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The Vikings “won another testy political battle” yesterday in the Minnesota Legislature but were “left with a project that was much less appealing to the team,” according to a front-page piece by Kaszuba & Helgeson of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. The Senate “ended an 11-hour debate by approving plans” for a new $1B stadium with a 38-28 vote. Vikings VP/Public Affairs & Stadium Development Lester Bagley following the vote said that the team “remains committed to paying $427 million toward a roofed stadium at the Metrodome site." However, he added that spending $532M, as the state House wants, is "unworkable and did not publicly warm to the Senate’s call for $452 million from the team." State Sen. Julie Rosen said that she thinks the team “would have to spend at least the extra $25 million the Senate proposed.” Kaszuba & Helgeson report the Senate “adopted a series of user fees to help pay for the $1 billion stadium, pushed more of the stadium’s operating costs onto the team and eliminated the Vikings’ exclusive rights to a professional soccer team in the stadium." The Senate also voted to "use a sweeping set of user fees to pay for the stadium, starting in 2013 with a 9.98 percent fee on, among other things, tickets, concessions, merchandise, stadium signage and the Vikings share” of NFL revenue sharing. User fees have been a “sore spot with Vikings officials, who argue that it really shifts the state’s contributions on the team and its fans.” Another change adopted yesterday by the Senate would have the state “retain the naming rights for an outdoor plaza” at the stadium (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 5/9).
TIME RUNNING SHORT: In St. Paul, Doug Belden in a front-page piece reports with time “running short in the legislative session, the bills now head to a House-Senate conference committee to resolve the differences” between what the two governing bodies have passed. A compromise bill would need a “second approval in both chambers before heading” to Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton. Meanwhile, Belden notes an effort to reinforce Minneapolis’ charter language in a “way that could have complicated the city’s ability to use money from existing sales taxes to renovate the Target Center was defeated.” Efforts to amend the bill to include a racino “did not succeed” (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 5/9). NFL Network's Steve Wyche noted by the end of the week, the Vikings "should know if they’ve got a plan in place to have a stadium built.” However, this has been a "long, slugfest of a battle,” and there still are “potential hiccups” (“NFL Total Access,” NFL Network, 5/8).
TWISTS AND TURNS: In Minneapolis, Jon Tevlin writes, “Monday, amendments flooded into the speaker’s podium like pleas from dying men. Tuesday was even worse, with more than 100.” By yesterday evening, “it appeared the Vikings and their fans would get their stadium, and everyone from downtown business to unions and hog butchers will get a little somethin’ and in the end we’ll all pay for it, through the nose” (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 5/9). The AP's Brian Bakst notes if the Vikings want to “break out of the shabby Metrodome,” they will “need to ante up or walk away empty-handed.” Vikings Owner Zygi Wilf “won’t be cutting a personal check -- at least not for most of it." The team "expects to tap into an NFL loan program for as much as $200 million." The Vikings also "cash in on naming rights, sell seat licenses and leverage other new revenue streams from a state-of-the-art stadium to make good on its debt.” The Vikings say their costs “go beyond the upfront contributions.” Team officials said that they “will pay an annual rent and help defray the operating costs of the building, which a public authority would also rent out for concerts, conventions, monster truck pulls and other activities.” Bakst notes, in “sheer dollars, the current Vikings stadium plan would be the third priciest” in football, trailing the facilities built for the Jets, Giants and Cowboys. The public contribution by percentage “could still shift, but in all likelihood a Minnesota subsidy is likely to cover between 40 and 50 percent of construction.” That would put the Vikings package “somewhere in the middle of NFL projects over the past dozen years” (AP, 5/9).
COULD L.A. BE THE ANSWER? ESPN's John Clayton said there is "no question about it” that if the Vikings do not get a stadium deal they would relocate to L.A. Clayton: “L.A. is on an 18-month cycle to see if they can get a franchise, and here’s a franchise that can become available after this season.” Wilf “wants to stay in Minnesota, but if this option slips away … what choice do the Vikings have but to move?” ("NFL Live," ESPN, 5/8). However, ESPN's Chris Mortensen said as much as NFL owners “want a team in Los Angeles, they don’t necessarily want it to be the Vikings." They "want to hold the NFC North together.” The Wilfs “have done it the right way." Mortensen: "They’ve taken the high road. They haven’t threatened publicly to make that move but clearly, that’s very much a possibility” (“NFL32,” ESPN2, 5/8). Meanwhile, in L.A., Sam Farmer reports AEG yesterday unveiled its latest rendering of Farmers Field, which includes an "open-roofed venue that almost looks as if it's wearing transparent shoulder pads, with outdoor concourses." The plan calls for a "light, accordion-style roof that is somewhat translucent, as well as lighter and less expensive than a typical retractable covering." Gensler Dir of Sports & Entertainment Ron Turner, whose company is designing the stadium, said, "From the very beginning, it was important that we had a building that felt like it was in L.A., that was very open" (L.A. TIMES, 5/9).
Casino developer Steve Wynn yesterday "abandoned plans" to build a Foxboro gambling resort on land near Gillette Stadium owned by Patriots Owner Robert Kraft, according to Mark Arsenault of the BOSTON GLOBE. The decision "reshuffles the competition for the sole Greater Boston casino license by eliminating a top-tier competitor." Wynn’s "retreat -- which leaves Suffolk Downs the leading contender in the Greater Boston region -- was announced a day after anticasino candidates swept" the Foxboro selectman race. That vote "marked the first ballot-box defeat for a would-be casino developer in Massachusetts." The vote also "underscores the difficulties in locating a casino resort within the most populous region." Wynn’s reps "declined to say whether he has any future plans for Massachusetts." The "hostile reaction from local townspeople and some local officials seemed to puzzle Wynn" (BOSTON GLOBE, 5/9). Foxboro Selectman Lorraine Brue said that the Kraft and Wynn announcements "appear to be the end of their attempt to build a casino in Foxboro but that the wording of the jointly released statements leaves wiggle room." She added that residents "would be more certain the casino fight is over if the Kraft Group sends a definitive statement to selectmen" (FOXBORO REPORTER, 5/9).
Churchill Downs Inc. Chair & CEO Robert Evans yesterday during a conference call unveiled more details for "The Mansion" suite at its flagship track, which Evans described as “the pinnacle of live sporting event experiences,” according to Eric Crawford of the Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL. Evans “likened the souped-up suite to ‘a fabulous Southern mansion,’” and said that it “would have a library, sitting room, dining room, private bar, veranda, balcony and private entrance and elevator.” He added that it would have “the most compelling view" of the entire racetrack. Crawford notes although CDI “wanted to get the word out on this super suite (private invitations went out during Oaks and Derby), Churchill wouldn’t say where the mansion is going to be.” The reason “might well be that the space Evans is describing sounds an awful lot like the current Joe Hirsch Media Center on the sixth floor.” And it is possible “the track gurus didn’t want the first mention of their mansion to be a bunch of media types howling about being displaced.” Crawford: “But trying to repurpose some kind of existing suite as a 'mansion' just doesn’t do it for me. A really nice condo, maybe, but not a mansion. What’s more, hanging out in a place that used to be inhabited by slovenly sportswriters is hardly worthy of the name.” But like Millionaires Row at the track, the Mansion “does a have a Derby feel.” And, like most of sports, Derby officials “aren’t overly worried about us nonmillionaires” (Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL, 5/9). In Louisville, Gregory Hall notes the first public mention of “The Mansion” came from Evans “during a March investors’ call.” The project “would appear to the biggest renovation at the track" at least since the $4M installation of lights in '10. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer “welcomed the latest planned investment despite the lack of details.” Fischer in a statement said, “Enhancing the fan experience is a way for Churchill leadership to keep the track new and fresh -- and keep customers returning” (Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL, 5/9).