Minnesota Plan For New Downtown Vikings Stadium Revived After Goodell's Friday Visit
A proposal for a new downtown Vikings stadium could "well have an outside shot at overall approval" after it was revived Friday following "personal lobbying by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell," according to Kaszuba & Ragsdale of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. Hours after Goodell and Gov. Mark Dayton "pressed legislative leaders on the issue, a Senate committee voted" 8-6 to advance the plan for a $1B venue in downtown Minneapolis. The committee's vote "shoved aside -- at least for now -- an alternative plan to instead build the stadium in Ramsey County's Arden Hills." State House Speaker Kurt Zellers -- who has been "at best lukewarm on the project -- predicted the proposal would get floor votes in both the House and Senate before the Legislature adjourns in the coming weeks." Goodell said that there were "no threats by the league or Vikings owner Zygi Wilf to move the team should legislators fail to pass a bill before they adjourn." Under the plan approved Friday, the Vikings would pay $427M, the state would add $398M and the city of Minneapolis would add $150M toward construction costs. The Vikings would also contribute $327M to the stadium's operation, and the city would add another $189M (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 4/22). In St. Paul, Doug Belden noted Friday's vote to move the bill to the Jobs & Economic Development Finance Committee "without recommendation is a step" in the direction of getting it passed, but "hurdles remain." The bill "emerged from the committee with four Democratic-sponsored amendments, including" a 10% surcharge on stadium suites -- "which the Vikings oppose -- and the elimination of language allowing Minneapolis to use sales tax money to renovate Target Center." Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said that if the Target Center piece "isn't restored in the final bill, then Minneapolis won't support the proposal to build" a new stadium next to the Metrodome. Rybak "seemed confident it could be worked back in" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 4/21).
DECISION TIME: In Minneapolis, Mark Craig wrote when Friday's visit by Goodell "was a firm and possibly final notice that serious consequences could result if this problem is kicked any farther down the road than the end of the current legislative session." Goodell said, "This is the time to get things done. I've been here several times on the stadium front over the years. In 2006, they moved forward with a stadium for the Twins and the Gophers. We were asked to move to the next year. And it's now 2012." Craig: "He's right. It's time for our leaders to stand up, holster their political pointer fingers and vote. Good or bad. Yea or nay. In or out. Just make a decision!" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 4/22). Zellers said, "We’ll set aside whoever is a democrat or republican, governor, house, senate, whoever it is, and then just get to the floors and have that vote." He continued, "I like Commissioner Goodell. I’ve met him several times. ... I think it helps because he was earnest about what he wanted to see, which is to see the Minnesota Vikings stay the Minnesota Vikings. He wanted to do whatever he could do to help us through the process." Zellers said that in his conversations with the Wilf family, they "have never talked of moving the team with or without a stadium." Zellers: "They’ve always been very straightforward with me saying they want the Minnesota Vikings to stay in Minnesota. I take them at their word." But Zellers added, "If we’re building the stadium just for the Vikings that’s some of the concern. ... But all along most of our questions haven’t been about the use or the tenants and what the uses would be, it was how is it going to be funded." Zellers said that "he didn’t like the way the Target Field was funded, because the use of a Hennepin County sales tax is an obligation to pay by all the people in the county, as opposed to a choice" (STARTRIBUNE.com, 4/21).
CHASING NAMING RIGHTS? In Minneapolis, Moore & Roper note Target Corp. Exec VP/Property Development John Griffith "testified in support of the bill at a House committee after largely playing a behind-the-scenes role in the stadium debate." A month's worth of e-mails "hint at a close relationship between Griffith and his team at Target and other top players in the high-stakes stadium game," including Rybak, the governor's stadium negotiator and a Vikings official. Others copied on e-mails include U.S. Bancorp Chair, President & CEO Richard Davis, Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation President Bill McCarthy and Target Chair, President & CEO Gregg Steinhafel. Some critics "contend that Target wants first dibs on the naming rights for a Vikings stadium." Griffith told lawmakers that a stadium "would be a 'major selling point' as the state attracts new employers and as Target retains and woos new talent" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 4/23).
EMPTY THREAT? In St. Paul, Tom Powers wrote we "certainly haven't heard the last threat issued" that the Vikings could relocate. Powers: "But I do think we've turned an important corner. Remember that there is no ideal solution here. It's a question of which hurts less: ponying up or losing the team. ... If Minnesota doesn't build them a stadium, some other area will" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 4/21). In L.A., Sam Farmer wrote the NFL has a "long history of using the L.A. vacancy to get stadium deals done in other locales, essentially scaring those NFL cities into helping pay for venues or risk losing their teams." It happened "with Seattle, New Orleans, Indianapolis and various NFL cities in between." But "don't be so quick to dismiss the latest Minnesota meltdown as another hollow threat." Goodell is "going to do what he feels is best for the league and his 32 bosses, and if some toes are crunched in the process, well, that's just the cost of doing business" (L.A. TIMES, 4/21). ESPN L.A.'s Arash Markazi wrote the NFL "has used the 'L.A. is an open market' line for the past" 17 years. There is "still, however, the very real possibility that a majority of Minnesota lawmakers could scoff at the idea of the public sector largely funding a new Vikings stadium during a recession" (ESPN.com, 4/20).