoy $840,000 per game just from parking" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 5/15). In Minneapolis, Sid Hartman noted in recent years, the NFL "had a program called the G3 where the league contributed funds of up to $150 million for the construction of a stadium." The program is no longer in place, but Zygi Wilf still is "confident the league will revive the program and will contribute money towards the construction of a Vikings stadium" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 5/15).
FACING A TOUGH OPPONENT: In Minneapolis, Heron Marquez Estrada reports a "new group of stadium opponents (www.NoVikingsTax.com) said Sunday that the most likely sites for the stadium -- Ramsey County and Minneapolis -- are governed by charters, essentially constitutions that determine how those jurisdictions operate." Stadium opponents contend that "those charters allow them to collect enough voter signatures (about 10 percent of registered voters) to place a referendum on the next election ballot that would overturn any state measure that bans a referendum on the stadium." If successful, "they then allow a public vote on any ordinances passed to fund the project" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 5/16). Also in Minneapolis, Eric Wieffering noted if the Vikings land a stadium in Ramsey County, taxpayers will contribute $350M "via a 0.5 percent sales tax applied across the county." Wieffering: "A fairer approach would be to acknowledge that the Vikings are a state asset, and thus ask all of the state's residents to help pick up the cost through a universal, but smaller, sales tax" (STAR TRIBUNE, 5/15). In St. Paul, Joe Soucheray wrote under the header, "'Football' Stadium Not Worth Our Money" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 5/15).
A special election on whether to allow Nassau County to borrow $400M to "build a hockey arena and minor-league ballpark could cost as much as $1.8 million, a tab the Islanders say the team will reimburse if it gets the nod for a new Nassau Coliseum," according to Randi Marshall of NEWSDAY. Islanders Owner Charles Wang's "unusual offer would kick in only if the vote passes on Aug. 1, and the county legislature and the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, which controls the county's finances, approve the bonding." Legal experts said that they "had never heard of such an arrangement." Nassau officials said that the "reimbursement would be part of a final contract with Wang, vetted by the county attorney's office" (NEWSDAY, 5/14). In N.Y., Larry Brooks noted there "apparently is no suggestion that Wang -- who has lost a considerable amount of money on the club, but presumably would recoup much if not all of it through revenues generated by a new arena, franchise sale or relocation -- spend any more of his own in order to keep the team at home." If voters do not approve the plan, the Islanders "essentially will be facing four lame-duck seasons at the Coliseum, unless a prospective buyer emerges who is willing to pony up $350-400M to construct a new arena, a most unlikely proposition" (N.Y. POST, 5/15). In Boston, Kevin Paul Dupont wrote, "Without a new rink, the Nassau voters essentially will be voting the Islanders off the island" (BOSTON GLOBE, 5/15).
PLENTY OF HURDLES TO CLEAR: On Long Island, Brodsky, Marshall & Phillips note the arena proposal faces "daunting challenges." First, there is the "need to get approval for a bond referendum from a public wary of government spending." In addition, the "county legislature needs to give its OK." The Nassau Interim Finance Authority "has indicated it has questions about the plan and wants more data on the cost and the benefits." To date, "no obvious, well-organized opposition to the project has surfaced, but there are still few details to oppose." Wang said that he "wants voters to have full disclosure about the details." Wang: "We'll do everything we can to make it work, get the information out, make people understand what the alternatives are, and we'll keep working at it" (NEWSDAY, 5/16).
In Ft. Worth, Susan Schrock reported documents indicate that the city of Arlington is “seeking $2.7 million from a special state fund to cover public safety, ice and snow removal and other costs related” to Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium. Nearly $1.3M “went to pay salaries and overtime for police and firefighters to secure" the Arlington entertainment district. Arlington Deputy City Manager Trey Yelverton said that “despite the unexpected run of ice, snow and below-freezing temperatures, the city spent $130,000 less than budgeted to handle the game.” He added that Arlington “expects to receive full reimbursements for expenses.” The money will “come from the North Texas Super Bowl Host Committee and the Major Events Trust Fund” (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 5/14).
TAXING ISSUE: In Seattle, Chris Grygiel reported a “controversial attempt to extend taxes now being used to pay off Seattle’s sports stadiums to expand the city’s convention center and support arts programs has been revived during” the state’s special legislative session. Washington state Sen. Scott White on Friday introduced a bill that would "sunset the taxes in 2015." However, a “lot of people really dislike the idea of keeping the taxes used to pay off the late Kingdome, Qwest Field and Safeco Field in place.” Opponents of the bill said that the Legislature “promised voters in 1995 that any levies used to pay for Safeco would go away when the new field was paid for.” Grygiel noted Safeco Field “should be paid off this year; the Kingdome and Qwest Field will be debt free later this decade” (SEATTLEPI.com, 5/13).
SHINE A LIGHT ON IT: In Charlotte, Jim Utter wrote it “seems by now most NASCAR tracks would have installed lights, but not because every track should host night races.” Every track “should have lights so in the event of inclement weather NASCAR has every option to get the race in on the day advertised.” Night races “remain popular for the fans who attend them.” But NASCAR “would likely get better TV ratings if some Saturday night races were held on Sunday afternoons” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/15).
NO COINCIDENCE? In N.Y., Larry Brooks wrote of the Flyers reportedly hosting the ’12 Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Park: “No iconic baseball stadium, no romantic venue, no sell of a storyline other than playing the game outdoors, it will be the Rangers-Flyers at the Phillies’ ballpark on Jan. 2 because Comcast/NBC owns the TV rights for 10 more years and Comcast/NBC owns the Flyers” (N.Y. POST, 5/15).