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Volume 24 No. 112


Vikings Owner Zygi Wilf took part in a Q&A as the Vikings “take their quest for a new home into the overtime of a yet-to-be-scheduled special session of the Legislature,” according to Dave Orrick of the ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS. Below are excerpts from the interview.

Q: How confident are you that the Legislature will even take up the issue, and how confident are you that the plan will pass?
Wilf: We believe we will be part of a special session discussion. We've done our part of everything the legislators have asked of us. We've come here with a local partner in Ramsey County and a site in Arden Hills. Now, we're all working together to come up with a financing plan.

Q: As I understand it, your recent meeting with AEG President and CEO Tim Leiweke in Minneapolis wasn't about moving the team to Los Angeles, where he's looking to build a stadium. 
Wilf: They were just in town for meeting about the Target Center, which they manage. I spoke to them about needing some sort of sports entertainment model so I can plan this the right way in Arden Hills. There was nothing else to it.
Q: Under the current Arden Hills deal, you're bringing a hefty contribution to the table. But part of it is likely to be NFL money, and part of it will be from future revenues. How much actual cash are you bringing to the deal, and what do you say to people who think a multimillionaire should be putting up more of his own money? 
Wilf: It's a significant contribution, from where we began at the beginning of the year. We're talking about $407 million, plus whatever it might cost above that for a private financial contribution. There's $20 million per year in operation costs and game-day costs and overruns. There's no guarantee of any NFL money; I don't look at that as anything but our money (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 5/28). 

COVERING SOME OF THE COST: In Minneapolis, Rochelle Olson notes a seven-page report from consultant Springsted indicates that Ramsey County's proposed sales tax increase “would provide enough economic gusto to support $350 million in bonds for a $1 billion Vikings stadium in Arden Hills.” The proposed increase “would bring in more than the necessary $22.5 million for annual debt payments.” Olson writes the report still “isn't likely to change the minds of those who want a statewide tax or user fees to cover the public share of the costs” (Minneapolis STAR-TRIBUNE, 6/1).

If Lance Armstrong’s cycling legacy goes “down in flames,” Sporting KC's new Livestrong Sporting Park “will provide a perfect case study on how the most recent allegations might affect the brand he's built as one of the most inspirational figures in the world,” according to J. Brady McCollough of the K.C. STAR. Sporting KC will open the new soccer-specific stadium next Thursday, and the MLS club has agreed to donate $7.5M over six years to the Livestrong Foundation as part of the stadium's naming-rights agreement. Sporting KC, which in the past year has undergone a "total brand redefinition that started with a new name, is hoping to capitalize on the buzz created by the connection to Livestrong.” Construction of the new stadium is "nearly complete, and on Thursday workers added the yellow Livestrong signage to the front of the facility.” While Armstrong “is expected to attend the grand opening,” Sporting KC CEO Robb Heineman is “careful to point out that the partnership is more with Livestrong than the famed cyclist.” Heineman said that he “expected the allegations to continue during Sporting’s six-year agreement with Livestrong.” Heineman: “We knew this would continue, that there were previous allegations and there may be others in the future. That doesn’t sway us from the decision we made and our belief in the partnership that we have today.” Nonetheless, McCollough noted “the fact that Armstrong has been the subject of negative headlines fewer than three months after the partnership was announced in March can be seen as a troubling start for Sporting KC” (K.C. STAR, 5/30).

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson announced yesterday that he is "forming a 60-member commission made up of elected leaders, and business and labor representatives from across the region to come up with a plan to finance a new arena" that would be home to the Kings. The commission "will be charged with hammering out a proposal over the next 100 days," and part of that is expected to include "what portion of funding might come from public sources." The proposal unveiled last week for a new $387M arena "did not include a financing plan." The commission will be co-Chaired by state Sen. President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and state Sen. Ted Gaines (SACRAMENTO BEE, 6/1).

POWER TO THE PEOPLE: The Nassau County Legislature voted 11-7 yesterday to put the decision about a new arena for the Islanders "in the public's hands." Barring a "possible move by a state watchdog to deny contracts necessary to hold the referendum, Nassau residents will vote Aug. 1 on whether to borrow up to $400 million to build a new hockey arena at the site of the Nassau Coliseum and a minor league baseball field at nearby Mitchel Field" (NEWSDAY, 6/1).

CAN'T FIND MY KEYS: A Seattle City Council source said that there "hasn't been any movement on finding a new sponsor for KeyArena." The name of the facility, home to the WNBA Storm, "could change midseason if Seattle Center secures a new naming-rights agreement." The Cleveland-based bank "opted not to renew after 15 years" (SEATTLE TIMES, 5/28).

KISS GOODBYE TO THE SKY? A USA TODAY editorial suggests 10 tax breaks "that should go, or at least be scaled back," including "parties in the skybox." The editorial stated, "Breaks for taking clients to restaurants, theaters and stadiums are unwise and have played a role in the meteoric rise of sports ticket prices at palatial arenas. Congress has limited these breaks in recent years, but because the limits are based on formulas and not fixed-dollar amounts, the break can still be quite generous, particularly for taking someone to a high-end sky box." The estimated annual cost of the tax break is $5B (USA TODAY, 5/31).