Vikings Get Final Legislative Approval To Build $975M Stadium On Metrodome Site
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).