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A one-time Minnesota state tax on tobacco inventory brought in $30M, "more than enough to cover the state’s first bond payments" on the Vikings' new $975M stadium, according to Baird Helgeson of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. The Minnesota Department of Revenue reported that the money "will be available in September, months before state-backed bonds are set to be sold to pay for the project." The stadium project has been "dogged by funding problems since the initial revenue source -- money from new electronic pulltabs and bingo games -- fell profoundly short of estimates and has shown no sign of rebounding." State leaders "turned to the one-time tobacco inventory tax to make the first bond payment." Minnesota Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans said that it is the "only cigarette money going toward the stadium debt" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 8/21). The state yesterday said that the tax will yield $26.5M for the stadium and about $4M more "for the general fund." In St. Paul, Doug Belden reports the cigarette "stocking fee" was "among the revenue sources Gov. Mark Dayton came up with in the most recent legislative session to bolster sagging tax revenue from newly authorized electronic forms of charitable gaming." Officials said that the $26.5M from the tax "goes into a stadium reserve account" to eliminate a $12M deficit for '14-15 and will "be available for future use." If more money is needed to pay the stadium bonds, the "original backup sources in the stadium bill would kick in," including a sports-themed state lottery expected to yield around $2M a year, then a suite tax expected to raise about $1M annually starting in '17 (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 8/21).
LEGAL MATTERS: In Minneapolis, Janet Moore in a front-page piece reports property owner Minneapolis Venture yesterday filed suit in Hennepin County District Court against the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, "claiming that negotiations over the land next to the stadium site have been 'perplexing and unproductive.'" The suit "seeks clarity from a judge on whether the above-ground plaza and its coveted underground parking garage are part of the massive stadium’s reach." MSFA Chair Michele Kelm-Helgen said that the suit "will not delay the stadium’s already-tight construction timeline, which calls for groundbreaking this fall, and completion" by the '16 NFL season (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 8/21).
The Bengals' lease with Paul Brown Stadium says that if new technology -- "including a scoreboard -- is installed in 14 other NFL stadiums -- Hamilton County taxpayers must buy the same thing ... if the Bengals request it," according to a front-page piece by Sharon Coolidge of the CINCINNATI ENQUIRER. Hamilton County Board of Commissioners President Chris Monzel said that he is "open to creative solutions, but the county can’t afford to pay" the full $10M this year. Monzel: “Right now we’re not sitting on a bunch of money that we can go out there and do it. Maybe we can come up with a plan that has a timetable agreeable to them.” One option is the Bengals could "chip in part of the cost themselves." Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann said, “I don’t think it will get done if they don’t." The team "hasn't made an official request," but the $10M price tag is "on the list of the the county’s potential projects -- and there are hints the team is looking for the replacement scoreboard to be in place as soon the 2014 season." There are 21 NFL teams that "have an HD scoreboard -- with three more scheduled to be installed next year." Bengals attorney Stuart Dornette said the team has not requested a new scoreboard yet "because the team has been sensitive to the County's budget issues over the past few years" (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 8/21).