SBD/May 16, 2011/Facilities

Minnesota Gov. Has Issues With Vikings-Ramsey County Stadium Plan

Dayton thinks Vikings-Ramsey deal gives too much power to the team
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).
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