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The Minnesota House yesterday "passed a public subsidy package" for a new Vikings stadium, "sending the project marching toward final passage at the State Capitol," according to a front-page piece by Kaszuba & Helgeson of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. In one "pivotal change however the House voted overwhelmingly to boost the Vikings' contribution" to the nearly $1B stadium, upping the team's share from $427M to $532M. The change, which would lower the state's share to $293M, "may not survive further legislative negotiating this week and was opposed by the Vikings." Team VP/Public Affairs & Stadium Development Lester Bagley said, "That particular amendment is not workable. (But) I don't want to take away from the moment." However, Bagley "did not say the team would reject the overall proposal should the provision remain." The final vote came after a day of "high drama and a weekend of intense lobbying" by Gov. Mark Dayton and the Vikings, and produced a "relatively easy" 73-to-58 approval in the House. Though Republicans hold a majority in the House, Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party members "did the heavy political lifting" on the final vote, producing 40 of the 73 votes. The victory "was also noteworthy because House Speaker Kurt Zellers -- the leading Republican in the House -- voted against the project." The stadium project now goes before the Senate, possibly today, and "could be ready for Dayton to sign into law by the end of the week." The eight-hour House debate "did leave many pleading for legislators to set aside the stadium at a time of a stressed state budget." Another proposal to "fund the stadium's construction with user fees -- an idea that also seemed to be gaining momentum in recent days -- fell to defeat" yesterday. The proposal to "replace charitable gambling with taxes and fees on Vikings tickets, concessions and parking was soundly defeated by a 74-to-57 margin" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 5/8).
STILL WAITING: Dayton called the House vote a "huge step forward" and said there were "more positive votes than almost anyone expected." In St. Paul, Doug Belden notes the House bill "differs significantly from the one in the Senate, and the differences would need to be resolved in conference committee, after which there would be another round of votes in the House and Senate before the bill goes to the governor" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 5/8). In Minneapolis, Chip Scoggins writes "whatever the outcome" for the bill in the Senate, "the hope here is for resolution." Scoggins: "Yes or no, we need to move on. Everyone involved." Both sides "have battled long and hard, more than 10 years, a campaign that began when Red McCombs owned the team." Scoggins asks, "Would anyone honestly have the appetite for another round of this?" The debate "must have a finish line at some point." Scoggins adds his advice to Vikings Owner Zygi Wilf and his family "is to put the team up for sale and move on if they suffer a defeat this week." Scoggins: "If a stadium doesn't gain approval now, when will it? They've never been this close, but stadium fatigue will only intensify" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 5/8).
Chicago Alderman Tom Tunney yesterday “declared his opposition to key elements of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to help the Cubs wring $150 million more in advertising and sponsorship revenues out of Wrigley Field and surrounding streets to minimize any taxpayer contribution toward renovating the 98-year-old stadium,” according to Fran Spielman of the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES. Tunney said that he is “dead-set against any additional signage that blocks the view of the rooftop clubs overlooking Wrigley that share 17 percent of their revenues with the team.” Tunney: “The rooftops and the owners of Wrigley have a unique partnership. They want to be protected long-term. They have a lot invested. The city has asked them to spend millions to keep their buildings safe. We’ve got to find ways they can both stay in business.” Tunney said that he is also “equally opposed” to the Cubs’ plan to close the streets surrounding Wrigley on game days for “money-making street fairs that duplicate the festival atmosphere around Boston’s Fenway Park.” He said, “How would you like your street to be shut down 80 days a year. Yes, you knew you bought near the park. But, the streets belong to the people.” Spielman notes Tunney also mentioned the Cubs’ “revised plan to build a long-stalled triangle building adjacent to Wrigley promised, but never delivered to residents in exchange for a bleacher expansion.” Tunney said, “They’ve come up with a plan that’s more of an open-air plaza. That is probably the most appropriate place for them to do their Yawkey Way: on their own property” (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 5/8). In Chicago, Anthony Ponce reports Tunney “sent a letter to Wrigleyville area residents Monday, notifying them no agreement has been reached” between the city and the Cubs. The letter read in part, “If the Ricketts family wishes to improve and expand Wrigley Field using amusement tax dollars, I have several priorities that should be addressed.” Ponce notes those points include “a limit to the number of night games, dedicated police for all Wrigley Field events, a limit on street closures, a long-term agreement between the Cubs and rooftop owners, and a commitment to restore the Sheridan stop on the CTA Red Line” (NBCCHICAGO.com, 5/8).
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster yesterday said that he “intends to publicly release documents next week related” to the Rams’ plans to renovate the Edward Jones Dome, according to Matthew Hathaway of the ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH. Those plans “have been at the center of a legal dispute" between the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Center and the Post-Dispatch. CVC President Kathleen Ratcliffe said that the commission has “no immediate plans to challenge the state’s release of the documents.” The CVC maintains that -- as a party to the Rams’ lease -- it "legally is forbidden from making public any documents considered by the Rams to be confidential” (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 5/8). ESPN.com’s Mike Sando wrote the May 14 release of documents is “great news for Rams fans,” as it means they will “soon discover how serious both sides have been about keeping the Rams in St. Louis.” If remaining in the city is “a top priority for the Rams, proposals made by the team will show owner Stan Kroenke pursuing reasonable upgrades to the Edward Jones Dome." Sando wrote, "Ideally, these upgrades would focus at least as much on upgrading the fan experience as upgrading Kroenke’s profit margin." If the Rams are "more interested in leveraging their position, the proposals will show the team making more extravagant demands centering around luxury suites and other revenue-generating initiatives.” Sando noted of primary interest is “what extent each side’s proposals shift the financial burden onto others” (ESPN.com, 5/7).
Casino opponents swept the selectmen's race in Foxboro yesterday in a "stark public rebuke to Wynn Resorts and the casino developer’s plans to build a billion-dollar gambling resort across from Gillette Stadium,” according to Arsenault & Bolton of the BOSTON GLOBE. Though the casino proposal from developer Steve Wynn “was not on the ballot, the issue dominated the campaign, and the race came to be seen as a referendum on the project.” The vote “shifts the five-member board further against the project, with four selectmen opposed to the casino.” The election yesterday “was the first time local voters have weighed in on a casino proposal since Massachusetts’ expanded gambling law passed last year.” Wynn Resorts had “insisted before the election that -- no matter the result -- it would continue its public campaign to try to build support for its proposal.” Casino opponents now plan to appeal to Patriots Owner Robert Kraft “to consider the vote and pull his support for the project” (BOSTON GLOBE, 5/8). Selectman-elect Virginia Coppola, who is opposed to the casino, said, “Mr. Kraft and Mr. Wynn, when they originally announced the proposal, they said if the town of Foxboro had any hesitation they would back off. We started protesting; they did not back off. This is the referendum they’ve been asking for. It tells them they should back off.” In Boston, Chris Cassidy notes the election “wasn’t bad news for all would-be casino developers.” A death blow to the Foxboro plan “would likely pave the way for a casino" at the Suffolk Downs racetrack. Under state law, the Mass. Gaming Commission “can only assign one license to a developer” in the eastern part of the state (BOSTON HERALD, 5/8).