SBD/December 4, 2013/Facilities

Vikings Break Ground On New Stadium, But Opposition To Public Financing Deal Remains

Mark (l) and Zygi Wilf (r) scooped the first symbolic shovels of dirt at the stadium site
A year and a half after Minnesota lawmakers signed off on $498M in public financing for the Vikings' new $975M stadium, construction crews yesterday "finally broke ground, signaling the start of an intense push to erect a multipurpose stadium" that will replace the Metrodome and "reshape the downtown skyline for a generation to come," according to a front-page piece by Richard Meryhew of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. Yesterday's festivities "came two months later than originally planned and capped a tumultuous year for a project dogged by questions and controversy." Those concerns temporarily "took a back seat as dignitaries and fans gathered inside a heated tent to congratulate and celebrate." Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and Vikings RB Adrian Peterson were among those who "shoveled the first scoops of ceremonial dirt from the Dome’s back parking lot." Dayton "compared the challenge of getting the stadium project off the ground to the Vikings' overtime comeback" versus the Bears last week. Dayton: "I can't believe it's over, and I can't believe we won." Dayton, Vikings Owners Mark and Zygi Wilf, and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, "donned Vikings hard hats, grabbed gold shovels and scooped the first symbolic shovels of dirt." Site excavation work "actually began Monday, when bulldozers, tractors and dozens of trucks scooped and removed 11,000 cubic yards of dirt" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 12/4).

CRITICISM STILL COMING: In Minneapolis, John Vomhof Jr. noted stadium opponents yesterday morning held a press conference at the Minnesota state capitol to "criticize the funding mechanisms used to pay the state's portion of the costs" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 12/3). In St. Paul, Bill Salisbury noted leaders of three conservative groups yesterday predicted the stadium's proponents "will be back for more state funding to finish the project." Taxpayers League of Minnesota President and former Minnesota state Sen. Ted Lillie said that taxes on electronic gaming meant to subsidized the state's portion of the stadium funding are "falling far short of projections, and he warned that stadium backers would try to tap tax dollars that would otherwise go into the state's general fund to plug a shortfall in funding for the project" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 12/4). Mark Wilf said, "We're focused on the project, the jobs it's bringing to Minnesota and what it's going to do for the economy." ESPN.com's Ben Goessling noted Mark Wilf "reminded those in attendance that Minneapolis is a finalist" for the '18 Super Bowl and has bid for the College Football Playoff championship game in '17. Numerous speeches "pointed to the 4.3 million work hours that will go into the project, and Rybak celebrated the revitalization the stadium will bring to Minneapolis' sleepy Downtown East neighborhood" (ESPN.com, 12/3).

BANKING ON IT: In N.Y., Pat Borzi writes criticism over the Vikings' facility deal with the state "brought a local face to the national discussion over public contributions to sports stadiums." Exactly how much the Wilfs "are committing remains a point of contention." The financing bill "calls for the Vikings to contribute" $477M, which will be "culled from three sources: the NFL; a financial consortium led by Goldman Sachs and U.S. Bank; and the Wilfs, developers from New Jersey who tightly guard their net worth." With the covered overruns, the team's share is "expected to surpass" $500M, a little more than half the cost. But the selling of naming rights "could reduce the Wilfs' share or the amount financed." Minnesota state Sen. Dave Thompson said, "I'd like to see the Wilfs put more skin in the game" (NYTIMES.com, 12/3).
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