Minnesota Lawmakers Propose Alternative For Vikings Stadium Financing
Minnesota state legislators are "beginning a hard-nosed search for alternatives to electronic gambling" to help pay for the planned Vikings stadium, "even as team officials met with state officials Wednesday to strategize about how to get more people playing the new barroom games," according to Jim Ragsdale of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. With electronic pulltab games intended to provide most of the state's share of the Vikings' $975M stadium project, the "tide appears to be turning away from a wait-and-see attitude -- hoping that e-pulltabs catch on -- and toward taking direct action to fix the problem." Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton's aides "met with Vikings officials in private on the topic." Meanwhile, House Taxes Committee Chair Ann Lenczewski "formally revived" the idea of applying a 10% tax "on wholesale sales of professional sports memorabilia." The tax would "also be levied on rentals of stadium boxes and suites." It is projected to bring in more than $12M per year, which is "a little more than a third of what the state needs." Vikings VP/Public Affairs & Stadium Development Lester Bagley said, "We’re opposed because this legislation fundamentally changes the agreement the Vikings negotiated with the state." He said that the Vikings' $477M contribution to the stadium project is "considerable," adding that the team does "not believe they should pay more." But Minnesota Sports Facility Authority Chair Michele Kelm-Helgen "praised the memorabilia tax" idea. Bagley said that the team met with the governor’s staff to "focus on ways to make last year’s agreement work -- not on ways to find new sources of revenue." Bagley: "We’re willing to step up with help on the marketing side and try to get the pulltab operation a little more traction, but fundamentally we can’t alter the deal that we struck last spring" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 4/11).
NO SIR, I DON'T LIKE IT: Bagley said that the Vikings put an additional $50M toward the stadium project "in the final stages of negotiations on the bill" last year. He added, "That commitment was in exchange for an assurance that there would be no further impacts on stadium revenues, including taxes on stadium revenues." In St. Paul, Doug Belden reports reps from the T'Wolves, Wild and Twins "testified against the bill, which one said essentially would require the teams to subsidize a competitor." A spokesperson for Minnesota retailers "spoke against the bill as well" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 4/11).