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The Minnesota state Senate Thursday approved a $975M Vikings stadium that is "meant to anchor the team in Minneapolis for a generation,” according to a front-page piece by Helgeson & Brooks of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. The 36-30 vote by the Senate came after the state House “sweated out an overnight session in which bare-knuckled bargaining sessions went on past midnight and final approval came at 4 a.m.” The plan moves to the Minneapolis City Council later this month. A council majority has already “committed itself to the deal, so that vote appears unlikely to be a stumbling block.” Negotiators “insisted on boosting the team's share by another $50 million to lower the taxpayers' share,” a move that "secured the last handful of votes." The team will pay $477M -- just under half the total cost -- compared to earlier plans that "had the public subsidy at more than 60 percent." The final agreement “came together in secret” Wednesday as top legislators, team execs, state business leaders and Gov. Mark Dayton’s administration “pounded out the final disagreements over the size of the team's contribution and whether to impose a menu of stadium-related taxes to pay the state's share.” The Vikings plan to play the ‘16 season in the new stadium, which will sit on the site of the old Metrodome, “but on a considerably larger piece of land featuring a large sports plaza for tailgating” (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 5/11). In St. Paul, Doug Belden in a front-page piece reports Dayton is “expected to sign the bill at a ceremony early next week.” NFL VP/Communications Brian McCarthy said that the team “will not receive additional financing from the league to help cover the extra $50 million it has agreed to contribute to the deal.” Belden notes much of the Vikings’ $477M contribution “would come from an NFL loan, naming rights revenue and possibly personal seat licenses” (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 5/11).
CITY'S RESPONSIBILITIES: In Minneapolis, Eric Roper reports the city of Minneapolis' contribution to the stadium is expected to be $150M for construction and $189M "for operating costs and capital improvements over the life of the deal." The $339M total will be paid for by a “combination of city sales taxes that currently support the Minneapolis Convention Center -- a citywide sales tax, downtown liquor and restaurant taxes and a hotel tax.” Money “will be available because debt on the Convention Center is expected to be paid off” in ’20. Meanwhile, the final deal "gives the city the means to renovate and pay debt on the city-owned Target Center." In the deal, the city also received a provision to "charge a sales tax on tickets to NFL games and potential Major League Soccer matches -- if the league brings a team" to the city (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 5/11).
RENTAL PROPERTY: The Vikings and the Univ. of Minnesota Thursday announced a "preliminary agreement on the NFL team's use of TCF Bank Stadium during construction” of the new stadium. The Vikings “could lease the stadium for up to four consecutive NFL seasons anticipated to start in 2013; or, they could play at the facility for all or part of one season, anticipated to be 2015.” The Vikings would “pay rent of $250,000 per game, plus an estimated $50,000 from shared concession, advertising and other revenue,” which comes to about $3M per season. The Vikings would reimburse UM for “all changes they require for the stadium and all non-game day expenses and game-day operational expenses related to the franchise's use of the facility” (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 5/11). In Minneapolis, Mary Lynn Smith reports the Vikings agreed to “reimburse the university for the changes needed for the stadium, including specialized heating coils under the playing surface and the addition of temporary bleacher-style seats in the western end zone plaza and other expenses.” Under new legislation approved this spring, UM can sell alcohol at home football games "as long as consumption by those in the general seats be restricted to a ‘beer garden.’” However, UM General Counsel Mark Rotenberg said that alcohol "will be available throughout the stadium” during Vikings games (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 5/11).
HANDING OUT KUDOS: A Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE editorial states Dayton’s “savvy and indefatigable advocacy for a new Vikings stadium represents the kind of executive leadership Minnesotans should applaud." The editorial: "Dayton did more than occasionally lead cheers for the Vikings -- he delivered on a key campaign promise to the people of Minnesota despite significant political risks.” Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak “was the architect of a pending city plan that will also finance the renovation of Target Center and provide modest property tax relief,” while Dayton “wisely tapped Ted Mondale to be his point person as officials worked through a maze of obstacles.” Meanwhile, state Sen. Julie Rosen and state Rep. Morrie Lanning deserve "much credit" for understanding the "need for a broad bipartisan coalition and [they] knew how to build one” (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 5/11). In Minneapolis, Sid Hartman notes he has "never been a big fan" of Rybak, but writes, “I've certainly changed my mind about his ability to operate.” Rybak and Minneapolis City Council President Barbara Johnson “came through with flying colors, cutting the property taxes of Minneapolis residents as a part of their stadium plans, and finding money to remodel Target Center by using taxes now paying off the Convention Center debt when they expire” (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 5/11).
THE RIGHT MOVE: In St. Paul, Tom Powers writes passing the stadium bill "was the right decision." Powers: "Not because the Vikings could have packed up and left town. But because if Minnesota didn't build a stadium now, it would end up building one later and probably at twice the cost. ... NFL football is like a drug. And most people can't go without it for very long. So in the end, this was the fiscally responsible thing to do” (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 5/11). Meanwhile, ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert wrote, “You might disagree with some of his decisions as a franchise operator, but [Vikings Owner Zygi] Wilf and his investors have proved exemplary franchise stewards. ...This could have been ugly and easily might have ended differently. Zygi Wilf made sure it didn't” (ESPN.com, 5/10).
ATTENTION TURNS TO OTHER NFL TEAMS: NFL Network's Steve Wyche noted with the Vikings staying in Minneapolis, there will be "more chatter about the St. Louis Rams ... and the San Diego Chargers being frontrunners to move to Los Angeles." The NFL "wants at least one team in Los Angeles but without expansion” (“NFL Total Access,” NFL Network, 5/10). ESPN.com’s Mike Sando wrote the Rams are "next up in the stadium game," but that “could take a while.” Rams Owner Stan Kroenke “isn't one to rush," as he waited until the "last minute before exercising his option to purchase a majority stake in the team." He also has "resisted showing any cards in the Rams' push for an improved stadium situation.” Stadium deals “usually reduce to how far a citizenry will go to keep its team from bolting," and it is "tough to envision Rams fans stepping up the way Vikings fans did in Minnesota, not after the Rams posted a 15-65 record over the past five seasons" Sando wondered, "Have the Rams built up enough equity to win hundreds of millions in public funding?” (ESPN.com, 5/10). Meanwhile, in San Jose, Mark Purdy writes the Vikings’ new stadium “wasn’t good for Raiders fans.” The deal was “a domino because if L.A. officials hoped the Vikings' franchise was a prime candidate to make a move, their eyes will now turn to the next potential prime candidates." Purdy: "I speak here of the San Diego Chargers and the Oakland Raiders. Both teams are in outmoded facilities with lease terms that would allow them to evacuate those facilities over the next few years” (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 5/11).
The MLS Dynamo Saturday will play their first game at the new 22,000-seat BBVA Compass Stadium, and it is a "home befitting a franchise of the Dynamo's stature," according to Brian Straus of the SPORTING NEWS. The “state-of-the-art, $95 million jewel sits on the eastern edge of downtown Houston, a short walk from the baseball stadium, basketball arena and convention center.” The location offers “accessibility, pregame and postgame diversions and a breathtaking view of the city skyline, while the gauzy silver exterior, the roof and the full bowl of bright orange seats make the stadium almost immediately iconic.” Dynamo President Chris Canetti said, “It can't be just a stadium with seats and a field. It has to convey our story, our history, our tradition. I know we're only five, six years old, but I think we've accomplished in a short time and I want people to come to this building and leave captivated by the Dynamo story” (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 5/10). SI.com’s Tom Dart wrote the wait was “worth the arena’s solid caliber and superb location,” which is “the most urban” of any MLS venue. It is expected that the stadium will “act as a major catalyst to help the ongoing revitalization of the long-neglected East End district.” Meanwhile, MLS' visibility and viability "depend more on the construction of soccer-specific stadiums than simply wooing fading stars from Europe." After the Impact open the renovated Saputo Stadium this summer, only four teams -- the Sounders, Revolution, Earthquakes and DC United -- "will not be playing in stadiums designed with soccer as a top priority” (SI.com, 5/10).
PUTTING IT TO USE: In Houston, Love Patel reported BBVA Compass Stadium will “serve as more than the home for the Dynamo and Texas Southern football.” The venue is scheduled to host an international soccer match between El Salvador and New Zealand in May, USA Rugby vs. Italy in June and a Sugarland concert in August. In addition to 20 Dynamo games and six or seven TSU games, the franchise “plans more international soccer, concerts, high school football, rugby, lacrosse and possibly boxing to bring the total to 40 to 45 events a year.” The Dynamo have “bid for 2013 Gold Cup qualifiers and is working with U.S. men's and women's soccer to bring U.S. international matches to the stadium.” Stadium GM Doug Hall said, “The Dynamo have a great foothold in international soccer events. ... We've taken a run at events that haven't worked out yet, but hopefully that'll happen summer or fall of this year.” Patel noted BBVA Compass Stadium "will face competition, with venues such as Reliant Stadium, Cowboys Stadium and the Cotton Bowl showing interest in the same events” (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 5/7).
LUCK OF THE DRAW: Also in Houston, Jose de Jesus Cruz wrote there is "no denying" Canetti “pushed the project and helped select almost every feature,” but former Dynamo President Oliver Luck is a “major reason Houston has a thriving MLS team set to open the league's first stadium in a major U.S. metropolitan downtown.” Luck, who left the franchise in '10 to become the AD at West Virginia Univ., said, “I take a certain amount of pride and satisfaction in seeing the building there and ready to be used and sold out. It validates the belief that many people had, AEG included, that Houston was going to be a great soccer town.” Dynamo F Brian Ching said, “Oliver gave our franchise instant credibility when he was here. He was the right man for the job. He was involved in the process before, and he gave our organization direction immediately. He knew who to talk to, and he knew how to go about getting us a stadium. A big part of the stadium today is because of his vision and his contacts" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 5/8).
ON THE RISE: The CHRONICLE's de Jesus Cruz wrote the building boom across MLS is a signal “telling the world that soccer in America is thriving.” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said, “These stadiums have been the literal and figurative cornerstone of our league's growth since [late Chiefs Owner] Lamar Hunt built the first one in 1999. Each one establishes our sport and our club as a permanent, important member of the community and allows our games to be presented in the right manner.” de Jesus Cruz noted Red Bull Arena, which opened in '10, and Livestrong Sporting Park are “shining examples of how far the 19-team league has grown since its debut in 1996.” Ching: “When you walk in Red Bull Arena, you really come away with that special feeling. Not only that one, but I think Kansas City's atmosphere is pretty electric, and that stadium is probably one of the best in the league. Those two really kind of blow me away” (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 5/7).