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New Vikings Stadium

New Vikings Stadium

  Venue Resources  
Address
Minneapolis, MN 55415
Phone
Weather
Newspaper
Vikings Gear
  Calendar / Tickets  
Hotels, Dining & Deals in Minneapolis

  The Facility  
Date Opened Future
Ownership
(Management)
Unknown
(Unknown)
Surface Unknown
Cost of Construction $750-$954 Million
Stadium Financing Unknown
Stadium Architect Unknown
  Other Facts  
Tenants Minnesota Vikings
(NFL) (Future)
Population Base 2,870,000
On Site Parking Unknown
Nearest Airport Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport (MSP)
Retired Numbers #10 Fran Tarkenton
#53 Mick Tingelhoff
#70 Jim Marshall
#77 Korey Stringer
#80 Chris Carter
#88 Alan Page

  Seating  
Capacity Unknown
Luxury Suites Unknown
Club Seats Unknown
  Attendance History  
Season  Total  Capacity Change
1993 458,424 89% 1.1%
1994 474,744 93% 3.6%
1995 448,779 88% -5.5%
1996 449,944 88% 0.3%
1997 486,921 95% 8.2%
1998 510,741 100% 5%
1999 513,051 100% 0.45%
2000 513,394 100% 0.1%

2001 2002 2003 2004
513,344 512,517 513,417 512,969

2005 2006 2007 2008
511,960 509,743 506,046 506,136

2009 2010 2011 2012
510,203 470,009 502,529 485,802

2013 2014 2015 2016
448,135

1993-Present - Attendance figures are for Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.
2010 Attendance figures are skewed as the Vikings had to play at Ford Field and TCF Bank Stadium for one game each due to the roof of the Metrodome collapsing.

Sources: Mediaventures

New Vikings Stadium

MSFC Advances New Stadium Vision for Metrodome Site

"Metrodome Next" project envisions a new world-class, retractable-roof facility; revitalized neighborhood; and year-round, multi-purpose facility that benefits the entire State

MINNEAPOLIS (April 19, 2007) - The Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission (MSFC) today reviewed the redevelopment potential of the H.H.H. Metrodome site as the location for a new year-round, multi-use, retractable-roof facility that will keep the Vikings in Minnesota through 2041 and can help spur a broader redevelopment of the Downtown East neighborhood around the Metrodome.

Commission staff presented its recommendation in an interim report on redevelopment of the Metrodome stadium site. The report is based on extensive research into current and future stadium costs, ancillary development potential and the program needs of the Minnesota Vikings. The Commission voted unanimously to receive the report and directed staff to continue to move forward toward .

"There is urgency to the question, 'What's next for the Metrodome site?' Our goal is to come up with the right answer," said Roy Terwilliger, Chairman of the MSFC. "We believe a new stadium on the Metrodome site is the right answer because of the benefits it can deliver to the people of Minnesota. We need a year-round, multi-purpose facility in the Twin Cities, one that can attract and host everything from the nine-man football championship to a Women's World Cup Qualifier to the Final Four."

The report received by the Commission estimates that the cost of a new facility constructed on the Metrodome site with a retractable roof will be approximately $954 million and that it would be a positive driver of development beyond the Metrodome site, particularly in conjunction with other factors, such as the naming of a master developer for the area. The report also provides information on stadium projects in other communities.

The Vision of Redevelopment

As part of the meeting, the Commission received a presentation from the ROMA Design Group, which was charged with envisioning how the stadium development could help spur ancillary development in the surrounding neighborhood. Boris Dramov, a world-renowned urban design authority from San Francisco represented ROMA. ROMA has done extensive master planning in San Francisco near AT&T Park (San Francisco Giants) and in San Diego near PETCO Park (San Diego Padres).

The vision of a redeveloped Metrodome site, created by ROMA and the Hoisington Koegler Group of Minneapolis, knits together a redeveloped Downtown East, with the stadium as the anchor, with the surrounding neighborhoods: the Downtown core area, Elliot Park and the Mills waterfront district. The area is further anchored by a "Winter Garden" light rail train station adjacent to the new stadium that is a destination in itself. Their vision is consistent with the City's current master plan.

This vision is compatible with current growth patterns in the area, which suggest that growth in downtown Minneapolis over the next several decades will be to the east of the current core area. The ROMA vision is not to create a new downtown, but to infill the Downtown East area with a new medium-density, mixed-use, live-work neighborhood. It includes:
 
- The realignment of the downtown area through the creation of new east-west and north-south streetscapes that connect better the downtown core to the Mississippi River and to other neighborhoods
- Adaptive reuse of historic buildings
- A stadium design that provides a new "front door" to the City, a continually active plaza and new development opportunities on the stadium site
- An enhanced transit hub with a Winter Garden that will feature destination entertainment and an intermodal facility, completing the City's front door and providing an additional catalyst for Downtown East redevelopment
- A new in-town "live-work" neighborhood
- A revitalized Chicago Avenue
- The extension of Washington Avenue redevelopment to the east to forge a connection with the Riverfront and Mills districts.

"Today, we saw a vision for what can be next - a world-class, retractable-roof stadium that can make Minnesota a year-round host to major events - and a driver for development that enhances our quality of life. We have the opportunity to secure the benefits of an NFL franchise and those of a year-round, multi-use facility for the next 30 years," Terwilliger said.

Financial Considerations

The estimated cost of a new, retractable-roof multi-purpose stadium on the existing Metrodome site is approximately $954 million. This cost estimate is in line with the projected costs of similar stadium projects that have been built or are currently in the planning phases such as:

Location
Type
Cost*
Detroit (2002)
Fixed Roof New
$471 million
Seattle (2002)
Open Air New
$465 million
Chicago (2003)
Open Air Renovation
$590 million
Glendale (2006)
Retractable Roof New
$458 million
Indianapolis (2008)
Retractable Roof New
$675 million
Dallas (2009)
Retractable Roof New
$932 million
New York (2010)
Open Air New
$1.7 billion
* Costs are published figures based on time-of-construction dollars; program elements may vary.

The cost of the redevelopment project - as currently envisioned - breaks down as follows:

Item
Cost
Stadium Hard and Soft Costs
$616,564,000,
Retractable roof
$200,729,000
Parking development
$58,130,000
Land cost of 5th Street right of way
$8,892,000
Escalation to early 2010 construction start
$69,601,000
Total Project Cost
$953,916,000

A significant advantage of the current site is that it uses existing infrastructure in the form of roadways, access ramps, surface streets, parking ramps, transit lines and stations, sewer, power and telecommunications, an infrastructure worth "billions of dollars," according to SRF Consulting Group, an infrastructure planning firm. Duplicating this infrastructure in a suburban location would add hundreds of millions of dollars to the cost of a comparable project.

Beyond the inclusion of existing infrastructure and a substantial investment by the Vikings, the assumption is that the balance of the redeveloped alternative will be paid with public monies. The staff believes that the redevelopment option offers the best alternative that will serve the State for decades to come.

An Opportunity for Minnesota

"For 25 years, our State has been well-served by the Metrodome, but it no longer meets the needs of the Vikings and the NFL, or the expectations of sports fans in terms of amenities or fan experience. Now is the time to secure these benefits for our next generation," Terwilliger said. "In three years, the Minnesota Vikings will be the only major sports team playing in the Metrodome, and its use agreement with the facility expires in 2011. We look forward to the opportunity to discuss these recommendations and to move the public debate forward on what will be an important investment for the future of our quality of life in Minnesota."

We are 100% Purple Pride Viking fans. The Vikings and Twins (as well as the other Minnesota sports teams) have always been part of the "common community ground" that we have all shared together in Minnesota. Most of us, when we get together, begin with our common enjoyment of our teams, "breaking the ice" with our "Minnesota nice" takes on the Vikes and Twins (and sometimes the Timberwolves) and then we get on with the rest of our stories about other things we have to do (work, family, projects, neighborhood, etc., whatever it may be.

New Vikings Stadium

We are totally independent of the Vikings and any of their organizations. However, we invite the Vikings, owners, coaches and players alike, and all other Minnesotans to join with us in working out a solution together which will work to the benefit of all the people (local fans who are the taxpayers) of Minnesota. large and small businesses impacted directly and indirectly by the Vikings, the Governor, the state legislators and the fans of the Vikings worldwide.

QUITE SIMPLY: WE DON'T WANT TO LOSE THE VIKINGS. But as Bob Dylan sang, "The times, they are a changin."

The Vikings have NOT changed. Football has NOT changed. The enjoyment and community camaraderie we get has NOT changed. The many common community and business and personal benefits we get have NOT changed. BUT! THE FINANCIAL ENVIRONMENT and related to that, the THE PHYSICAL PLAYING FIELDS (now called "venues"), HAVE changed. For a crisp analysis of the situation that best explains why we are at risk of losing our team see the cover story on the financial environment of the NFL and the crucial role played by the stadiums, in the September 20, 1999 Forbes Magazine.

If we want to keep the Vikings we have to adjust to the new reality that professional sports is now both big business and big entertainment.

BUT! It can still be a happy public-private partnership, just as the one which developed the Metrodome and paid it off 14 years early. We can develop a similar model with the Vikings.

We want to have a great season every year. Both national magazines and our own local newspapers have underscored the fact that our current stadium situation limits our ability to do two critical things, FIRST, run the business franchise profitably, and SECOND, field a competitive team -- the kind of team our fans demand and Red McCombs is committed to putting on the field. And. in Minnesota, we have the quality of life many players would like to enjoy for themselves and their families.

But the fact remains that the business of professional football is changing, and, as stated by the previous owners, the Vikings need a new stadium if the Vikings are to keep pace with the rest of the league. In 1999 the Vikings will fall $11 million below the league average in total revenues. But costs remain above that. Without a new stadium that can provide the same (and additional) revenue sources other teams enjoy, that gap will get wider every year. Soon, the Vikings will no be able to generate the revenues needed to operate the team.

Yes. We're fortunate to play in a financially healthy league that works to ensure smaller-market teams like the Vikings have a chance to compete. And although the bulk of shared revenues come from national broadcasting rights, and each NFL team gets the same amount each year, additional revenues are needed to keep pace with the escalating operating costs, which can only be achieved with a new stadium. The shared revenue scheme has not leveled the playing field. The larger markets have built stadiums which can generate home town revenues for the team. Minnesota does not have that. To field any team let alone the Vikings, teams have to have the new type stadiums.

We believe that by working together, we can develop a new financial model which will satisfy the owners who need to make a profit, the taxpayers who don't want to subsidize millionaires, the small businesses and others who profit from the games, and, of course the fans for whom the Vikings have long been a cherished part of their lives. We are inviting all the key players in the debate both for and against a new stadium to join with us in working to put our heads together to create a new financial paradigm that works for Minnesota and in turn works for the Vikings which means it will work for the fans.

Unfortunately, shared revenue is only one part of the equation. 21st century profitability will be based on Non-shared revenues which will come primarily from stadium sources such as concessions, parking, suites, club seats, advertising and any other activities which a team can develop and use to generate revenue. In 1999, these revenues will vary greatly from team to team, and the Vikings will rank near the bottom of the league.

RANKINGS

The salary cap helps teams like the Vikings compete for star players by putting a ceiling on the total amount teams can pay players. But the salary cap is tied to the average NFL team revenue and it will rise as the average team revenue rises. Without new stadium revenue sources, the Vikings will fall further below average and will be faced with a tough choice: pay up to the salary cap and lose money, or pay below the cap and lose star players.

This rank position seriously limits the Vikings revenue opportunities. The Vikings rank at or near the bottom among all NFL teams when it comes to important stadium revenue sources like concessions, parking, suites, club seats and advertising.

Because of shorfalls in every stadium revenue category, The Vikings are projected to rank 30th out of 31 teams in the NFL in total revenue for 1999. This is unlikely to improve without a new stadium.

We also want a facility that better serves fans. More people than ever are looking for a way to attend a Viking game. Naturally it is wonderful that the Vikings have sold out of season tickets for the 1999 season and that there is a waiting list for the first time in Metrodome history. To cover the growing need, more seats are needed. The Vikings also need to offer better accommodations -- more restrooms, more concession areas, wider concourses -- so fans no longer have to choose at half-time between the restroom and a snack.

CONCLUSION

The Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission recently issued thoughtful proposals for renovating the Metrodome for both football and baseball.

After a hard look and careful consideration it has been determined that a renovated Metrodome is not an acceptable solution for the Vikings. First, it cannot provide space for both more seats and more fan accommodations. Second, it cannot provide enough revenue-generating opportunities to improve the team's financial picture and allow the Vikings to compete with the rest of the league. In addition, by the time the renovation would be completed, the Metrodome would be nearly 25 years old, and maintenance costs would continue to rise.

While the Metrodome is no longer a viable NFL facility in terms of revenues, capacity and fan accommodations, it is a good example of a successful private/public partnership. The stadium's debt was retired 14 years ahead of schedule and we believe it's time to reinvest in a new facility.

We believe that there are enough examples out there to provide Minnesota with a model which will work for all concerned, from the taxpayers, that is all citizens, to the legislators trying to develop a public-private partnership that will satisfy all, to the owners who will need to show a profit, to the coaches who need to develop a competitive team, to the players on the field, and to the fans in the stands and watching on TV and listening to the radio.

As fans, we're thinking football. We have also geared up for an exciting 1999 season. At the same time, we would like to begin a conversation about the next home for Minnesota Viking football. We believe there is a stadium solution that will benefit not only the team, by also fans and the state of Minnesota. We are committed, cooperatively to "Creating a solution to continue a tradition."

We invite you to submit your suggestions. We will sift through the suggestions as we continue to develop our own research, with the goal to come up with a means and mechanism to achieve a win-win "conflict resolution" for all sides concerned.

VIKINGS SAY THEY ARE STILL IN THE STADIUM GAME
November 4, 1999
Copyright 1999 MediaVentures

Depite voter rejection of a new ballpark for the Minnesota Twins, the NFL Vikings say they will still press their case for a new stadium. Team officials are scheduled to meet with Minneapolis and Hennepin County leaders soon to update them on the team's situation.

The team is considering a new $400 million stadium and will contribute $100 million to the project. That means the rest of the funding must come from the city, county and/or state.

MINNESOTA PLAN GAINS MOMENTUM
April 6, 2006
Copyright 2006 MediaVentures

A plan by the University of Minnesota to trade land to the state in exchange for additional funds for a new $248 million stadium has passed the House Ways and Means committee and appears headed for approval in the full House today (Thursday).

Plans for a new Twins ballpark and a new Vikings stadium also are gaining legislative speed.

The 25-year plan would obligate the state to pay $9.4 million annually toward the school's 55,000-seat stadium's debt. At the end of the term, the land near the Vermillion River could be used as a nature preserve. The plan got approval from the Senate Higher Education Budget Division last week. The university hopes to open the stadium in 2009.

The Vikings' plan to build in Anoka County won approval from the Senate State and Local Government Operations Committee. Observers said the Vikings' best hope was in success for the Twins.

The legislature is considering a plan to allow Hennepin County to boost taxes to fund a new ballpark without a public vote. If that happens, Anoka County will likely be allowed to do the same. Anoka County plans to contribute $280 million to the Vikings $630 million stadium using a 0.75 percent countywide sales tax.

VIKINGS LOOK AT NEW FINANCING OPTIONS
September 18, 2008
Copyright 2008 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - After spending two days meeting with executives from the Indianapolis Colts and getting a tour of the brand-new Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis, it appears the Vikings are hoping the solution can involve hospitality taxes.

"That's up to the Legislature and the governor to determine what's the best package of taxes to solve the issue," said Lester Bagley, the Vikings vice president of public affairs and stadium development. "We're not there yet.

"We're working on some finance options, along with the sports commission, but we're not ready to lay those out yet." Team owner Zygi Wilf plans to contribute $250 million to the project. What the Vikings learned in their meetings with the Colts was that public funding to help build the retractable-roofed Lucas Oil Stadium included increases of 3 percent for a county hotel tax, 2 percent for a county rental car tax, and 1 percent for a six-county restaurant tax and county admission tax.

The Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission is scheduled this week to select one of four architectural firms to work on the design for a stadium. Candidates include Minneapolis-based Ellerbe Becket; Kansas City-based HOK Sports; 360 Architecture, of Kansas City, and Dallas-based HKS, which worked on the Colts stadium.

Bagley said that once the design for a stadium is in place, a price can be set. Now, the estimate for a Vikings stadium stands at $954 million, but that amount includes a roof, so the facility can be used year-round and attract events such as a Super Bowl or NCAA Final Four. Without a roof - and the Vikings have said they don't need one - it would cost $750 million. (Star Tribune)

GOODELL SAYS VIKINGS STADIUM A PRIORITY
February 5, 2009
Copyright 2009 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - Roger Goodell did not make any threats about the Vikings leaving Minnesota if they don't get a new stadium, but the NFL commissioner did express some urgency when asked about the team's situation at the Metrodome.

"I know [owners] Zygi Wilf and Mark Wilf want to continue to have the Minnesota Vikings in Minnesota in a new stadium and I share that," Goodell said during his state of the NFL address in Tampa, Fla. "They have worked very hard to be able to get to that point. They have understood the priorities of the community, they have stood by and they've allowed the baseball stadium and the Gophers [football] stadium to move forward because they recognize those priorities and there are always priorities in the community.

"I think we have to continue to work with the governor and the leadership in that community to understand those priorities and figure out how we get a new stadium built. That is necessary for the Vikings. We all want the Vikings to be there in the long term, successfully. They need a new stadium, that's clear. I think it's recognized by all parties and we need to get down to the difficult business of figuring out how to do it."

The Vikings, who are last in the league in revenue playing in the Metrodome, have a lease that expires after the 2011 season. The team is hoping to get the stadium issue before the Legislature, but that could be a difficult battle considering the state's $4.8 billion budget deficit.

Although the exact financial figures have yet to be set, estimates to date have been that a Vikings stadium would cost about $954 million. Wilf has said the ownership group would contribute $250 million toward the project.

There is talk about an NFL team ending up at a privately financed $800 million stadium in Industry, Calif., that billionaire real estate developer Ed Roski Jr. wants to build. The Vikings, Chargers and Jaguars also have been mentioned as possible candidates.

"Many people view the Vikings as a viable candidate to relocate to the Los Angeles market due to the lack of action on our stadium front," said Lester Bagley, vice president of public affairs and stadium development for the Vikings. "But we are focused on and committed to resolving the issue here in Minnesota." (Star Tribune)

VIKINGS SAY THEY'RE COMMITTED TO MINNESOTA
February 12, 2009
Copyright 2009 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - The Minnesota Vikings continue to rebuff feelers from California billionaire Ed Roski Jr., who would like to build a privately financed stadium in the Los Angeles area and lure an NFL team to play there, according to Vikings executive Lester Bagley.

The Vikings want public financing to carry most of the cost to build a new stadium in downtown Minneapolis, at the current site of the Metrodome. Vikings owner Zygi Wilf has said in the past that the ownership group is willing to contribute about $250 million toward a stadium projected to cost about $954 million, although the final tally hasn't been set.

Bagley, Vikings vice president of public affairs/stadium development, continues to emphasize the sense of urgency to build a new stadium, saying a plan is in place that would allow construction to start in August.

"We have 30 games left (including exhibitions) at the Metrodome," Bagley said, referring to the lease that expires after the 2011 season. "The issue isn't what the Wilfs will or won't do. It's that other NFL owners and other potential NFL markets and potential owners will come after this team.

If you let the market work, it's not going to be a favorable outcome for the Twin Cities in terms of the long-term future for the club."

The group led by Roski, a real estate developer, has been in contact with the Vikings since last summer. But the Vikings contend they are focused on a stadium in the Twin Cities.

"They check in periodically," Bagley said. "They want to meet with our ownership. I haven't heard anything in the last few weeks. But we basically said our guys are not ready to talk to them.

We've got issues to resolve here. We've still got time. Our product's ready to go."

Gov. Tim Pawlenty hasn't shown much interest in discussing the stadium project, Bagley said. Said Pawlenty's spokesman, Brian McClung: "The governor recognizes that the Vikings bring a lot of enjoyment to a large number of Minnesotans. He's also said this year we're facing a nearly $5 billion budget deficit. The activity at the legislature is largely focused on balancing the state's budget and trying to position the state for future economic growth."

The Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission will address legislators during this current session and emphasize the urgency regarding the Vikings' stadium push, Bagley said, although there's no specific date set. (Star Tribune)

GAMING MAY HELP FUND STADIUM FOR VIKES
March 12, 2009
Copyright 2009 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - Two hot-button issues at the State Capitol - gambling and a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings - came together in new legislation that proposed using revenue from a new Twin Cities metro casino to build the much-discussed stadium.

Saying his constituents were adamant about not wanting the Vikings to leave Minnesota, Rep. Tom Hackbarth said his plan would propose a constitutional amendment, asking voters in 2010 whether revenues from a new casino should be used to finance a new stadium. Hackbarth said bonds would be issued to finance the stadium's construction - work would begin almost immediately if the amendment passed in November 2010 - and the Vikings would have to sign at least a 30-year lease and enlist a local government partner to help bring about the project. State legislators, and even the Vikings, were cool to the idea.

"We're not advocating for a gaming situation," said Lester Bagley, a spokesman for the Vikings, who have been searching unsuccessfully for a way to kick-start debate on a stadium at the Legislature.

"[But] if that's what the state leaders want to use," Bagley added, "then let's sit down. At least someone is thinking creatively."

Brian McClung, a spokesman for Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, said the governor "has said that he isn't interested in gaming." In the past, Pawlenty has had mixed reactions to gambling expansion proposals.

The legislation also was not embraced by Bill Lester, executive director of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission. The commission owns the Metrodome, where the Vikings have played for more than a quarter century and where the team has a lease to play through 2011. The commission, which has essentially been advocating for a new stadium, said a new study showed that a stadium would create 13,400 jobs while it was being built and generate $32.2 million in taxes during its first year.

"As far as the gaming, we've never endorsed that as a particular solution," he said. "That would be outside of the purview of our authority." (Star Tribune)

FARVE MAY HELP VIKES REVENUES, BUT NOT STADIUM PLANS
August 20, 2009
Copyright 2009 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - The addition of Brett Farve as the Minnesota Vikings' new quarterback back help the team's bottom line, but the move isn't likely to change civic leaders' opinions about funding a new stadium for the team.

The Vikings, whose lease at the 27-year-old Metrodome expires after the 2011 season, are seeking a new home. The Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, which owns the Dome, has proposed a $954 million retractable-roof stadium on the Dome's downtown Minneapolis site. Team owner Zygi Wilf has offered to pay $250 million of the project.

But so far, Pawlenty and the Legislature have not seriously considered financing a new Vikings stadium.

"I think ... the Vikings are really important to the state of Minnesota," Gov. Tim Pawlenty said. "They bring people a lot of fun and a lot of joy. But we have to set priorities and put first things first.

"And so with the recession and all the budget challenges in the country and that Minnesota is facing, I don't think we could turn to the taxpayers and say, 'Now we need you to pay for a billion-dollar Vikings stadium.'"

He said he wants to keep the Vikings in Minnesota and acknowledged they eventually will need a new stadium. But he asserted this is not the time to build it.

Fans, however, are more excited. Shortly after the team made the announcement that Farve would be coming out of retirement to lead the team, the box office sold 2,500 season tickets. The sale far surpassed the team's previous record for single-day season ticket sales.

The Vikings have sold 8,000 single-game tickets, but team officials emphasized that no game - including the Vikings' Oct. 5 game against Favre's longtime team, the rival Green Bay Packers - has been sold out. In fact, with the exception of the Packers game, about 8,000 tickets remain for the Vikings' other seven home games.

The Vikings also are optimistic that Favre can sell jerseys.

Last year, more than 200,000 New York Jets Favre jerseys were sold, ranking among the most in the NFL.

VIKINGS TO RENEW PUSH FOR NEW STADIUM
October 1, 2009
Copyright 2009 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - The Minnesota Vikings are about to ramp up their push to get state legislators to help them build a $954 million, retractable-roof stadium to replace the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.

"If the answer is no," Vikings vice president for public affairs and stadium development Lester Bagley told the St. Paul Pioneer Press, "then why would you own a team in this market?"

The team and the sports facilities commission will begin laying out their case to the House Commerce Committee in an economic impact report. The report will suggest that the Metrodome needs the Vikings, which supply $6.7 million of the venue's $15 million annual budget.

The Vikings say they will invest $250 million in the project, leaving the state to find $700 million.

While many legislators are sympathetic to the team's problems, they also are facing a deficit of up to $6 billion. Gov. Tim Pawlenty says the state has higher priorities.

Though incomplete, a facilities commission study estimates that reconstructing the Metrodome would cost $954 million, with about $200 million going to a retractable roof. The new stadium would be owned and operated by the commission and continue to play host to community events.

The facility would meet all NFL guidelines on capacity, suites and premium seating, and the Vikings would sign a 30-year lease.

The team says it's ready to kick in about one-third of the cost - although that's a little deceiving. The Vikings say they don't need a roof and aren't enthusiastic about helping to pay for one. Bagley said the team could build a high-end NFL stadium, with no roof, for $650 million.

SLOT MACHINES SUGGESTED TO FUND VIKINGS' STADIUM
October 8, 2009
Copyright 2009 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - Rep. Tom Hackbarth wants to allow Minnesota's two horse tracks to install slot machines and use tax money from the devices to help fund a new stadium for the Vikings. The issue could come before the state's legislature in February.

He said his constituents have told him they don't want taxpayer money to finance the stadium and they don't want to lose the Vikings, who are under lease at the Metrodome through the 2011 season, to another city.

If the Legislature passes Hackbarth's proposal, the question would be put on the 2010 general election ballot. If it's approved, and once stadium costs are covered, future proceeds would go directly into the general fund, according to Hackbarth.

The slot machines would be allowed at Canterbury Park in Shakopee and Running Aces Harness Park in Columbus, just north of the Twin Cities.

COMMISSION TO PRESS ITS CASE WITH VIKINGS
December 3, 2009
Copyright 2009 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - The Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission has agreed to press its case with the Minnesota Vikings to accept incentives to remain in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome rather than continue its campaign to fund a new stadium.

The commission, which owns the Metrodome and is the team's current landlord, made the move in the face of a blistering letter from Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf that said the proposal to extend their Dome lease left them "confused and questioning the future of this franchise."

True to their pledge to suspend relations with the commission until the "political games" ended, neither Wilf attended the commission's meeting.

But Vikings spokesman and Vice President Lester Bagley, addressing the Twin Cities North Chamber of Commerce, said that the team will continue to push for a new stadium - with or without the stadium commission.

"We made it clear we would not sign a lease without a stadium deal," he said.

The commission, in a five-page resolution, promised the Vikings all post-season stadium receipts if they would extend their Dome lease beyond the current expiration in 2011. But it also threatened to resume charging the team annual rent of $4 million (after 10 years of playing in the Dome rent-free) if the team rejected an extension. The commission also wants the Vikings to match its own $500,000 funding for a 2010 study on redeveloping the Metrodome site.

The team has two years left on its Metrodome lease after this season, and Metrodome officials believe there is no way the Legislature will act on a stadium in 2010 while dealing with severe economic problems.

Brian McClung, a spokesman for Gov. Tim Pawlenty, said the Vikings are an important state asset "but with the state continuing to face difficult economic circumstances the stadium issue is not on the front burner."

But the Vikings are betting heavily on a stadium solution in the upcoming session. Team officials have been courting the support of business leaders and talking to citizens about the economic benefits that a new stadium would deliver and the need to act now.

There were some signs that the Vikings and the commission may not be that far apart. In the past, the team has resisted an enclosed stadium; the commission, on the other hand, has insisted that a new stadium include a roof to ensure that it can be used year-round. Bagley acknowledged the possibility of a roof five times during his lunch presentation.

VIKINGS UNMOVED BY COMMISSION'S STADIUM DRAWINGS
December 24, 2009
Copyright 2009 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - The Minnesota Vikings preferred not to take part in a showing of plans by the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission for a new stadium, saying they are focused on other locations.

The commission wants to build a new stadium where the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome now stands and has offered the team incentives to extend its lease while financing is worked out in the legislature. The team believes the legislature needs to act now and that it's not wise to extend the lease past 2011.

HKS, which designed recently completed retractable-roof football stadiums in Dallas and Indianapolis, presented a plan for a 1.5-million-square-foot building that would seat 65,000 fans, feature all-digital signage and use an active-passive system to heat and cool the structure.

The building wouldn't be a dome. Instead, it would look something like a huge Chautauqua tent with a peaked roof rising toward downtown.

The stadium would be covered in Teflon-treated fabric similar to the Metrodome bubble, except that it would be held up with cables rather than air. A trapezoidal-shaped transparent roof would slide off the top and down onto the side of the building when the weather was nice enough to go open-air.

HKS architect Bryan Trubey said the facility could host events ranging from high school football playoff games to the Super Bowl, from motor races to political conventions.

Originally assuming a price of $954 million, John Wood, of Mortenson Construction, estimated the stadium cost at $870 million if construction begins next fall - a savings of $84 million, because the recession has dried up demand for materials, lowering costs, he said. But a one-year delay in construction could cost an extra $51 million, he said.

If construction began next year, Wood said, the Vikings could play one more season in the Metrodome before the old structure would have to be demolished. Under this scenario, the team would play two seasons at the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium before kicking off at the new stadium in the fall of 2013.

The commission also reviewed a study by Conventions, Sports and Leisure that estimated a renovated Dome, with more suites and wider concourses, would cost $967.4 million. A reconstructed stadium built around a portion of the existing Metrodome would cost $771.7 million. And an all-new facility would fall in between, at $870 million.

Craig Skiem, CSL's president, said the Vikings would pull in $31.5 million more a year in either a reconstructed or new stadium - what it would take, he said, for the team to climb out of its self-described low spot on the NFL revenue scale.

VIKINGS LOOK TO SUBURBS FOR STADIUM SITE
January 14, 2010
Copyright 2010 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - The Vikings are so put off by the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission's efforts to keep the team that they are talking with suburban communities about possible stadium sites.

Team officials say they have been approached by communities interested in hosting the team, including Anoka County where the team invested time in developing a plan and promoting it to the legislature.

"Over the next 30 to 60 days we'll start to see this play out," said Lester Bagley, the team's stadium project chief. "Right now, there is a lot of good work going on. As we get into the (legislative) session and into the spring, these things will surface in due time, at the appropriate time."

The biggest advantage any site can offer right now is a financing mechanism similar to the 0.75 percent sales tax proposed by Anoka County, or the 0.15 percent sales tax Hennepin County used to fund more than half of the Twins' new $550 million ballpark. That's a disadvantage for Minneapolis, which has a $10 million cap on tax money that can be used for a stadium, and is situated in a county already imposing a tax for the Twins' Target Field.

The rift between the Vikings and the commission came after a request that the Vikings sign a two-year lease extension through the 2013 season. The team claims it is being coerced into signing a lease extension through 2013, and that if it doesn't, the commission will reinstate a $4 million lease bill that has been waived the past 10 years.

Officials say the "clawback" would only be triggered only if the team moved or was sold during the extra two years of the lease.

The Vikings have begun working with legislators on funding for a stadium, saying action must be taken during this session. Legislators, faced with their own budget challenges, say now is not the team to put money into a stadium.

FEDERAL FUNDS MAY HELP BUILD VIKINGS STADIUM
January 28, 2010
Copyright 2010 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - If the Minnesota legislature decides to take on construction of a new stadium for the Vikings, there may be some federal stimulus funds available to help pay for the project.

Vikings' spokesman Lester Bagley told a real estate gathering in Minneapolis that private developers and local government officials have also approached the team about a half dozen potential Twin Cities suburban sites. Bagley would not say where, but some signs pointed to Dayton, near Interstate 94 in western Hennepin County, as a possible home.

To help finance the deal, the Vikings are exploring federal Build America Bonds, along with a possible 2 percent increase in the hospitality tax across the seven-county metro area.

Bagley's comments were the first public signs of a tentative blueprint for how the team might assemble a public financing package at the Legislature, which convenes in two weeks.

Bagley said the federal bonds could provide up to $1 million a year to help make interest payments on a stadium, which is projected to cost $870 million.

Minnesota's top state budget official, Tom Hanson, who spoke to the same group, said state officials have not used the bond program and that any proposal - including one from the Vikings - would need legislative approval.

Kathy Kardell, an assistant commissioner under Hanson at the Minnesota Management and Budget Office, said a study would be needed to determine whether a Vikings stadium could be defined as a "governmental purpose" under federal tax law. Southern Illinois University last year used Build America Bonds to help finance a new 15,000-seat football stadium and help expand its basketball arena.

Kardell said agency officials have been asked by representatives from Gov. Tim Pawlenty's office to investigate other possible bonding strategies, but most had been discarded as unworkable.

Although no one financing proposal would by itself pay for the stadium, Bagley said all were being explored as part of a public subsidy package.

Bagley said that an increase in the hospitality tax, similar to what was used in the late 1970s and '80s to finance the Metrodome could generate another $15 million annually.

That, he said, could be added to the Vikings' push to divert the estimated $20 million they say the team generates yearly in sales taxes.

Team officials said diverting that money, plus the addition of new tax revenue, could equal the estimated $29 million to $42 million annually that would be needed for the project.

MINNESOTA MAYOR OFFERS IDEA ON VIKINGS' STADIUM
February 4, 2010
Copyright 2010 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty has suggested that a new state lottery game could provide $12 million to help fund a new stadium for the Vikings. While Pawlenty said he was not specifically proposing such a funding plan, he said lottery funds could be part of a public subsidy package that would generate the $29 million to $42 million annually that team officials say would be needed for a stadium.

"If you look at the Minnesota Lottery, for example, there's new games added all the time in the lottery," Pawlenty told a radio audience. "There was one just added the other day called Mega Millions that's going to generate $20 million a year," the governor said.

Although 40 percent of those funds - $ 8 million - is constitutionally dedicated to an environmental trust fund, "the other $12 [million] can be used for other stuff. People will say it should go into schools or roads or whatever, but ... that's another way to do [the stadium]."

The governor's comments signal that Pawlenty may be moving closer to brokering a proposal even as the Legislature convenes to grapple with a $1.2 billion shortfall. They also show that stadium proponents, who have been working largely behind the scenes, are sorting through a series of public subsidies that include a metrowide hospitality tax and federal stimulus money.

One particularly novel element that Pawlenty offered: a pumped up version of tax increment financing, a complex financing tool that typically has allowed developers to divert their property taxes to develop their properties.

The Vikings have examined a variation that would allow them to capture not only the increase in their property taxes, but also the rise in a broad array of tax revenue they would generate, including income taxes paid by players. They would then use that money to help pay for a stadium, which has an estimated $870 million price tag.

Vikings spokesman Lester Bagley said the team had also explored the tax benefits of creating a stadium development district to capture the rise in "all of the economic activity." The Vikings, who have played in the Metrodome since 1982, have said they will not renew their lease when it expires in 2011.

VIKINGS MAY CONSIDER 40-YEAR LEASE
February 11, 2010
Copyright 2010 MediaVentures

St. Paul, Minn. - If it helps the financing, the Minnesota Vikings say they may be open to a 40- year lease on a proposed new stadium. The team current operates under a 30-year lease.

"If it's built with the confidence that it's not another Metrodome, that it's built with foresight and flexibility, then we might be willing," said Lester Bagley, Vikings vice president in charge of stadium efforts. "We want to solve this problem, and we're willing to be long-term players."

The Vikings' Metrodome lease runs through the 2011 season, and they have declined to sign a two-year extension offered by their landlord, the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission.

Though the sports commission has a plan to build an $870 million stadium on the Metrodome's current site, the Vikings are looking at possible suburban locations. Bagley said he expects a solid financing plan to emerge during the current legislative session, even before a location is secured.

"It's more about the length of the bonds and the revenue streams and our own contribution, and less about where we put it," Bagley said. "Then, very quickly, the site situation needs to be resolved."

MINNESOTA SENATOR OFFERS TO SPONSOR VIKINGS STADIUM BILL
February 25, 2010
Copyright 2010 MediaVentures

St. Paul, Minn. - A lame-duck state senator says he's willing to sponsor a bill to fund a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings if it helps move the process forward.

"If they're looking for somebody to take the hit for the team, that would be me because I'm not running again," said Sen. Steve Murphy of Red Wing, who acknowledged that any legislator sponsoring stadium legislation would be in the midst of a swirling controversy. "I've talked to [the Vikings] on several occasions . . . if they asked me to carry a bill, I'd carry a bill."

Murphy however said he thought there was "probably [a] 50-50 proposition" that stadium legislation would be introduced this year at the State Capitol and acknowledged that the chances of it passing were "probably pretty low."

"I'm saying we need to do some real hard work this session," Murphy said. "If we can't get something through this year, we need to set it up so that the discussion is carried on, and that there's an actual vote on that issue at least next year."

The Vikings, who have played at the Metrodome for more than 25 years, have said they will not renew their lease, which expires after the 2011 season. The Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, the owners of the Metrodome, has unveiled an updated plan for a new $870 million stadium that would be built on the Metrodome property.

Although the Vikings have not yet announced a funding plan for the project, the team and others - including Gov. Tim Pawlenty - have in recent months suggested a variety of possibilities including a metrowide hospitality tax, lottery proceeds and even using President Obama's federal stimulus program.

March 4, 2010
Copyright 2010 MediaVentures

The Minnesota Vikings have a tough sell to win over voters to support their bid for a new stadium. A new poll taken for a St. Paul television station shows 64 percent of the public believes the state should not help finance a new stadium. The poll also found that 66 percent of voters believe the stadium should have a roof. The Vikings have said they want an open-air stadium and if the state believes it should be covered, then it should cover that $200 million cost.

METRODOME SITE IN VIKINGS PLANS
March 25, 2010
Copyright 2010 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - The Minnesota Vikings are focusing on the land under the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome as the best site for a new stadium. The team has been promoting the site in its talks with state legislators.

Lester Bagley, who heads the Vikings' stadium campaign, said there might still be a couple of viable suburban sites, but so far none has been able to offer what the team seeks - an appropriate site that will bring with it political and financial momentum.

"There is a sense that the Minneapolis site offers a lot of advantages, so that's the default site, if you will," Bagley said. "But the door is left open for other sites to come forward."

Bagley and the team's landlord, the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, heard a pessimistic report from the commission's stadium lobbyist, William R. McGrann.

McGrann told commissioners at their monthly meeting that the session's highly charged political atmosphere - driven by a deficit of nearly $1 billion - will make it nearly impossible for a stadium bill to be introduced in time for serious consideration.

The Vikings' 30-year Metrodome lease runs out after the 2011 season, and Bagley said the team will sign an extension only if there is a bill in place and the team can still play there.

Bagley said the team won't consider extending its lease without a stadium deal.

Among the funding solutions being discussed, he said: using taxes generated by the Vikings and economic activity around the stadium, and creating a Vikings-branded state lottery.

Tension over an extension has caused a rift between the Vikings and their landlord, which wants the Vikings to sign a two-year extension regardless. Still, the sides are working together on some things. The commission announced it will replace the artificial turf before next season and will turn part of the old Twins offices into a hospitality area that the Vikings can rent out.

The turf is estimated to cost $600,000, and the commission capped the renovation budget at $700,000.

Asked if the team and commission have bridged their chasm, Bagley said, "They are our landlord, and we have landlord-tenant issues."

VIKINGS SEE ACTION ON STADIUM PLAN
April 8, 2010
Copyright 2010 MediaVentures

St. Paul, Minn. - The Vikings, along with some legislators, are optimistic that a stadium plan coming together in the Minnesota legislature may win passage before adjournment in mid-May.

The behind-the-scenes maneuvering for a controversial $870 million stadium appears to be intensifying, even though no formal legislation has been introduced.

Lester Bagley, who directs the Vikings' stadium development efforts, said a public subsidy request by the team would likely include "a number of different revenue streams" and that legislative leaders along with local business officials were privately conferring over which package would likely get the most support.

There's "progress every day about sorting out how and when to position the issue, and move it forward," Bagley said.

The Vikings' lease at the Metrodome expires after the 2011 season, and team officials have said they will not consider an extension without a stadium deal.

In recent months, the team has broadly outlined a proposal to possibly use a metro-wide hospitality tax, divert sales taxes already generated by the team and perhaps even obtain federal stimulus money to help build the stadium.

With five weeks left in the session, legislators have yet to tackle appropriations for K-12 schools and health and human services or make the cuts needed to completely balance the state's budget. They also have a $2.7 billion unallotment court case looming. State Supreme Court justices are still pondering their decision in the case, which deals with emergency budget cuts Pawlenty made last year.

THREE PLANS CIRCULATING TO FUND VIKINGS STADIUM
April 15, 2010
Copyright 2010 MediaVentures

St. Paul, Minn. - There are reportedly three plans circulating through the Minnesota legislature that could fund a new stadium for the Vikings. The first plan calls for a $698 million stadium financed over 40 years, not the usual 30.

The stadium would be financed through a seven-county tax on hotel lodging, a sports-memorabilia tax and a rental-car tax. The plan would also require $233 million from the Vikings.

A second, similar plan, also calls for a $698 million stadium. Under the plan, the Vikings would pay the debt service of $42 million per year during the first ten years.

During the next 30 years, existing entertainment taxes in downtown Minneapolis that now go to pay off debt from the Minneapolis Convention Center would be diverted to the Vikings stadium. Those taxes are scheduled to pay off convention-center debt by 2020.

The third plan revives a bill that would allow slot machines at Canterbury Park. The latest version of the legislation, which has floated around the Capitol in some form for a dozen years, eliminates a proposal for new slot machines at Running Aces, the state's other horseracing track. Instead, it adds 2,500 machines to Canterbury Park, which former Sen. Dick Day said would generate more than $100 million annually for the state.

The original proposal split the revenues into four equal pools, including a recreational fund, which could be used to help build a new Vikings stadium. The new version puts 40 percent of the money - or about $40 million annually - into that fund.

Estimates for a new stadium range as high as $870 million, and Vikings officials say their request for a public subsidy could range from $29 million to $42 million a year over the 30-year life of the bonds needed to build the facility.

The team's Metrodome lease expires after the 2011 season, and Vikings officials have said they would not sign a new lease without a deal in place for a new stadium.

Day said other ideas, which include a mix of memorabilia, hospitality and other taxes, aren't going anywhere because Gov. Tim Pawlenty would quickly veto them. Democratic leadership in the House and Senate said the racino bill has no support at the Capitol.

Observers say nothing will likely be introduced at the Capitol until after the DFL state convention later this month.

April 29, 2010
Copyright 2010 MediaVentures

An attempt to get the Minnesota House to consider authorizing a horse-track casino to fund a Vikings stadium was shot down. Supporters of slot machines at Canterbury Park, an attraction known as a racino, have tried to link their fortunes to the Vikings by offering to kick $40 million a year into a new, $870 million Vikings stadium. The idea has met resistance from legislators who are opposed to an expansion of gambling in Minnesota or a venture that would compete with Indian casinos. Another effort is expected next week in a bill that includes two major options, including rebuilding on the site of the Metrodome using taxes currently being raised for the Minneapolis Convention Center. The second option, while not site specific, would pre-authorize a menu of local taxes and set up a stadium commission. If it passed, any local government could select from that tax menu to put together a financing package with the team and seek approval from the commission.

PLAN FOR VIKINGS STADIUM GETS MIXED RESPONSE
May 6, 2010
Copyright 2010 MediaVentures

St. Paul, Minn. - A new plan to fund a stadium for the Minnesota Vikings got a mixed reception from legislators. While winning one approval, it was battered in other committees and is off the House agenda.

The bill hit a wall in the House, where the chairman of a state and local government operations committee blasted the Vikings for everything from hiring lobbyists to the bill's late timing. It was defeated on a 10-9 vote.

"It's mortally wounded but not necessarily dead," said Rep. Loren Solberg, the bill's sponsor in the House.

A companion committee in the Senate later gutted another proposal and substituted a plan modeled after the Carolina Panthers stadium. Under the proposal, season ticketholders could buy seat licenses, costing thousands of dollars a year.

The Senate bill now proceeds to a rules committee. Backers in the House would either have to persuade one lawmaker to switch his or her vote or offer the bill as an amendment on the House floor.

The proposal has two options. Under one proposal, taxpayers would help pay for a site-neutral project over 40 years in four ways: a 1.5 percent tax on metro-area hotels that would generate $8 million a year; a 6.8 percent tax on NFL merchandise at the wholesale level in all of the state's metropolitan areas that would yield $16.9 million annually; $5.5 million a year from a sports-themed scratch-off lottery game, and another $5.5 million from a metro-area tax on rental cars.

A Minnesota stadium authority would also be created, patterned loosely on the independent public body established to oversee the Twins' new ballpark.

An alternate version would ask the city of Minneapolis - whose top officials have already criticized the plan - to extend sales taxes now being used to partly fund the city's convention center to also help build a Vikings stadium in the city.

A sports-themed scratch-off lottery game would also be started, with the proceeds going to help pay for a stadium roof. The city, according to proponents, would own the stadium.

In both scenarios, which were contained in a single, 39-page legislative bill, the Vikings would be required to sign a 40-year lease at the new stadium. Should he sell the team, Vikings owner Zygi Wilf would also be obligated to use some of the profits from the sale to help pay the stadium's remaining debt.

The Vikings did not join in the proposal's unveiling at the State Capitol. Team spokesman Lester Bagley said afterward that the Vikings were not enamored of having to pay $264 million because the project was based on the stadium having a roof, a feature that he said the Vikings do not need. He said the team was committed instead to paying $210 million, which he said would be roughly a third of the cost of a roofless stadium.

"We [also] would be the only NFL team to sign a 40-year lease. I think our owners would be willing to consider that, but we need some flexibility," Bagley said.

The bill also would lock in the Vikings' relationship to Minnesota forever; it contains a provision that should the team ever move, its "heritage and records, including the name, logo, colors, history, playing records, trophies, and memorabilia" would transfer to the state.

"This bill still has a very rocky, tough road to get down to become law at this point of the session," said House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, the DFL-endorsed candidate for governor who would play a pivotal role in any attempt to fast-track the plan before the Legislature adjourns in less than two weeks.

"I don't think that I'm going to do anything extraordinary here for this bill," she said, adding that the proposal had a "multitude of problems." Given the state's budget deficit and the proposal's own shortcomings, she said, "I'm not sure that this bill is ready for prime time."

Gov. Tim Pawlenty said that while he is open to new ideas he reiterated: "We're not going to be raising or dealing with state taxes to subsidize that."

Pawlenty spokesman Brian McClung issued an even stronger statement.

"We remain opposed to any stadium plan that includes tax increases, including the hotel tax, jersey tax, and rental car tax in one of the plans unveiled today," he said. "The governor continues to believe the team needs a local partner to be successful in their effort."

The Vikings' Metrodome lease expires after the 2011 season, and team officials have said they won't sign an extension without a stadium deal in place.

VIKINGS INSIST THAT 2011 BE THEIR YEAR
May 20, 2010
Copyright 2010 MediaVentures

St. Paul, Minn. - The Minnesota Vikings say a stadium deal must be in place in 2011 or the team could look for a home in another city. Its lease at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome expires after the 2011 season.

"Having an NFL team in Minnesota requires a stadium solution," the team said in a written statement. "This solution must be finalized in the 2011 Session."

Lester Bagley, Vikings vice president of public affairs and stadium development, said the team had no additional comments.

"The statement will speak for itself," he said. "But it shows just how strongly ownership feels about this."

The Vikings say that without a stadium deal in place, there will be no lease extension. But next year's legislative session doesn't look any more promising than the one that ended Monday with little substantive movement on the stadium issue.

Lawmakers began this session with a $1.2 billion deficit. Next January - when the Legislature begins to draw up a two-year budget - the deficit is projected to be $5.8 billion, though Gov. Tim Pawlenty said that number is misleadingly high.

Pawlenty has ruled out a special session. So that pits the Vikings once again against red ink and the belief among several lawmakers that the state should not spend public money on a pro stadium. Several proposals came before the legislature this session, most requiring taxpayers to foot about two-thirds of the bill. The Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, the Metrodome landlord, has commissioned plans for two proposals, a $770 million "rebuild" retaining the Dome's south sideline and an $870 million stadium on the same site, each with a retractable roof.

Recent legislation proposed a $791 million stadium with a fixed roof, and the Vikings say an open-air stadium that meets NFL requirements can be built for $650 million.

"While we greatly respect the challenges and priorities faced by the State of Minnesota, resolution of this issue has now been pushed to the final year of the lease," the team's statement read. "This lack of action will only increase the costs of the project for everyone, plus we missed the opportunity to put thousands of Minnesotans back to work."

The team says it needs more revenue streams and a more favorable lease to compete with the league's 31 other teams. The Metrodome lease requires the Vikings to share concessions and advertising revenue with the sports facilities commission, something that would be eliminated entirely in a new stadium.

Adding to the team's urgency is the threat of an NFL lockout in 2011, which likely would kill any chance of taxpayer subsidies, and the fact that the Twins and University of Minnesota have opened new, taxpayer-subsidized stadiums.

POLL DOES NOT FAVOR VIKINGS STADIUM
May 27, 2010
Copyright 2010 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. Ė The Minnesota Vikings struck out in their effort to win funding for a new stadium from the Minnesota legislature and it appears the same thing might happen again next year, according to a new poll.

The poll, conducted by Minnesota Public Radio and the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, found that 64 percent of the state's residents oppose public funding for a stadium.

Thirty percent support the idea of a taxpayer subsidy.

The day after the legislative session ended earlier this month, with no stadium bill enacted, representatives of team owner Zygi Wilf issued a statement saying that a stadium funding plan has to be completed next year or the team will consider other options, including leaving the city. The Vikings' lease at the Metrodome expires after the 2011 season.

LEGAL ISSUE MAY HINDER VIKINGS' STADIUM OPTIONS
August 5, 2010
Copyright 2010 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - A legal issue decided when the Twins were working to build a new ballpark could limit the Vikings' options as they seek to build a new stadium, according to the Star Tribune.

A Hennepin County judge ruled four years ago that, even though the Minnesota Twins were free to leave the Metrodome, they still had to play that upcoming season there because they had done things that led fans and advertisers to believe they would.

Things like selling tickets, lining up sponsors, handing out schedules. The things that modern pro sports teams must do all the time to keep their brand before the fans, the newspaper reported.

Stadium experts and attorneys who examined the four-year-old Hennepin County District Court case between the Twins and the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission told the newspaper the Vikings seem to be in a legally sound position to leave the Dome without consequence when their 30-year lease expires at the end of 2011, as the team says it will if a stadium deal isn't reached.

The gist of the February 2006 ruling, handed down by District Judge Charles Porter, was that the Twins no longer had a contractual obligation to play in the Dome. The order helped give the team leverage to get public financing from Hennepin County a few months later for what eventually became Target Field.

Porter added that the Twins still had a legal duty to play the 2006 season at the Dome because they had engaged in normal marketing and promotional activities. The Twins, he noted, acknowledged as much.

Vikings spokesman Lester Bagley told the Star Tribune the team had no comment on the case and commission officials declined to discuss legal strategy.

The Vikings' threatened departure is the biggest issue facing the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, which wants a new multi-use stadium that could host both the Vikings and other large-scale events outside of football season. It unveiled plans last winter for an $870 million stadium with a retractable roof that would be built on the Metrodome site.

MSFC HEAD HOPEFUL ABOUT VIKINGS' CHANCES
September 30, 2010
Copyright 2010 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - The head of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, in a Q&A with the Minnesota Post, says he's optimistic about the Vikings' chances for the new stadium when the new legislature convenes.

"The politics have changed to the point that people expect this to occur," Roy Terwilliger told the Post. "I think there will be conditions to the debate, however. There will have to be a solution to the budget problem, and there must be certainty that health care for the elderly or that school kids aren't caught in a dilemma before they get to a stadium solution. But I think that each of the three possibilities for governor is committed to lead on the issue and that a plan will emerge. Whether it passes is another question. The fact that the [Vikings' lease] expires after next season adds some urgency that people now understand."

Terwilliger told the newspaper the team is exploring other possible locations for a stadium, but he believes they will come back to the current site of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome as the best location.

"The downside is having to play at the Gophers stadium for two seasons, but the long-term advantages, with all of the built-in infrastructure and all of the synergy with downtown, makes the Metrodome site the most efficient option going forward," he said. "It has 20 acres of land already owned by the public. And it's at the intersection of two major freeways and two light rail lines."

Terwilliger said public money will be necessary for the stadium to be successful and that a solution would likely include Hennepin County.

"One idea that emerged from the focus groups was a very small statewide sales tax, say a tenth of 1 percent. That would do it, but a lot of legislators would want a referendum on that. I'm not so sure a referendum would fail," he said.

October 21, 2010
Copyright 2010 MediaVentures

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty told a St. Paul Chamber of Commerce group that he doubted that funding for a new Vikings stadium would be approved by the legislature in the upcoming session, but that it could happen after he leaves office, according to the Star Tribune. Pawlenty didn't suggest how the money might be found, but said it is likely to get done "because it has to."

October 28, 2010
Copyright 2010 MediaVentures

A new Minnesota poll shows 75 percent of state residents oppose public subsidies for a new Vikings stadium, the Star Tribune reports. The poll, which surveyed 1,206 adults, indicates a shift of opinion on the public money spent on the Minnesota Twins' new ballpark. While 40 percent still say the subsidy was not worth it, the poll shows that the level of approval for the public subsidy for Target Field has risen to 48 percent, up from 29 percent four years ago, before construction had started. The poll has a margin of error of 3.6 points.

MINNESOTA REPUBLICANS CONSIDERING OPTIONS FOR VIKINGS
November 18, 2010
Copyright 2010 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - The Star Tribune reports that Minnesota's new Republican legislative leaders say that balancing the state budget and cutting government are their top priorities come January, they have also talked about the likelihood next year of addressing a new stadium for the Vikings, whose lease expires after the 2011 season.

Republican officials acknowledge that the Vikings already have made contact with incoming Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch.

Rep. Mary Liz Holberg, who was named chair of the influential House Ways and Means Committee, told the Star Tribune one plan that shows "some of the most promise" would use local taxes that now pay for the Minneapolis Convention Center. Once that debt is retired, the money could be used for a stadium, she said. The idea was among several floated - and then shot down - during the last legislative session, and brought criticism from Minneapolis officials who said the money would be needed to maintain the convention center.

"I think, one way or another, it's going to be addressed this session," Holberg said of the stadium. "The question is whether or not it's resolved. It's not going to go away."

As the new Republican leadership prepares to take control of the House and Senate, the Vikings also have been busy. Team spokesman Lester Bagley told the Star Tribune the Vikings are analyzing multiple sites, including the Metrodome, the team's home for 28 years, and will complete their study in 60 to 90 days.

While Bagley would not disclose the sites, he said that the Metrodome was not the only location in Minneapolis but that it remained "a cost-efficient site."

VIKINGS HAVE PLAN FOR LEGISLATURE
December 2, 2010
Copyright 2010 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - The Minnesota Vikings hope to have a plan for a publicly owned stadium, including site, costs and a financial partner, to present to state lawmakers within 30 to 60 days, team vice president Lester Bagley told the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Bagley said the team is doing due diligence on four sites: three in Minneapolis and one in a suburb.

He declined to specify the sites. "I don't want to speak for anybody until our work is done," he said.

The estimated cost of a fixed-roof stadium is $791 million, but Bagley said construction costs would vary by site.

The newspaper said one site likely is where the Metrodome stands on the east side of downtown Minneapolis. The Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, which operates the Dome, has paid more than $2 million for two sets of plans to create a new stadium at the location: One would incorporate parts of the current Dome; the other calls for a nearly complete teardown of the facility.

"We're still in the mix, I'm sure," Roy Terwilliger, the commission's president, told the newspaper.

He said the commission has not been included in any plans involving a site other than the Metrodome location.

A nebulous stadium bill was introduced late in last year's legislative session but quickly died. This time, Bagley said, the Vikings will be better prepared.

"What we heard at the last session was, 'When you bring this back, have a package that includes site, costs specific to the site and some funding options; then let's attack the issue,'" he said.

"That's what we've been busy getting together since summer."

The Vikings have been looking for a site within a municipality willing to help finance the package. If there are three potential sites in Minneapolis, that would require help from the city or Hennepin County.

As recently as last summer, Hennepin County Commission Chairman Mike Opat said the county has too many other issues to handle to help with another stadium, the Pioneer Press said. The commission helped build the Twins' Target Field by approving a countywide sales tax.

Bagley said the Vikings have received recent overtures from two groups trying to woo an NFL team to Los Angeles but told each "that we appreciate the check-in, but we're focused on resolving the issue in Minnesota."

A group led by developer Ed Roski is trying to lure a team to his stadium site in Industry, Calif., east of Los Angeles. Meanwhile, the Anschutz Entertainment Group, which owns the NHL's Los Angeles Kings, hopes to get a stadium and team into downtown L.A. near the Staples Center.

SUBURBS PITCHING SITES FOR VIKINGS STADIUM
December 9, 2010
Copyright 2010 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - The Minnesota Vikings have been privately wooed by a trio of counties regarding a new football stadium: Ramsey, Washington and Anoka have been discussing a joint proposal to build a new home for the team at the long-abandoned Arden Hills munitions site, the Star Tribune reported.

Talks began over the summer, out of the public eye, and have included preliminary discussions on using liquor taxes and possibly racino money to help with public funding.

The newspaper said one element, according to those involved, would put Anoka and Washington counties in the politically unusual position of contributing financially to a project that would not be in either county. The 430-acre parcel, near both counties along Interstate 35W and Hwy. 10, lies entirely in Ramsey County.

Team officials insist they will not renew the lease at the Metrodome, where the Vikings have played for 28 years. The team is now conducting an in-depth analysis that is believed to include the Metrodome property, two other undisclosed Minneapolis sites and another suburban location, the newspaper said.

Lester Bagley, Vikings vice president of public affairs and stadium development, told the Star Tribune that the team has toured the Arden Hills property and had met with officials from the three counties. But he would not confirm whether Arden Hills was among the properties the team was now "drilling down" on.

"We looked at it," Bagley said. But "just because a site is, you know, a number of acres, and accessible and close to [the] downtown business core, that's [only] part of the equation. ... We have to find a way to finance the facility."

Though meetings among the three counties have stalled, Ramsey County Commissioner Tony Bennett told the Star Tribune he is pushing the proposal.

"People are still talking," said Bennett, who led the summer meetings. Bennett said the participants were, in part, awaiting a resolution of the disputed governor's race between Mark Dayton and Republican Tom Emmer.

POLL SAYS MINNESOTANS WILLING TO LET VIKINGS LEAVE
December 16, 2010
Copyright 2010 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - A new poll released by Public Policy Polling suggests that Vikings owner Ziggy Wilf would have a tough time getting public money for a new stadium, the Minnesota Independent reported. The poll was taken before the venue's roof collapsed last weekend.

A majority of Minnesotans oppose a taxpayer-funded stadium for the team. Opponents of such funding come from across the political spectrum with a majority of DFLers, moderates and Republicans saying they disapprove of such a plan. When asked whether they'd support a stadium paid for with public gambling revenues, however, a plurality said that would be acceptable.

During a particularly rough season for the team and with the lease on the Metrodome expiring, rumors continue to swirl that Vikings owner Wilf will move the team to Los Angeles if he doesn't get a deal for a new facility, the newspaper said.

In the PPP survey, only 28 percent said they supported that happening with public funds; 61 percent say they oppose taxpayer money going to a Vikings stadium. Sixty-one percent of Democrats, 62 percent of Republicans and 59 percent of independents opposed public financing.

The survey also asked, "If the choice was between the Vikings moving to California or Minnesota taxpayers building a new stadium for them, which would you prefer?"

Just under half - 49 percent - said they'd rather the Vikings leave than pay for a stadium with public money. Only 35 percent said the government should provide funds to keep the team in Minnesota.

But nearly two-thirds of voters - 63 percent - approve of using expanded gambling to pay for a new stadium, while 24 percent oppose the idea. Again, a similar number of Democratic, Republican and independent voters agreed, the Independent said.

GOVERNOR-ELECT WARMS TO VIKINGS STADIUM IDEA
December 23, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - The Star Tribune says Minnesota Gov.-elect Mark Dayton will support a publicly financed stadium for the Vikings as long as the benefits outweigh the public costs and the state's general fund dollars aren't used to build it.

But the initiative for the stadium is going to have to come from the Republican majority in the Legislature, Dayton said. He doesn't intend to put forward his own plan.

"I stressed it needs to be a collaborative process," said Dayton, who mentioned user fees - surcharges on stadium-related revenues, such as tickets and memorabilia - as one way to help fund the massive project, expected to cost between $600 million and $900 million.

Dayton said he sees a new stadium first and foremost as "an investment opportunity that leads to jobs in Minnesota," carrying with it the possibility for up to 8,000 construction jobs.

Dayton said he planned to meet with Speaker-elect Kurt Zellers and seek his views on the stadium issue. He said he's detected a lack of willingness among some Republicans to address the issue this session. If that's the case, he said, "Let's find out now and spare us all."

He's certain of one thing, he said: With the Vikings' Metrodome lease expiring at the end of the 2011 season, this will be the last chance for the state to act on a stadium plan.

"I really believe 2011 is the final opportunity for all of us to put forward a proposal. ... I think the writing's on the wall. We need to get it done in this session," he said.

Stadium discussions have increased in the last week since the roof of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome ripped open just before a home game nearly two weeks ago. That game was moved a day later to Detroit. Another home game this week was played at the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium. The stadium was filled with snow and had been winterized. It had to be emptied and readied for the Monday night game. The public and crews from concessionaire Aramark and Mortenson Construction joined the effort.

Mortenson was the builder of TCF Bank Stadium, which opened in 2009. The stadium has a capacity of 50,000 and is home to University of Minnesota Golden Gopher football.

Attendance for the first outdoor home game in 29 years was about 40,000. The Vikings reported they had about 64,000 ticketholders. Season ticket holders who opted not to use their tickets were eligible for a refund from the Vikings, the Star Tribune said. The Vikings have completed their home season.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was in Minneapolis for the game and met with legislative leaders about the stadium.

"I think there's a recognition that we need to find a long-term solution for the Vikings here to get a new stadium built," he said at a press conference. "We met with the business community. We met with the legislators. And we met with the governor-elect. So we're all going to be working hard to try to find the best solution to keep the Vikings here in Minnesota."

Meanwhile, Zygi Wilf reiterated that he is opposed to a stadium with a roof of any kind, including a retractable one. "Football should be played outdoors," Wilf told the Star Tribune. The roof at the Metrodome suffered two tears and the weight on a potential third rip was removed before further damage occurred.

Roy Terwilliger, who chairs the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, told the Star Tribune that crews over the weekend used plastic sheets and parts of the roof's inner layer to close the large gaps.

Patching the roof enabled workers to heat the arena to 50 or 60 degrees, helping melt the snow and ice remaining on the roof.

Plugs on the panels will be opened as needed to drain water from the roof into the stadium bowl, he said. "It's a slow process because the ice is still pretty darn thick on some of those panels."

When a panel heavy with ice appeared ready to break, workers fired a shotgun at it to cause it to tear and dislodge its load, commission spokesman Patrick Milan told the newspaper. The controlled measure may be used again with other panels in danger of failing, he said.

That panel makes the fifth hole in the Metrodome roof. Replacement panels have been ordered. The Star Tribune said a new roof would cost an estimated $12 million to $15 million.

Commission officials say they will patch the existing roof, but it is too early to decide whether it should be replaced.

RAMSEY COUNTY TO STUDY VIKINGS STADIUM POTENTIAL
February 17, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - Ramsey County decided to study an Arden Hills site's potential to host a new Vikings stadium, the Star Tribune reported.

On a 6-1 vote that made no mention of financing mechanisms or spending limits, the Ramsey County commissioners agreed to determine if the former Army ammunition plant would benefit taxpayers or meet the team's needs.

Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley said the Arden Hills site is a viable contender. Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, in a letter to Gov. Mark Dayton and legislative leaders, shot down all other sites but the Metrodome. The newspaper said the Vikings also are believed to be looking at two other sites - one near Target Field and one near the Target Corp. campus in Brooklyn Park.

For Ramsey County, the resolution provides a ticket into discussions about a stadium with Dayton, the Vikings and the Legislature, which is expected to see stadium bills in the next couple of weeks, according to the Star Tribune.

Bagley said the Metrodome site may have lower infrastructure costs than the Arden Hills site, but choosing the Dome site would mean playing at TCF Stadium for three years. That would cost the team money and create a "revenue issue that would need to be addressed," he said. The team's lease at the Metrodome expires at the end of the 2011 season.

RAMSEY COUNTY CONSIDERS SALES TAX FOR VIKINGS STADIUM
February 24, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - The Star Tribune quoted two Minnesota legislators who said Ramsey County officials have privately asked their opinion of a half-cent countywide sales-tax increase that would generate $300 million for a new Vikings stadium.

Meanwhile, Minneapolis officials don't want to be left out and Mayor R.T. Rybak has renewed talks with the team about a new venue where the Metrodome now stands, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported.

While Ramsey County officials said emphatically that no formal proposal is being discussed, the conversations as reported by the legislators to the Star Tribune suggest that Ramsey County is aggressively exploring possible public-subsidy plans for a new stadium in Arden Hills.

The latest maneuvering came as legislators said that although a stadium is not yet formally on the Legislature's agenda, behind-the-scenes jockeying at the State Capitol and elsewhere is intensifying.

Rep. Alice Hausman and Rep. Bev Scalze said a County Board lobbyist and County Commissioner Jan Parker met with them and used the figures to illustrate a funding scenario. Other legislators representing Ramsey County said that they, too, had such visits in the past three days, but that county officials did not use specific sales tax numbers.

"[They said], 'Just keep an open mind, Alice,'" Hausman told the Star Tribune. "We argued lots of details." Hausman drafted a letter that she and other Ramsey County legislators signed expressing opposition to having the county provide public subsidies for a Vikings stadium.

Parker denied she floated a specific proposal, let alone suggest that a half-cent sales tax increase would provide $300 million.

"I did not have any discussion like that, and there is not a proposal," she said. The county, Parker said, is only now beginning to explore funding options, and much more detail would need to be collected before decisions were made about how to proceed.

In a letter to Hausman, Parker told the legislator that "it is not my desire to give away the store just to have a team locate in Ramsey County." But she added that since the stadium may "be built somewhere, we need to find out if this site may have some benefits for Ramsey County residents," the Star Tribune reported.

The Vikings are reportedly revising cost estimates for a new stadium to replace the Metrodome, the team's home for 29 years, and previous price tags for a stadium have been nearly $900 million. Some stadium advocates have pushed a funding plan that would have the Vikings contribute roughly a third of the cost and a local government and possibly the state contribute the rest. The team's Metrodome lease expires after the 2011 season.

The Pioneer Press said the recent meeting between the team and Rybak was the first since last year's legislative session, when a stadium bill failed to gain traction.

Stadium site options have narrowed essentially to two: tearing down the downtown Metrodome and building new, or clearing out a portion of an abandoned Army ammunition plant in Arden Hills and building from scratch there.

The Pioneer Press said Rybak opposes a third site in Minneapolis near Target Field, where the Minnesota Twins play. Building there would mean buying land and displacing a farmers market, among other operations, adding at least $150 million to the cost of building on the site of the Dome, according a letter Rybak and Minneapolis City Council President Barbara Johnson sent to state Capitol leaders earlier this month.

Rybak has previously stated that any public funding for a stadium needs to be borne regionally or statewide, rather than solely by Minneapolis taxpayers.

MINNESOTA STADIUM BILL COULD INCLUDE TIMBERWOLVES
March 17, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - The Star Tribune says the Minnesota Timberwolves have a plan to help build a new Minnesota Vikings stadium – and get Target Center renovated for them as well.

The Timberwolves called it a "global solution" for Minnesota's multiple stadium issues, according to the proposal, which was obtained by Minnesota Public Radio.

The plan calls for a regional sports authority, and would issue 25-year bonds through the Metropolitan Council to raise $1.173 billion to not only build a new Vikings stadium, but also renovate Target Center (the home of the Timberwolves), build a new St. Paul Saints ballpark and assume the debt on the Xcel Center, the home of the Minnesota Wild.

While the plan would ask the teams to contribute, according to MPR, the majority of the funding - $74 million annually - would come from taxpayers. MPR said the plan initially proposed levying a one-fifth-cent metrowide sales tax, using state tobacco settlement funds, tapping the proceeds of a new downtown Minneapolis casino and getting money from a Vikings lottery game.

Barb Johnson, the Minneapolis City Council president, told the Star Tribune that while she favors a global solution to the Twin Cities' professional stadium issues, the plan's aim to build a new Vikings stadium and keep the Metrodome was a "red flag." The Vikings have played at the Metrodome in downtown Minneapolis for 29 years.

"There'd be two football stadiums, and I just don't think that's very practical," said Johnson, who said she had only recently seen the plan.

Ted Mondale, chair of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, which owns the Metrodome, had last month advocated creating an umbrella-like regional sports authority for the purpose of addressing all of the Twin Cities' professional sports stadium needs.

"I think something like that could likely be in the bill," Mondale said of legislation authorizing a new stadium. The Star Tribune said the proposed legislation, which lawmakers, lobbyists and business leaders have been working on for months, has not yet been introduced at the Legislature.

GOP PLATFORM COULD BE HARMFUL TO VIKINGS' EFFORTS
March 24, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - The Star Tribune says a party platform that largely rules out public subsidies for stadiums puts the Minnesota legislature's Republican majority in a tricky spot as it considers options for a new Vikings stadium.

Even as two leading Republican legislators prepare a Vikings stadium bill, their party's leadership has largely sidestepped stadium questions, the newspaper said. Most Republican leaders insist that solving the state's $5 billion budget deficit comes first.

"I don't see how that fits," Sen. David Thompson, a leader of the party's freshman class, told the newspaper. Last week, he told a group of small-business owners that a stadium bill has less than a 50-50 chance of passing this year.

Republican legislators are pushing an aggressive agenda to shrink Minnesota government - from cutting taxes and spending to scaling back environmental requirements and public employee pensions. Making an exception to provide taxpayer money for the Vikings could prove politically difficult. At the same time, the Vikings' Metrodome lease runs out this year and the team is again gunning for a new Minnesota home.

The state Republican Party's platform supports "exercising spending restraint" and asks the Legislature to refrain from using "tax increases as the first solution to every problem." "Programs such as public broadcasting, sports stadiums and the arts should be funded by its users and voluntary donors, and not subsidized by the use of taxpayer money," the platform adds.

While state Republican Party chair Tony Sutton said legislators had "bigger fish to fry" than a Vikings stadium, he indicated to the Star Tribune that the party's platform was not necessarily written in stone.

"Generally speaking, the party would be opposed [to] using taxpayer funds for things like that," he said. "But until we get to the specifics, I really don't know."

MINNESOTA LEGISLATURE GETS STADIUM PLAN
April 7, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - A new Vikings stadium, including a roof, would be built with up to $300 million in state money raised from an assortment of new fees and taxes, under a proposal headed for the Minnesota legislature, the Star Tribune reported.

The authors of a bill to use public subsidies for a new Minnesota Vikings stadium say their legislation will allow a local government to increase sales taxes by a half cent for the project without taking it to the voters first.

In addition, business lobbyists and others said this week that several companies have pledged $25,000 or more apiece toward the advocacy effort. However, it's not believed that the business executives will endorse a specific site or financing proposal.

Ted Mondale, Gov. Mark Dayton's stadium czar, last month challenged the business community to get more engaged in the process. But the issue is touchy for businesses. There is no consensus on a new Vikings stadium in the business community, and residents remain deeply divided over how much financing should come from local and state governments.

Two leading Republican legislators sent a letter to their colleagues broadly outlining the public subsidy package for the project and told them that "the time has come to move forward on a bill."

The letter, along with a research paper describing the plan's highlights, says the state's share of the project – at least $30 million a year – would come from a variety of fees, including a sports memorabilia tax, stadium naming rights, a lottery game and a pro football player income tax surcharge, the newspaper reported.

In addition, Hennepin County would be permitted to use excess public subsidies from Target Field, the year-old home of the Minnesota Twins, and Minneapolis would have the option of diverting excess public subsidies from the city's convention center. Officials for both the city and county however have expressed a continuing reluctance to use those funds for a new football stadium.

The Vikings welcomed the bill as a good start, "a workable framework to negotiating a deal to secure the team and resolve the [stadium] issue," Lester Bagley, the Vikings vice president for public affairs and stadium development, told the Star Tribune. "We're encouraged, and we're appreciative of state leaders bringing the bill forward."

He said that the team is concerned about financing provisions that include the creation of a NFL player income-tax surcharge and a sales tax on luxury suites, as well as a proposal to turn over stadium naming-rights revenues to the state – as opposed to the team. The provisions could impact the Vikings' ability to compete in the Twin Cities market and in the NFL, Bagley said.

While not commenting specifically on the proposed bill, Katharine Tinucci, spokeswoman for Gov. Dayton, reiterated to the newspaper Dayton's interest in building what he has called a "people's stadium," and not using any general fund dollars.

The team, according to the plan, would be required to pay $1 for every $2 paid by state and local governments. Though the proposal does not put an overall price tag on the stadium, earlier estimates had pushed the stadium's cost to nearly $900 million.

VIKINGS' STADIUM BILL BEGINS LEGISLATIVE PROCESS
April 14, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - With little more than a month left in this year's legislative session, the formal introduction of a bill to fund a new stadium for the Vikings was praised by Gov. Mark Dayton, and an array of legislators on both sides said there is still enough time to approve a stadium funding plan, the Star Tribune reported.

The bill still has blank spots in it. No site has been picked and the bill would allow nearly a year to make such a selection, the newspaper said.

Dayton appeared open to passing legislation by mid-May that would advance a new stadium without completing a deal. "I'm agreeable to that," he said of selecting a site by next February, "as long as they pass something that can enable this project to move forward."

The plan is not likely to get its first House hearing until at least April 26 - after legislators return from an Easter break – leaving less than a month before the Legislature's scheduled adjournment, Rep. Morrie Lanning, told the Star Tribune.

The newspaper said legislation has been repeatedly delayed at the Capitol amid a see-saw debate between Republicans and DFLers over how to close the state's projected $5 billion deficit. The bill closely followed an outline that the plan's two GOP authors recently released.

Under that plan, the state would commit to as much as $300 million, largely through a series of so-called user fees that would include a pro-sports memorabilia tax, a Vikings lottery game, a sales tax on direct satellite services, plus a property tax exemption on the stadium. Three other state contributions would come from a player income tax surcharge, a state tax on luxury suites and the sale of the stadium's naming rights – all moves that may draw opposition from the team and the National Football League.

In an attempt to entice a local government to join the state and the Vikings as a funding partner - none so far have - the proposal would allow them to levy a half-cent sales tax increase, boost liquor, lodging, food and beverage, and entertainment taxes by as much 3 percent each, and charge an admission tax of up to $1 to per ticket to raise money, the newspaper said.

The plan would commit the team, which has played in the Metrodome for 29 years, to contribute $1 for every $2 in state and local money for a new stadium; the most recent price tag was just under $900 million.

The plan has one other notable caveat: A new stadium authority would have access to the team's audited financial records, but would agree not to disclose them to the public.

Under the plan, the Star Tribune said the Vikings would never really be able to leave Minnesota. Should the team leave after a stadium deal is signed, the plan would require the NFL to transfer the team's name, logo, colors, history, playing records and trophies to the state.

MINNESOTA GOVERNOR WANTS VIKINGS TO PAY UP TO HALF
April 28, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - Gov. Mark Dayton, Minnesota's most important booster for a subsidized Vikings stadium, said that the team should pay a larger share of the cost than they have publicly pledged, according to the Star Tribune.

Both the recently introduced stadium bill and team officials say the Vikings would pay one-third of the cost, along with one-third from the state and another third from a local government partner yet to be named.

Team officials declined to comment on the numbers, while a stadium bill sponsor told the newspaper it's widely assumed the Vikings would have to put up more cash.

When asked on Minnesota Public Radio's "Midmorning" program what the team's share should be, Dayton said it should be higher than a third.

"I think somewhere between a third and a half, probably closer to between 40 and 50 percent ... because I think that's an appropriate share," he said.

Pressed by host Kerri Miller to explain why the team shouldn't pay even more, Dayton said that wasn't realistic. He said that most sports stadiums are financed by public-private partnerships and that the Vikings' lease at the Metrodome is up at the end of this season, the newspaper said.

"That's my assumption and belief, that if we don't build a new stadium, that within the next couple of years they'll either move the team or sell the team to somebody who would move it elsewhere, and we'll lose the team," Dayton said.

Sen. Julie Rosen, the lead Senate sponsor of the stadium bill, told the Star Tribune that Dayton's statement "doesn't change a thing."

Stadium bill backers, she said, have always maintained that the team needs to come up with more than a third of the cost.

Lester Bagley, the Vikings' vice president of public affairs and stadium development, declined to comment to the Star Tribune specifically on Dayton's remarks.

"We're glad the governor continues to be engaged in trying to resolve the stadium issue this year and we look forward to sitting down and working through the elements of an agreement," he said.

Team owner Zygi Wilf, when visiting the State Capitol two weeks ago, said only that the Vikings were committed to a "substantial private investment."

The stadium bill requires the team to pay at least $1 for every $2 of state and local money. It lists various funding sources for the state's share, including a sports memorabilia tax, a surcharge on the income of pro football players, a sales tax on luxury suites and the sale of stadium naming rights.

Ted Mondale, chairman of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission and Dayton's point man on stadium matters, told the newspaper the numbers are going to be fluid until details are fleshed out and a local partner emerges. But he said the public wants to know that the Wilf family will be paying their fair share.

MINNEAPOLIS, RAMSEY COUNTY VYING FOR VIKINGS STADIUM
May 12, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - Minneapolis is offering to pay 25 percent of the cost of a new Vikings stadium if it is built on the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome site, the Star Tribune reported.

But that may not be enough to win the Vikings who say they have a deal with Ramsey County for a $1 billion retractable roof venue in Arden Hills.

Team owner Ziggy Wilf plans to build a 1.6 million-square-foot stadium with 21,000 parking spaces and other developments, including a Vikings Hall of Fame in Ramsey County. The Star Tribune says the team would contribute $407 million, or 44 percent. The county would finance $350 million with a half-cent sales tax increase, leaving the state to contribute $300 million.

Even before the deal was made public, the newspaper said signs erupted that the Ramsey County plan faces high hurdles at the Legislature.

House Speaker Kurt Zellers told the Star Tribune the money needed for road improvements in Arden Hills poses a problem. Rep. Morrie Lanning, the stadium plan's chief House author, said he would not move a stadium bill until road issues were resolved. To do otherwise, he said, was "asking for trouble."

Legislators have only a handful of days before they must adjourn the session, and many were voicing concerns that stadium negotiations have become so complex they might miss the deadline.

Gov. Mark Dayton said at a news conference the state's share was fixed at $300 million, whatever the cost of the new roads needed. State transportation officials estimated that a stadium without surrounding development would require $175 million in roadwork, while a fully developed site would need up to $240 million.

"I'll support either project up to $300 million," Dayton said of the competing Arden Hills and Minneapolis plans.

The deal proposes that Ramsey County use its bonding authority for the initial $100 million in road upgrades. Commissioner Rafael Ortega said that is the amount needed to cover the "first phase" of improvements needed in the next decade. He said the county would expect the state to pick up the cost of the $7 million annual debt service over 20 years. That would be on top of the $300 million the state said is its upper limit.

Ramsey County legislators had harsh words for the proposal, with Rep. Mindy Greiling telling the newspaper that county officials were in an "ivory tower" and out of touch with county taxpayers if they expected them to foot so much of the bill. Rep. Kate Knuth, whose district includes the Arden Hills property, sent Wilf a letter saying the Vikings should pay at least half the costs.

The city plan, which didn't generate much interest from the Vikings, would use sales taxes from the city's convention center and also provide money for a renovation of Target Center in downtown Minneapolis, the home of the Minnesota Timberwolves. The proposal would also change the debt structure for Target Center, the newspaper said.

No city property taxes would be used for the new Vikings stadium, the newspaper said.

The Minneapolis plan includes a bevy of new or expanded taxes: admission taxes on stadium events, higher street parking fees on game days and extension of a downtown hotel, liquor and restaurant tax citywide. It also would institute a 0.15 percent sales tax, similar to one that Hennepin County imposed to help build Target Field.

The proposal, introduced by Mayor R.T. Rybak at a State Capitol news conference, would have the Vikings paying 45 percent – $400 million – of an $895 million roofed stadium on the Dome site.

Lester Bagley, a Vikings' vice president, told the Star Tribune the Vikings appreciated the proposal but that a $400 million contribution was too much. He also noted that playing in the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium for three years while the new field was built would cost the Vikings $40 million in lost revenue.

"$440 million for the site does not work, and it's not something we can support," Bagley said. "Three parties need to negotiate a deal, and this does not accomplish that."

The plan would extend taxes currently used to pay off the city's convention center once the bonds are paid in 2020, a notion Rybak once had called "a non-starter."

The Minneapolis plan has the city contributing 22 percent, or $195 million.

It calls for the state of Minnesota to kick in 33 percent, or $300 million - same as the current stadium bill, which outlines a three-way cost share among state, team and local government partner. The Minneapolis proposal has not yet been introduced as legislation.

The city's plan also would finance a $95 million renovation of the 20-year-old Target Center.

The plan would enable the city to direct $5 million a year to pay off the remaining $50 million in debt on Target Center, giving city property taxpayers up to a two percent savings on the city portion of their bills.

It would transfer ownership of Target Center to a new stadium authority that also would manage the new Vikings facility and the convention center.

The Legislature would need to override the Minneapolis voter-approved 1997 city charter amendment that prohibits using more than $10 million in city funds for a pro sports facility without a referendum.

With the Legislature scheduled to adjourn May 23, and still wrestling with how to solve a $5.1 billion state deficit, the Vikings stadium plan is expected to add a large dose of political drama in the session's closing days, the Star Tribune said.

Polls have consistently shown that a significant majority of Minnesotans oppose using public subsidies to build a new stadium for the Vikings.

Though the stadium has loomed as a large issue awaiting legislators this year, the proposed legislation has not yet had a hearing. Republicans hold new majorities in both the House and Senate, and a significant number of both Republican and DFL legislators oppose using taxpayer money to help build the stadium, especially while the state faces major economic woes.

Since 1982, the Vikings have played at the Metrodome in downtown Minneapolis but have announced that they would not renew the team's lease after the 2011 season. Team owner Wilf has insisted he is not interested in moving or selling the team.

MINNESOTA LEGISLATURE PUTS BUDGET DEBT ABOVE STADIUM
May 19, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - Top Republican leaders in the Minnesota legislature say they'll first deal with the state's $5.1 billion debt before turning attention to plans for a new Vikings stadium, the Star Tribune reported. Whatever solution is found it has to be quick - the legislature is due to adjourn May 23.

Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch told the Star Tribune the team's $1 billion stadium plan would not move forward until the Republican majorities in the House and Senate reached a budget compromise with the DFL governor - a possibility that appeared far off on a day filled with heated partisan jousting.

"The budget discussion comes first and last for us," Koch said.

Dayton met with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and expressed optimism the project could quickly move forward. But there were increasing signs that complications surrounding the 65,000-seat stadium plan in suburban Ramsey County might be too much to overcome in the final week before adjournment.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, who attended the Dayton and Goodell meeting, said "it appears to me that Arden Hills is now the site." But Bakk said he also told a roomful of state and NFL officials that the stadium project was unlikely to be ready for a legislative vote by the weekend. Bakk said no one in the room - including Dayton - disagreed with him.

Bakk said the stadium's overall prospects seemed to be improving but simply would not be resolved by the Legislature's May 23 adjournment.

"There was no urgency," he said of the tone of the meeting with Goodell at the governor's residence.

The Ramsey County plan did benefit from a report that put the cost of building roads to support the new stadium at $44 million less than estimates. The cost is now $131 million, but state officials have said whatever the cost, they won't invest more than $300 million in the project. Even if a solution is found in time, the project faces opposition from taxpayers who want to force a public vote on the issue.

One of the keys to both the Ramsey County plan and a competing one to build the stadium in Minneapolis is a provision that prevents the project from being put to a public vote. A new group of stadium opponents said that the most likely sites under both plans are governed by charters, essentially constitutions that determine how those jurisdictions operate.

Opponents tell the Star Tribune those charters allow them to collect enough voter signatures (about 10 percent of registered voters) to place a referendum on the next election ballot that would overturn any state measure that bans a referendum on the stadium. If successful, they allow a public vote on ordinances passed to fund the project.

"We could usurp their usurpation," Chris David, head of the small group which met to plot strategies, told the newspaper.

Stadium opponent Bryan Olson, a member of the Ramsey County Charter Commission who was at the meeting, confirmed the group's interpretation, saying county opponents would have to come up with about 25,000 certified signatures within 45 days of any stadium ordinance that is passed this year. In Minneapolis, the required number of voter signatures needed for a referendum is about 8,500.

MINNESOTA LEGISLATURE ENDS SESSION WITHOUT STADIUM VOTE
May 26, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures

St. Paul, Minn. - The Minnesota legislature adjourned its annual session this week without taking action on a new stadium for the Vikings, but the Star Tribune says the issue could resurface in a special session.

Rep. Morrie Lanning, the chief House author of the stadium proposal, told the newspaper there remained road improvement issues with a plan to build the stadium in Ramsey County's Arden Hills. He also said there remained multiple problems with proposed legislative language that has been submitted – but not yet made public - by the team and the county.

The Star Tribune said the Vikings, despite the problems the project still faces, have made considerable progress. After a long search, the team has found a local government partner to help fund the project - in this case, Ramsey County. The county wants to raise a county wide sales tax in order to contribute $350 million to the stadium.

"It is of course possible if, there is a special session, for this issue to be before us," Lanning told the newspaper. "But as I've said all along, I'm not going to move forward with the bill until we have a [overall state] budget resolution in hand."

Secondly, he added, the questions surrounding the project – including who pays for as much as $131 million in state road improvements – have to also be resolved.

Pollution could also pose a problem for the Arden Hills site. The Star Tribune said the land under consideration is "what was one of the most-polluted pieces of ground in Minnesota."

The site is contaminated with mercury, lead, solvents, PCBs and other hazardous substances from its days as a U.S. Army munitions plant, the newspaper said. And though the Army has spent some $200 million to clean up the worst of the contamination, officials at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency told the Star Tribune a stadium development would probably need further cleanup before the land would be safe for the public.

Rolled into the $1 billion public-private bid for the facility is an estimated $18 million to finish cleaning up the hazardous materials. But officials acknowledge to the newspaper that is a bit of a guesstimate until developers undertake a new round of soil tests.

"There have been a lot of holes drilled, but we don't know everything at this moment," Greg Mack, Ramsey County's director of Parks and Recreation and the county's expert on the site, told the newspaper.

The Army was required to get the property up to a level that would be safe for industrial use. That, officials with the Pollution Control Agency (PCA) told the Star Tribune, is a pretty low standard.

"We allowed a higher level of contamination to remain on the property," Amy Hadiaris, a hydrogeologist with the PCA told the newspaper. "If the property is bought by someone else for development with more access by the public, we would require additional cleanup."

REPORT SUPPORTS COUNTY'S ABILITY TO FUND VIKINGS STADIUM
June 2, 2011
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Arden Hills, Minn. - Ramsey County's proposed sales tax increase would provide enough revenue to support $350 million in bonds for a $1 billion Vikings stadium in Arden Hills, according to a consultant's report reviewed by the Star Tribune.

The seven-page report from St. Paul-based Springsted Inc. allays concerns the county's finances couldn't shoulder the burden of the bonds, which would be financed by a proposed half-cent sales tax increase, the newspaper said.

"It raises the money we thought. It does what we thought it would do," said County Commissioner Tony Bennett, one of the creators of a deal to build a Vikings stadium at the former munitions site in Arden Hills.

The proposed increase would bring in more than the necessary $22.5 million for annual debt payments. Also, the new debt wouldn't dent the county's AAA bond rating from two New York agencies, according to the report.

That revelation, however, 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.

Commission Chairwoman Victoria Reinhardt is one who remains opposed to the countywide tax. "There is a way we can do it that would be much less of a burden to Ramsey County only, especially at this time of great need," she told the newspaper.

The sales tax, a dedicated means to pay back the bonds, would need to be approved by the Legislature and the county before the bonds could be sold, the report said.

The assumption behind the report's calculations is a Jan. 1, 2012, issuance date for the bonds, which now seems unlikely. The Legislature adjourned last week without voting on a stadium bill. A special session is needed to approve a state budget.

VIKINGS DEAL WITH RAMSEY COUNTY DEPENDS UPON LEGISLATURE
June 9, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - The Minnesota Vikings and Ramsey County can end their preliminary agreement to build a $1 billion stadium in Arden Hills on July 1 if the Legislature does not approve the project, according to the Star Tribune.

With legislative approval by then being far from certain, much will hinge on Gov. Mark Dayton and Republicans first finding a solution to the state's $5.1 billion deficit.

Although the overall agreement has several potential outs that would allow the team or the county to walk away from the project, July 1 is one of the few concrete deadlines in the 12-page list of terms made public last month.

Rep. Morrie Lanning, the chief House author of stadium legislation, acknowledged to the newspaper that while he did not set the deadline "that's a deadline we all have."

But state road officials at the Minnesota Department of Transportation, which has been negotiating with the team and county over needed road improvements in Arden Hills, said they were operating as if "there are no deadlines." Ramsey County Commissioner Tony Bennett, who helped broker the deal, said the deadline holds little significance.

"Why would we start from scratch again?" he said. "Nobody's holding a gun to my head. Nobody's holding a gun to [the Vikings'] head.

"If those deadlines come up and somebody says, 'Let's take a walk, and not come back,' that could happen," Bennett acknowledged. "All I can tell you is generally we are in a good position. If it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen."

One of the major problems is coming up with $131 million to fund highway improvements needed to support the stadium. All sides say they have contributed as much as they can, but the Vikings are said to be working on a plan.

"We have laid out a transportation finance plan to pay for the roads for the Arden Hills site," Lester Bagley, the team's vice president of public relations and stadium development, told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "It's a user-based finance proposal. The intent is to capture transportation revenues at the stadium or near the stadium."

Bagley declined to go into details but said part of the plan would raise money from taxes or fees on spending around the stadium that wouldn't have happened were it not for a stadium.

The Star Tribune said the agreement gives both parties wide "walk away" rights.

If Dayton "publicly opposes" state financing for the stadium or "other significant elements" of the agreement, including road improvements, the agreement can be voided.

Either Ramsey County or the Vikings could back out if the "timing, terms and costs" of buying the Arden Hills site or cleaning up pollutants on the former military ammunition plant cannot be solved.

Similarly, either side could walk away should financing terms for the county or team not be acceptable. The Vikings can cut themselves loose if the "timing and level of business community support" for the project is not up to their expectations.

Lester Bagley, the Vikings vice president for stadium development and public affairs, told the Star Tribune the agreement was structured so that Ramsey County and the team would have the ability "to get out of it," but said that "we have no intentions of doing so."

He declined requests to talk about what the Vikings would do once the deadline passed, and also declined to speculate what the team would do if the Legislature passes a state budget before July 1 that does address the stadium.

"If we come to that, ask me the question then," said Bagley.

Dayton said pushing the project to 2012 would force legislators to cast votes in an election year, making it "more difficult."

Rep. Michael Nelson, a House co-author of the stadium legislation, noted to the Star Tribune that while he too wants the project approved this year, no one who voted for public subsidies for the new Minnesota Twins ballpark in 2006 lost their seat because of that vote.

VIKINGS OFFER PLAN FOR ROAD FUNDING; FRIDAY DEADLINE SET
June 16, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - The Minnesota Vikings and Ramsey County suggested a combination of state grants, borrowing and tax exemptions to help pay for $131 million in road improvements needed at the Arden Hills site, the Star Tribune reported.

But state transportation officials warned that the plan may be more of a dead end. The plan was discussed in a meeting among Ramsey County officials, the Vikings, Gov. Mark Dayton and others.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported that Dayton called the meeting to underscore the sense of urgency in solving the remaining issues of how to finance the $1.1 billion stadium complex as well as the road and highway improvements.

"We had a very productive and constructive meeting," Dayton told the Pioneer Press, emerging after more than an hour behind closed doors. "The end of this week is essentially the deadline."

However, that deadline appears to be presupposed on a timeline of public hearings and lawmaker familiarity with the plan – and a special session of the Legislature being convened before the end of the month, according to statements from Dayton and Rep. Morrie Lanning. Dayton has said he won't call a special session before Republican leaders and Dayton, a Democrat, reach agreement on how to balance the state's budget, the Pioneer Press reported.

Before the meeting, Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley and Ramsey County Commissioner Tony Bennett described the road plan to the Star Tribune, calling on the state to contribute $46 million in grants and a $ 4 million sales tax exemption on construction materials. The balance of $60 million to $81 million would come from either local borrowing or an interest-free loan from the state, which the team would repay.

Even before they had revealed the funding plan, however, the Minnesota Department of Transportation had indicated that any state money used for roads near the stadium would count against the $300 million maximum state contribution that Dayton has set for a stadium. The team wants to use the entire state contribution on the $1 billion stadium itself.

Dayton's office told the Star Tribune he had not seen the new plan and deferred comment to MnDOT, which released a letter that Commissioner Thomas Sorel sent to stadium bill sponsor Lanning saying that the $300 million limit included road construction.

The newspaper said officials for the Vikings and Ramsey County said the plan was an initial offer open to further negotiation.

"If this gets rejected, we'll continue to work until the train leaves the depot," Bennett said. The Vikings and Ramsey County announced a deal last month requiring the team and the National Football League to pay $407 million. The county would pay $350 million from a county sales tax increase of half a cent.

Bagley said Ramsey County also could issue up to $81 million in bonds for the road construction that would require debt payments up to $4.9 million annually for 30 years. In another scenario to get the roads built, the state would provide an interest-free loan that would require payments of up to $2.7 million annually.

The team would pay off the bonds or the loan through increased sales tax collections at the stadium. The team also would use a $3.50 per-car surcharge on non-Vikings events at the stadium and a game-day surcharge on concessions.

The proposal also would redirect Ramsey County's $20 surcharge on new and used vehicles that's already in place.

Many of the proposed roads upgrades would involve installing managed lanes on Interstate 35W. The lanes would go in one direction during the morning commute and the other for the evening. The Star Tribune said the argument is whether the state should help cover the cover the cost of the so-called sane lanes because they would be used mostly by commuters during rush hours. The Vikings only would need the lanes for about 10 home games a year.

Bennett and Bagley denied that time was drawing short to pass a stadium bill - even though hearings would need to be held before a legislative special session. The Legislature must return to pass a budget with or without a government shutdown. The Vikings want the stadium on the special-session agenda.

The Pioneer Press said a Minneapolis proposal to do a massive retrofit of the Metrodome appears to be taking a back seat, although Dayton restated that as a general matter, he's "agnostic" as to where a stadium is built.

"I can't say 'no question,'" Dayton responded when asked whether there was any question the Arden Hills site would be the only site under consideration for good. "But this is the site that Ramsey County wants and the Vikings have chosen....We're going to do everything possible to make this project come together. It isn't together yet."

OFFICIALS CONTINUE TO WORK ON VIKINGS PLAN
June 23, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - A self-imposed deadline for settling on a Vikings stadium bill came and went, but backers told the Star Tribune confident that they're on the verge of finalizing a plan that will be ready for legislators to consider in a special session - whenever that may be.

Ted Mondale, chair of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, told the newspaper that a meeting of stakeholders called by Gov. Mark Dayton seemed to shake loose some of the inertia that had settled in after weeks of arduous negotiations.

"We had been stalled for about a month, but we're not stalled now," Mondale said. "We're a lot closer this week than last."

Lester Bagley, the Vikings' vice president in charge of stadium development, said that "significant progress" was made.

Even if agreement is reached on the stadium bill, it won't be enacted until after Dayton and legislators close a budget deal.

The stadium bill would be heard during a special session called to fix the budget, which leaders hope can be held by June 30 to head off a state government shutdown. The bill's authors say that legislators need time before a special session for hearings and to get their questions answered. One of the stadium bill's authors, Sen. Julie Rosen, told the Star Tribune it's going to be impossible to move it through the proper committees by the end of the month. A lot of things have to fall into place, she said.

"I do think there's a will [to get it done], and collaborations and partnerships have been formed," she said. "As long as the governor is behind it, I do think it will happen."

Among the breakthroughs was an agreement by Zygi and Mark Wilf, the team's owners, to add around $30 million more to the $407 million contribution they made from the start toward building the stadium.

This additional contribution would be put toward generating funds necessary to build the roads around the Arden Hills site, one of the big factors in holding up a bill, the newspaper said. The governor has insisted that the state would contribute a maximum of $300 million toward the $1 billion stadium, and that state contribution had to include the cost of road improvements.

ST. PAUL CITY COUNCIL OPPOSES TAX FOR VIKINGS STADIUM
July 7, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures

St. Paul, Minn. - A unanimous city council in St. Paul voted against supporting a regional tax to support construction of a new Vikings stadium, the Star Tribune reported.

The resolution, adopted with minimal discussion, opposed a Ramsey County half-cent sales tax increase that would help pay for a nearly $1 billion stadium in Arden Hills. The action merely signals the council's concerns without compelling the Legislature or the County Board to do anything.

The newspaper said the resolution opposed a deal between the Vikings and Ramsey County for a stadium at a former munitions site at the junction of Interstate 35W and Hwy. 10. Through the sales tax, the county would be expected to pay $350 million. The Vikings would pay $407 million and the state $300 million through an as-yet-undetermined revenue source. Also at issue: who would pay millions in road upgrades near the site.

Vikings vice president Lester Bagley told the Star Tribune the team appreciated St. Paul's concern, but "Ramsey County is our local partner. ... They stepped up. What's difficult in a stadium issue is providing leadership."

The proposal is in limbo as long as the state budget remains under discussion at the Capitol.

DESPITE CAP, MINNESOTA MAY STRUGGLE TO MEET OBLIGATION
July 7, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - Although the road costs are getting all the attention, two proposed taxes to help pay the state's share of a $1.1 billion Vikings stadium also may prove to be stumbling blocks in completing a deal, the Star Tribune said.

One is a 10 percent tax on the sale of pro sports memorabilia. A Revenue Department study in April estimated the tax would generate $17.6 million a year by 2015. But the latest state figures show it would yield just $8.1 million annually.

The tax has detractors in pro sports teams, including the Twins and the Wild, whose merchandise would be taxed to help build a football stadium.

The other tax is one the Vikings themselves have raised questions about - an income tax surcharge on NFL players who play in the new stadium. The tax would generate $7.8 million annually, but NFL officials reportedly believe it may not be constitutional.

Asked about that, NFL senior vice president Greg Aiello told the newspaper: "We are aware of the issue and are studying it, but do not choose to comment about it at this time."

Ted Mondale, who is Gov. Mark Dayton's stadium czar as chair of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, told the Star Tribune the single biggest issue to solve remains the question of how to pay for road upgrades in the area of the proposed Arden Hills stadium.

But the state's piece of the stadium financing, along with how the team and state will share operating responsibilities, must be resolved, he said.

The state needs to find about $23 million a year to finance its $300 million share, Mondale said. With the reduced estimate in memorabilia tax revenue, it probably will have to tap other revenue streams.

"A lot of those taxes we didn't think we needed, like the player income surcharge and others," Mondale said. "Now we do."

Under the stadium bill introduced in April, the state would contribute $300 million toward a new stadium with a series of so-called user fees and taxes. The Vikings and Ramsey County have agreed to pay $757 million to build a stadium on a former munitions plant site in Arden Hills.

State funding includes a five percent surcharge on the income earned by NFL players during games at the new stadium. The bill targets all NFL employees making more than $250,000 a year who work at the new stadium, which could include team executives.

Imposing a special tax on a select class of people could violate constitutional standards of equal protection, David Larson, a Hamline University Law School professor who teaches labor and employment law, told the Star Tribune.

Pro athletes "already are being taxed at a rate consistent with other income earners in the state," Larson said. Taxing individuals within an income group is "problematic," he said.

Until now the memorabilia tax has been the centerpiece of several funding measures in the stadium bill, which backers hope to have ready should a special session be called to solve the state's budget crisis.

It would steer money from the sale of Twins, Wild and Timberwolves gear - among other pro sports teams and leagues - toward building the Vikings stadium.

The Star Tribune said the Wild and Twins don't like that idea. Neither do sports merchandisers, who fear it will hurt business.

"Our fans are going to be taxed to build a Vikings' stadium. I don't see the fairness in that," said Jeff Pellegrom, the Wild's chief financial officer told the newspaper.

The Twins also oppose the tax, team spokesman Kevin Smith said.

MINNESOTA SPECIAL SESSION WON'T INCLUDE VIKINGS
July 21, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - The Star Tribune said the Minnesota Vikings will have to wait a little longer for a new stadium.

"There's not a lot of support for cutting people off health care, cutting jobs, then turning around and authorizing bonding for a stadium," Rep. Michael Nelson, , a co-sponsor of the stadium bill, told the newspaper.

Sen. Julie Rosen told the Star Tribune that Gov. Mark Dayton may call a second special session later this year to deal with the stadium.

"We will have a vote and we'll work to get it passed," Rosen said. "But if I tried to get a vote on it right now, I'd be strung up."

Team officials were not pleased when the legislature acted on the budget during a special session, but did not consider stadium funding.

Lester Bagley, Vikings vice president of public relations and stadium development, was tight-lipped, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "We're assessing our options," he said.

Dayton spokesman Katie Tinucci confirmed to the Star Tribune that Dayton said he would consider calling a special legislative session in the fall, but Dayton later said the issue might have to wait until next year.

"I take calling a special session very seriously, and something that I would not do lightly. ... And so, it would have to be circumstances that compel it," he said.

The stadium bill still has a few unresolved issues, Rosen said, such as the state's share of road improvement costs for the Arden Hills site. The bill needs committee hearings and a chance for public testimony before the Legislature is called back to act on it, she said.

Team owner Zygi Wilf told Dayton by phone that "the time is now" for a new stadium and that the team wanted to be part of the special session, Bagley told the Star Tribune.

"Then the question is how do you sit down and work it out in this difficult environment, given the budget situation," Bagley said.

Wilf was assured that "the governor wants to solve the issue," Bagley said.

Dayton also met privately with Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission Chairman Ted Mondale. Neither commented on the conversation afterward.

The Metrodome contract expires at the end of the 2011 season. Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission executive director Bill Lester told the Star Tribune the commission would be willing to extend the contract under the current terms.

MINNESOTA GOVERNOR MAY CONSIDER SPECIAL SESSION
August 11, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - The Star Tribune says Gov. Mark Dayton wants a deeper review of the Minnesota Vikings' $1 billion stadium proposal for a former munitions site in Arden Hills and he wants it done fast, he wrote in a letter to two of his appointees.

In what the Star Tribune said could be a precursor to a fall special session, Dayton directed Metropolitan Council Chairwoman Susan Haigh and his stadium point man, Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission Chairman Ted Mondale, to conduct a thorough analysis of the risks and costs associated with the site.

The goal is to remove "as many uncertainties as possible before a transaction is finalized," Dayton wrote in the letter.

Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley said the team appreciates the governor's move. "Once we get through this [review], we should be in a position to address the stadium issue this fall," Bagley said.

Mondale didn't discount that timetable, saying Dayton's review is an attempt to make the package stronger. "We're working to button up a deal as fast as possible," he said.

Bagley recently attended an open house at the proposed Arden Hills site and reiterated the team's commitment. The team's lease at the Metrodome runs out after this season, and Bagley said the Vikings won't sign another lease at the Dome without a deal for a new stadium in place.

Ramsey County and the team last spring announced an agreement to build a stadium in Arden Hills, but the Star Tribune said the proposal was largely ignored by the Legislature and Dayton as they fought for months over the state's two-year budget.

When the budget was approved in a special session last month, the stadium wasn't considered. At that time, Dayton held open the possibility of a fall special session even as he called the Arden Hills proposal inadequate.

In the letter to Haigh and Mondale, Dayton wrote: "At a minimum, an analysis of potential risks should include, but not be limited to, an examination of the requirements of an Environmental Impact Statement and Alternative Urban Areawide Review, remediation needs, transportation needs, costs and cost-overrun exposures, scheduling issues, funding projections, and permitting and approval issues for each of the local, metropolitan, state and federal jurisdictions involved."

He told Haigh and Mondale that he wants the process to be an example of his administration's "commitment to a streamlined and speedy review and permitting process."

The governor called the Vikings a statewide asset and urged the two leaders to conduct their analysis with "all due speed" because "time is of the essence."

Mondale said he expects the review to take 30 to 40 days.

August 18, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures

Two Minnesota government agencies are starting their evaluation of a proposal to build a $1.1 billion Vikings stadium on contaminated land in Arden Hills, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported. The Metropolitan Council and Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission hope to finish the analysis by mid-October. Earlier this month, Gov. Mark Dayton asked for a streamlined review and permitting process that gets as many technicalities out of the way as possible before a stadium deal moves ahead. Dayton specifically pointed to the need for an environmental review and alternatives analysis, with a focus on land remediation, transportation needs, cost-overrun exposures, and permitting and approval issues for each level of government involved. Consultants will be hired to assist with the evaluation, the newspaper said.

CONVENTION HOTEL PROPOSAL COMES WITH VIKINGS' PLANS
September 8, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - New plans for the Vikings' proposed stadium in Arden Hills comes with 120 acres earmarked for a possible convention center hotel, the Star Tribune reported.

Ramsey County Commissioner Tony Bennett, the Vikings' key stadium ally, told the newspaper that team owner Ziggy Wilf isn't looking to build a "major" convention center that would compete with those in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Instead, there might be a "medium-sized convention center/hotel" at the stadium site, Bennett said.

"It's just a concept. It may change," he added.

Within a day, Bennett and the Vikings backpedaled, saying the map passed out at the luncheon was out of date, the newspaper said.

Team Vice President Lester Bagley, who attended the Rotary lunch and is the architect of the Vikings' stadium effort, now says the convention center idea is dead.

"There are no plans for a convention center. We are entirely focused on the stadium component," Bagley told the Star Tribune.

But even the possibility that Wilf entertained ideas for a convention center at what would be a state-subsidized project has left some members of the Twin Cities business and political communities stunned.

In moving the Vikings to Arden Hills, Wilf "not only would ... be taking this business [the NFL franchise] from us," Minneapolis City Council President Barbara Johnson said. "But he'd be taking convention business and using state taxes to do it. Yes, it would be bad.

"I don't know what he's thinking," Johnson said.

Karolyn Kirchgesler, president of Visit St. Paul, said the Twin Cities already is unusual in having two convention centers in the same metro area.

"To add another convention center to the mix would not be prudent from an economic standpoint," she said.

The news comes as Minnesota's top two legislative leaders told the Star Tribune they now want local voters to have a say in a stadium project, a move that potentially creates a major obstacle for the plan.

"I'd like to see a referendum in Ramsey County," Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, told the newspaper. Koch added that there "should be a referendum" regardless of where the stadium is built.

House Speaker Kurt Zellers, told the newspaper he also wants a countywide vote wherever the stadium is built.

"I like the idea of having a referendum," Zellers said.

The newspaper quoted other observers saying that a referendum would push the issue into the next legislative session and would likely doom the project.

Koch dismissed the idea that requiring a referendum would in effect doom the project, although polls have consistently shown that public subsidies for a Vikings stadium are opposed by a large majority of Minnesotans.

Vikings stadium in Arden Hills would rely heavily on money from a countywide sales tax increase along with at least a $407 million from the team and $300 million from the state.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press suggests Gov. Mark Dayton is pushing the issue toward a special legislative session later this year. The newspaper said the governor wants a broad environmental and technical review of the proposed site finished by mid-October. Consultants are sprinting to fast-track a job that might ordinarily take months or years.

Dayton wants any issues dealt with in advance of legislators voting on a stadium deal as early as November, the Pioneer Press said.

September 15, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures

The Minnesota Vikings may end up on the hook for a $500 million contribution to the proposed new stadium at Arden Hills, the Star Tribune reported. "If you look at the cost escalation for a project like this ... I think it is fair to say they'll be maybe close to half a billion dollars," Gov. Mark Dayton said. The current deal would require the Vikings to pay for any cost overruns. Lester Bagley, Vikings vice president of public affairs and stadium development, did not warm to the half-billion figure but did not rule it out. He said the ultimate amount the Vikings would pay was "in negotiations." Unresolved is who will pay for improvements to roads surrounding the new stadium, an expense that could also fall to the Vikings. Both Bagley and Dayton said that the team is looking only at the Ramsey County site in Arden Hills for their new home. Dayton said if everything moves forward smoothly the state could still have a special session of the Legislature this year to approve the state's financial contribution and allow for Ramsey County's contributions.

OPPOSITION GROWING IN RAMSEY COUNTY TO VIKINGS STADIUM
September 29, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures

New Brighton, Minn. - Residents opposed to a new Vikings stadium in Ramsey County packed a public hearing this week calling on public officials to put the issue up for a vote, the Star Tribune reported.

Speakers lining up against the team's plan overwhelmingly outnumbered the supporters at the hearing, which was organized by the Ramsey County Charter Commission and was the first of two that will be dedicated to the topic. The commission could decide immediately after the next hearing, Oct. 11, whether to put the issue to the voters in 2012, the newspaper said.

More than half of the roughly 200 people in attendance, some wearing Vikings purple, signed up to speak, getting two minutes each.

The few supporters who spoke said that the anti-stadium fervor at the meeting didn't reflect the feelings of the general public and that a referendum would kill the team's plans for a $1.1 billion facility in Arden Hills, possibly prompting the Vikings to move.

The ballot question is perceived as a potential deal killer, and it is opposed by the Vikings.

The Star Tribune said the issue is whether to allow a 2012 ballot question that would amend the county's home-rule charter. The question: "Shall Ramsey County be prohibited from using any revenues, including those raised by taxes or bonding, to fund or assist in funding a Major League Baseball or National Football League sports team or stadium?"

The Vikings and Ramsey County have proposed the stadium be built on a former munitions site in Arden Hills. The county would issue $350 million in bonds to be paid off over 30 years by the sales tax increase. The state also would be expected to contribute $300 million.

The Vikings have said they need a deal now because their lease runs out at the Metrodome after this season.

Gov. Mark Dayton has requested a feasibility study on the Arden Hills site. Metropolitan Council Chairwoman Susan Haigh and Metropolitan Sports Facilities Chairman Ted Mondale are expected to present the report no later than Oct. 15.

NEW SITE OFFERED FOR VIKINGS STADIUM
October 6, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - The Star Tribune says a third possible site for a new Vikings stadium has emerged in downtown Minneapolis.

An informal group of business leaders are pushing a 41-acre site just north of the Basilica of St. Mary, not far from another proposed stadium location that includes the city's Farmers Market. Both sites are close to the Minnesota Twins' Target Field and on the other side of downtown from the Metrodome, where the team has played since 1982 and which is the preferred site for city officials.

Minneapolis City Council President Barbara Johnson told the newspaper she was shown the new proposal a week ago, although city officials were unclear which business leaders were pushing the project. The drawings of the project show not only a new stadium, but an amphitheater, art garden and an area for outdoor sports. City officials said the proposal's biggest draw is that the city and Xcel Energy own about 75 percent of the site, making it potentially less complicated to assemble the land package.

But the Vikings, who were briefed on the new location within the past two weeks, were dismissive of the plan.

"We've been asked if we would be interested in looking at it. We said no," Lester Bagley, the team's vice president for stadium development and public affairs told the Star Tribune. "Any discussion about Minneapolis is counterproductive" to the team's goal of building a $1 billion, taxpayer-supported stadium in Ramsey County, he said.

Johnson said the latest downtown Minneapolis plan drove home an important point. "It confirms the desire of the community here, the business community in particular, to keep the Vikings here in Minneapolis," she said. "People are looking" at alternative locations in the city for the team's new stadium.

City officials indicated that AECOM, an architectural and engineering firm that recently merged with Ellerbe Becket, had produced the drawings, but said those leading the project were not altogether known. AECOM did not respond to an interview request from the Star Tribune.

"The site as configured would be large enough to hold a new Vikings stadium," Chuck Lutz, Minneapolis' deputy development director told the newspaper. "It is a prominent, visible site and has connections to parking."

NO VOTE ON VIKINGS STADIUM, BUT NEW QUESTIONS ON FUNDING
October 13, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures

Arden Hills, Minn. - The proposal for a $1.1 billion Minnesota Vikings stadium in Arden Hills dodged a major hurdle as the Ramsey County Charter Commission voted not to send the question of public funding to voters, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported.

But the newspaper said fresh challenges have emerged with questions over the stadium's final costs and whether it can open as early as 2015 as proposed.

A risk analysis prepared by the Metropolitan Council says that opening in 2016 would be more realistic though more expensive, according to a Minnesota Public Radio report confirmed by a spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Council.

Delays would add an estimated $46 million per year.

The nearly 200-page report also raises concerns about the proposed 0.5 percent sales tax in Ramsey County and notes the tax could sap the region's ability to finance other projects. The Vikings were undeterred.

"There is nothing in this report which suggests we should not move forward with this site," team owner Zygi Wilf told the Star Tribune. "Let's get this project done in Arden Hills."

Vikings officials said the study presented too gloomy a picture and overemphasized the risks. They challenged the report's finding of a funding gap and, along with Ramsey County Commissioner Tony Bennett, disputed the notion that the stadium could not be completed in time for the 2015 season, the Star Tribune said.

They noted that the report fixed the cost of needed road upgrades at $101 million - well below the $175 million that some had speculated such upgrades would cost.

Gov. Mark Dayton requested the risk analysis Aug. 3 and has said he would wait for the results before deciding whether to call the Legislature into a special session in November to vote on the proposal.

With time running out for a special legislative session before the end of the year, Rep. Morrie Lanning, the chief House author of the Vikings stadium legislation told the Star Tribune a state funding plan must gel within the next several weeks.

"I would think that a special session would have to happen before the holidays, before Thanksgiving," Lanning said.

There were other signs that the events of the past two days might be changing minds.

Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch told the Star Tribune she still prefers a referendum, but said "the decision by locals will be a factor in discussions going forward."

The Ramsey County commission voted 10-6 not to put the question of public funding to county voters in November 2012.

The hearing was held in the Ramsey County Courthouse in St. Paul, where reaction toward the Vikings' Arden Hills proposal is largely negative. Residents criticized the prospect of raising $350 million or more for a suburban sports stadium at a time of high unemployment.

Stadium supporters said the project would mean badly needed construction jobs and keep the Vikings from moving to Los Angeles, where two stadium proposals backed by investors are gaining momentum.

The Pioneer Press said Vikings officials sent a letter to charter commission members urging them to vote against a referendum. They argued that a November 2012 public vote would cause a two-year delay that would inflate the cost of the project by more than $110 million.

MINNESOTA GOVERNOR WILL CALL SPECIAL SESSION
October 20, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said he wants a special session of the Legislature just before Thanksgiving to reach a verdict on whether the Minnesota Vikings get a new, publicly subsidized stadium, the Star Tribune reported.

Dayton also plans to offer his own financing plan early next month, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Dayton offered no details about his plan to the newspaper.

Not to be left out, the NFL also weighed in, suggesting that no action on a stadium could result in a recommendation that the team leave Minnesota.

Eric Grubman, the executive vice president of NFL Ventures and business operations, told the Star Tribune the league was worried that if no deal was reached before the Vikings' current lease expires next year, it could create a stalemate leading the team to consider "an alternative plan in another city." Grubman urged Dayton and legislative leaders to build on recent momentum to reach a deal. "If the moment is now," Grubman said, "... then let's take this moment."

Raising the stakes on a long-running, divisive issue, the DFL governor gave Minnesota's political, civic and business leaders five weeks to determine where the project should be built, whether voters facing a sales tax increase should have a referendum and how the state's $300 million toward the stadium should be financed. Dayton said the stadium deal could still be a work in progress when legislators begin meeting, a move that could make a special session a politically explosive drama.

"Most of what I hear is what everyone's against. ... It has to be what people are for," said Dayton, after meeting with legislative leaders. The Star Tribune said he again left open the possibility that the $1.1 billion project could be built in Minneapolis, where the team has played since 1982, rather than Ramsey County's Arden Hills, the Vikings' choice for the new home.

Meanwhile, a new poll by a conservative, anti-tax group showed again that Minnesotans are overwhelmingly opposed to tax subsidies for a new stadium. John Cooney, the state director of Americans for Prosperity-Minnesota, told the Star Tribune that "today, it is clear that Minnesotans oppose this reckless spending of their hard-earned taxpayer dollars."

There were also signs that a petition drive is gaining steam to force a referendum in Ramsey County on a half-percent sales tax increase for the project. Stadium backers said a referendum could be fatal.

Dayton suggested that a special session could begin Nov. 21 and end the day before Thanksgiving. But he said he would not call lawmakers back until Republican and DFL legislators agreed to limit the scope of what could be addressed.

Team spokesman Lester Bagley said the Vikings' construction company assured the team that if legislators approve a public subsidy package in November an Arden Hills stadium would be ready by 2015.

"We believe it is aggressive," said Bagley, the team's vice president of stadium development and public affairs. "But it's achievable."

DAYTON RULES OUT SPECIAL SESSION FOR VIKINGS STADIUM
November 3, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - Gov. Mark Dayton has killed the idea of a special legislative session to explore funding for a new Vikings stadium saying Republican leaders abruptly "walked away" from the idea of a special legislative session.

The Star Tribune said key Republicans countered that the issue is not an emergency, dismissing speculation that the team is prepared to leave the state if no resolution is reached.

The newspaper said a frustrated Dayton emerged from a tense meeting with Republicans and said he was postponing his plan to announce a stadium-funding proposal. The meeting came after another day of stadium politics that erupted after House Speaker Kurt Zellers messaged lawmakers to say he had "repeatedly" told Dayton he opposed a special session and felt the issue could wait until next year.

The exchanges came a day after Dayton said plans to put local taxpayers on the hook for a share of stadium costs are not politically feasible and blocked the idea of using sales taxes.

Republican officials pointed out that there is still no public funding plan or definite location for the proposed $1.1 billion stadium. "You can't have a vote on a special session without having a plan," Zellers said.

Rep. Linda Runbeck, who chairs the House Property and Local Tax Division, told the newspaper since the summer there has been a sense growing among House members "who do not believe there's an emergency."

She dismissed any threat that the Vikings, who have played in the Metrodome since 1982, would leave Minnesota if a publicly subsidized stadium is not approved soon.

"We've seen the stadium games played out all the previous decades," she said. "There's always a threat."

The Star Tribune said Dayton's sales tax decision shifts a sizable share of the cost of the $1.1 billion stadium to the state or the Vikings while also stoking deeper interest in expanded gambling – including electronic pull-tabs – as a possible solution.

In Ramsey County, the Vikings' preferred site, officials said their plan was still viable, even without sales taxes.

Dayton said a stadium solution is making progress "because we narrowed it down to real options that are available." He said he and legislators have collaborated and "I feel encouraged by that. I want to see that continue. And if that does continue, we'll get a good outcome for the people of Minnesota," the Star Tribune said.

Dayton and legislative leaders reshuffled stadium negotiations by saying legislators will not support any effort to exempt Ramsey County or Minneapolis from their obligation to hold a public vote before increasing local sales taxes to pay their share of the stadium. All parties have acknowledged that holding a referendum probably would have killed the deal, the newspaper said.

Vikings spokesman Lester Bagley held a rare Capitol news conference to tamp down speculation that the sales tax decision killed Ramsey County's site. "Arden Hills is [still] the ideal site," Bagley said.

The Vikings have an agreement with Ramsey County officials to build a stadium in Arden Hills. Under that plan, the state would have chipped in $300 million, the team would have paid $420 million and the county would have kicked in $350 million through a half-cent countywide sales tax.

Dayton signaled a possible willingness to move off a point he had deemed critical before: having the state invest more than $300 million he previously said was his maximum.

Dayton said a proposal to let bars offer electronic versions of pulltabs was the most politically viable method of garnering money for a new stadium. The proposal has been floating around the Capitol for some time, fueled by heavy support from the state's charities and liquor interests.

About 1,300 nonprofit organizations, from VFWs to hockey teams, are licensed to conduct charitable gambling at bars across Minnesota. Charitable gambling, which includes pull tabs, bingo and raffles, nets the state about $36 million a year in taxes; the Star Tribune said legalizing electronic pulltabs is expected to bring in an additional $40 million.

Electronic bingo is already legal, but restricted by state law. Pending legislation would lift some of the state restrictions on electronic bingo while allowing for electronic pulltabs.

Unlike the giant slot machines that line tribal casinos, electronic pulltabs would center around wireless iPad-like devices that can be used throughout the bar. Patrons would pay someone at the bar to load money on the machine.

Bingo and pulltabs would likely be played on different devices, but the move to electronic displays is expected to bring more people, especially younger patrons, flocking to charitable gambling in bars.

The Star Tribune said the fight ahead is likely to revolve around whether the bill changes tax rates. Charities had hoped that by allowing for electronic pulltabs, the state could subsequently lower their gambling taxes. That made the legislation effectively revenue neutral for the state.

If state lawmakers want extra money for a Vikings stadium, charitable gambling tax rates may not change – netting the state an extra $40 million.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk said he won't support a broader gambling expansion, but he supports the pull tab idea to help pay for a stadium and provide some relief for charities.

"We already have bingo, so big deal," Bakk said. "The charities need some help and this is a gambling proposal I support."

SPECIAL SESSION FOR VIKINGS MAY COME NEXT YEAR
November 10, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - Trying to restart momentum on a Vikings stadium deal, Gov. Mark Dayton and legislative supporters told the Star Tribune they will try again for a special session, possibly by late January.

The DFL governor was joined by the two leading Republican sponsors of the stadium bill one day after Dayton said a special session before Thanksgiving was no longer possible, largely because of opposition by GOP House Speaker Kurt Zellers.

"We'll keep moving forward," Dayton said after the meeting. But, he said, the responsibility would now fall to Republican leaders to put together a plan that could win legislative approval. Dayton had planned to release his own proposal, but delayed it. "It's counterproductive for me to come out ahead with something, because it seems to have the opposite effect," Dayton said.

The Star Tribune said the latest developments, coming after weeks of high-drama stadium politics, also indicate a growing political rift between Moorhead Republican Rep. Morrie Lanning, the chief House stadium bill author, and Zellers.

"I disagree with it," Lanning said of the House speaker' stadium stance. Lanning said he realized that, in the face of a hot-button issue, Zellers was "going to be reluctant to get too far out in front."

"But there comes a point where leadership has to step forward," he said. "If it has to be those of us who are rank-and-file [legislators] to step forward as leaders, so be it."

Zellers said if the new stadium were to last as long as the Metrodome, "it's a 30-year project. We should do it right and we should take our time to do it right. Without question we should have public input. And I don't know that we could get a plan, have that introduced and have the public input in the time that we had."

Ted Mondale, Dayton's chief stadium negotiator, said supporters were "moving ahead," but added that the issue "probably" would have to wait until the Legislature's 2012 regular session, which starts Jan. 24 and ends in May.

There were signs that the Star Tribune said lead some to see the political stalemate as an opening.

While the Vikings continue to insist on the Arden Hills site in Ramsey County, Minneapolis City Council President Barbara Johnson said there should be no rush.

"I like the idea of having some public hearings," said Johnson, who hopes to generate fresh enthusiasm for the three sites Minneapolis has proposed. Too many political leaders, she said, are "only responding to the Vikings. That's a mistake."

Meanwhile, a Star Tribune Minnesota Poll found widespread public support for everything from a state lottery scratch-off game to slots at horse-racing tracks and electronic pulltabs in bars and restaurants.

The Vikings' choice for a stadium site – the old Army ammunition plant in Arden Hills - appears to be less popular. A location in Minneapolis was preferred by a 45 percent of poll respondents; 37 percent preferred Arden Hills, with the rest undecided or not answering. Nearly 40 percent of those polled said any of the proposed sites in Minneapolis are acceptable, although the Metrodome site is the first choice among the three.

One clear finding: Minnesotans don't want to see the Vikings leave. About 67 percent said that keeping the team in the state is important.

The poll of 807 adults statewide was conducted Nov. 2-3 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

The poll also showed growing support for the use of public funds for a new stadium, although a majority still opposes any public subsidy. Fifty-six percent of those polled opposed using public money while 37 percent favored it. Last May, a Minnesota Poll showed 74 percent opposed to public subsidies and 22 percent in favor.

Lease an issue

Bill Lester, executive director of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, which owns the Metrodome, said the Vikings' Metrodome lease effectively expires Feb. 1., but questions were raised about the that date.

"We believe that the use agreement, because of the shortened season, calls for another year at the Dome," Mondale said.

The collapse of the Metrodome roof last winter in a freak blizzard forced the Vikings to play two of their 2010 season home games elsewhere. That, Mondale said, triggered the lease extension clause.

The Vikings disagree and say the agreement with the commission, which owns the Metrodome, expires by Feb. 1. If the National Football League team tries to leave, the dispute could land in court, a scenario similar to the commission's successful 2002 legal fight to keep the Minnesota Twins in the Metrodome.

Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley said the team's view is based on legal analysis of the lease. "It is not in the state's or anyone's best interest to look for any reason to further delay a stadium solution," he said.

The commission's original lease agreement with the Vikings required the team to play at the Metrodome for 30 years, through the 2011 season. But a "force majeure clause" specifies that if the Metrodome is damaged and the team is forced to play elsewhere for even part of a season, the Vikings are obligated to play an additional full season at the Metrodome.

The clause states in part that: "For each football season, or part of football season, while this Agreement is suspended, the term of this Agreement ... shall be extended by one football season."

By legal definition, "force majeure" means an unavoidable circumstance or accident.

On Dec. 12, 2010, a blizzard collapsed the Metrodome's roof, forcing the NFL to move that day's Vikings-Giants game to Detroit's Ford Field. The Vikings played their final home game on Dec. 20 at TCF Bank Stadium against the Chicago Bears. A new roof was in place for the team's 2011 preseason games.

"As I read it, it looked pretty clear, but you could argue whether it was a full season or two games," Mondale said of the required makeup games. "I don't see a scenario where they aren't going to play at the Dome in 2012."

Although the commission successfully enforced the Twins' contract through Hennepin County District Court, Mondale said he believes an agreement will be reached out of court for the Vikings to stay in the Metrodome through the 2012 season.

QUESTIONS RAISED ABOUT VIKINGS' CONTRIBUTION
November 17, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - Questions are being raised about how much the Minnesota Vikings are truly investing in a proposed new stadium and whether that amount could change depending upon the location.

The Associated Press reports that "Vikings owner Zygi Wilf said the team would spend significantly less than the $400 million it has pledged to help a build a new stadium if it's not located on the team's preferred site in suburban St. Paul.

"The Vikings have committed the money to support a $1.1 billion stadium plan at a sprawling site in Arden Hills, which the team favors for its long-term development potential. Some political and business leaders favor keeping the team in downtown Minneapolis, where a handful of more compact sites are an option." But an analysis of the team's proposal by state officials and reported in the Star Tribune says the team would bring roughly $225 million of its own money to the deal and possibly less. The rest could be made up through a National Football League loan that would be repaid by visiting teams and the sale of personal seat licenses, according to Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission Chairman Ted Mondale.

The calculations come as the Vikings are urging Dayton and legislators to approve a funding plan that would have taxpayers fund $650 million – about 60 percent – of the $1.1 billion project at Ramsey County's Arden Hills. The Vikings' overall $407 million contribution would amount to about 37 percent of the total price tag. According to the state's calculations, however, the team's own contribution is closer to 20 percent of the total.

With polls consistently showing a majority opposed to public subsidies for a Vikings stadium, many critics – including some legislators – have questioned why the public should put up the biggest share of money for a stadium that would primarily benefit the team.

The Star Tribune said the Vikings have resisted attempts to break down how much their organization would bring to a stadium deal.

"I'm not sure I understand the importance of delineating where" the team's money comes from, said Lester Bagley, the Vikings vice president of stadium development and public affairs.

In offering an inside analysis of the team's contribution, Mondale said consultants working for the state did not make the calculations to question the team's contribution to the stadium, but to make sure the deal was workable and provided the Vikings with roughly a $35 million annual boost in revenue that is estimated the team needs to make enough profit to succeed.

"Some people say, 'Well, they're not putting anything in,' and that's just laughable," Mondale said of Wilf and his brother Mark Wilf, the team's president. "They've got to put a couple hundred million in," he said, either through the Vikings organization's resources or through private financing.

Mondale said that, according to calculations by the consultants who reviewed other stadium deals across the country, the Vikings could get $75 million from the sales of personal seat licenses and an estimated $100 million from the National Football League in a loan that would be repaid mostly through new stadium revenue typically earmarked for visiting teams.

That would drop the team's contribution to roughly $225 million, based on the amount they said they would contribute to an Arden Hills stadium. The Vikings have not indicated the amount by which their contribution would drop if one of the three Minneapolis locations is selected.

Mondale said the calculation does not include two important factors that would favor the team: The Vikings would be expected to net up to $8 million a year from stadium naming rights and another $3.2 million annually from Arden Hills parking revenue.

Bagley said the team has not decided whether to sell personal seat licenses. Mondale's calculations, he said, did not include the possibility that the team could pay $20 million a year as part of a still-to-be-negotiated agreement to have the Vikings operate the stadium, fund capital improvements, and provide police and fire protection.

Gov. Mark Dayton says he has not pressed the National Football League or the Vikings about the details of their shares.

"Where the Wilfs obtain their financing, whether it's from a lending institution or their own wherewithal or the league – it's really their business," the governor said.

But stadium critics say the team's contribution is central to the debate.

"The person that has the most to gain from this is Zygi Wilf," Shoreview City Councilman Ady Wickstrom, who was critical of a plan to increase sales taxes in Ramsey County for the project told the newspaper.

Meanwhile, in Ramsey County, the team's preferred stadium site, officials say they've struck a $28.5 million deal with the military to buy the Arden Hills site for the stadium. Leaders of the Minnesota Senate also say they will hold two public hearings on using tax money to for a new stadium.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press said the purchase price reportedly includes cleanup costs and squelches speculation that the cost and cleanup of the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant could run as high as $70 million.

Included in the 430-acre offer is 123 acres of natural area north of the proposed stadium site bordering the Rice Creek Wildlife corridor. Most of that land would remain wildlife area with access roads.

VIKINGS WANT TO DIVERT TAXES TO FUND STADIUM
December 1, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - The Vikings have what the team calls a "purple solution" to come up with the green needed to pay for a $1.1 billion stadium, the Star Tribune said.

The team's goal is to fund a new stadium in Ramsey County, but legislative leaders pushed back and secured the team's agreement to reconsider building in Minneapolis.

The move was pushed by Sen. Julianne Ortman who chairs the influential Senate Taxes Committee and presided over a stadium hearing this week. Ortman said she was concerned how Ramsey County would pay for its $350 million share of the project after Gov. Mark Dayton and other legislative leaders effectively rejected having the county increase local sales taxes for the project.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press says the county is now considering taxes on liquor and hotels as additional funding options.

Ortman said she wanted to know from Ramsey County "how are they going to fill that gap?" The Vikings tried to answer that question with the "purple solution."

In newspaper ads, the Vikings proposed dedicating the tax revenue derived from the team, players, other employees and fan purchases to pay for the public debt incurred to pay for a stadium for the football team.

"Today's ad was a concept," Vikings spokesman Lester Bagley told the newspaper. "What we are trying to do is focus attention on the fact that we pay these taxes."

The team's proposal is similar to an analysis done by the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission in February, which estimated the team and its various connected revenue streams generate more than $20 million a year in taxes of various kinds for the state.

In the ad, the Vikings call the "purely purple financing package" the "but-for" solution because the team claims that these revenue sources would not exist but for the existence of the team.

The team would still contribute about $407 million of private money for the cost of a stadium.

The remainder of the funding would come from public sources, most likely the state.

The Legislature and Gov. Mark Dayton have been working for months on ways to pay for the stadium proposed in Arden Hills.

Among the possible funding sources: a casino in downtown Minneapolis, electronic pull-tabs and slot machines at two local horse racing tracks.

What is new, the team said in the nearly full-page ad, is that the proposal seeks to divert the future tax revenue to pay for the roughly $650 million needed to build the stadium.

"It could work," said Ted Mondale, chairman of the Sports Facilities Commission, which operates the Metrodome. "I think they have a legitimate argument."

Mondale said the proposal is not a new idea and that the commission has been talking about something similar since February, even posting its analysis on its website.

The roughly $21 million in tax revenue would come from income taxes currently paid by Vikings players, visiting players and Vikings employees, as well as sales taxes on all spending by fans inside the stadium.

MINNEAPOLIS MAKES BID FOR STADIUM
December 8, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said the city is backing the Metrodome as its favored site for a new Minnesota Vikings stadium and wants to use the nearby Minneapolis Armory to create an enhanced game-day experience for fans, the Star Tribune reported.

"Our preferred site is the Metrodome," Rybak told a joint Senate committee hearing at the Capitol. "We believe that's significant. It does save, according to the numbers I just heard, about $215 million."

Rybak said the presence of one (and eventually two) light-rail lines at the Metrodome and its lower costs compared to Arden Hills make the current home of the Vikings the best place for a new stadium. Proposals for sites at the farmers market and near the Basilica of St. Mary remain in the running, Rybak said, but will not have the city's official support.

"The bottom line is, we are prepared with existing revenue streams to put $300 million on the table," Rybak told senators, who heard 51ŕ2 hours of testimony on stadium plans and ways to pay for them. Rybak acknowledged the revenue - from city liquor, sales and lodging taxes - is now dedicated to the Minneapolis Convention Center and may not be sufficient in the early years of the stadium project.

He said the Vikings' desire for activities outside the stadium led Minneapolis to consider ways to use the privately owned armory as an "event center field house, the centerpoint of a new game-day experience" for the team's fans. In addition, he said, unspecified changes between the stadium and armory could improve the fan experience.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press said, "Politically, Minneapolis appeared to be ahead in the stadium race after the final Senate hearing on the issue Tuesday. Leading lawmakers said they were impressed that city officials were putting money on the table and lining up behind a refurbished Metrodome, which they say would cost about $200 million less than an Arden Hills stadium."

Still, the newspaper said challenges remain including possible objections from the convention center's governing board, which would lose money in the deal, and voters, which may have to approve the expenditure.

Sen. Julie Rosen, the lead Senate stadium legislation author, later pronounced herself impressed. "I think that's getting to be a very viable option," Rosen told the Star Tribune.

Rybak's narrowing of his city's focus was the major development in a second day of wide-ranging testimony. The joint meeting of the Senate Taxes and State Government committees had no bill to examine or tax proposal to scrutinize. The Legislature won't be in session until Jan. 24.

Rybak said the tax pool that supports the Minneapolis Convention Center includes a one-half percent citywide sales tax, a 3 percent tax on restaurant and liquor sales in the downtown core and a 2.6 percent tax on lodging.

Minneapolis City Council Member Lisa Goodman said she would "strongly oppose" diverting taxes that maintain the Convention Center to a Vikings stadium.

MINNEAPOLIS COUNCIL OBJECTS TO STADIUM FUNDING PLAN
December 15, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - A near-majority of Minneapolis council members said they were opposed to Mayor R.T. Rybak's plan to fund a new Vikings stadium using existing city sales taxes that help fund the convention center, and only President Barb Johnson was willing to support it publicly, the Star Tribune reported.

"There's a window of opportunity for us to do some big things," Rybak said. "And I do think it's in the bottom-line interest of the city."

Rybak's plan to cover the city's $300 million share of a stadium involves redirecting most of the hotel taxes, citywide sales tax and special downtown taxes that currently support the city's convention center. That money will be freed up when the city pays off bonds on the facility in 2020.

Meanwhile, NFL owners adopted a revised stadium loan program that could provide up to $200 million toward a Vikings stadium.

The vote, at an owners' meeting in Texas, brought additional clarity to where the Vikings would get the team's $425 million contribution for a proposed $1.1 billion stadium.

Using local taxes to fund a state facility and a private business while depriving the convention center of potentially important funding emerged as two key obstacles for the council.

"What I'm opposed to is myself and my constituents and the people who we are begging to come downtown and eat and play and shop, to have to pay that tax 365 days a year for the benefit of a private entity," said Council Member Lisa Goodman, who represents downtown.

At least three council members said they support holding a citywide referendum on the plan. The charter requires a referendum when the city spends more than $10 million on a sports facility. Rybak wants to bypass that requirement, but he said in a meeting with reporters that it is "murky" whether it even legally applies in this case.

"It clearly applies," Council Member Gary Schiff countered in an interview. Schiff posted on Facebook that Rybak's purple tie wasn't enough to sway the council, particularly since the convention center will need renovation funding in the out-years.

"It leaves us with a hole for paying for the convention center," Schiff said. "We don't just need to pay off bonds for the convention center and say 'Yay, we're done.'"

Another major question is whether the city's contribution to the stadium will be sufficient. The state wants just over $8 million a year to pay for operating costs, but the city won't be able to reach that level until 2020. The lead author of the House legislation cited that Wednesday as a serious pitfall in the city's plan.

"We may need to have another partner on this, because I'm not certain we can totally fill this gap with just these dollars," Rybak said.

That hole is a result of Rybak's insistence that the deal include property tax relief, he said. He noted that the city would be in a better financial position if sales tax revenues exceed expectations or the Legislature approves a 1 percent increase in Minneapolis hotel taxes.

Local officials are concerned that if a financing plan cannot be put together soon, the NFL may move the franchise to Los Angeles. The Vikings say their lease at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome expires next year.

Speaking in Dallas this week, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said told the Associated Press it's unlikely the league would move a team in time for next season.

"It is a viable market in the sense that we know there are millions of fans in that market who want to see football return there," Goodell said. "But we want it to return in a successful way, and that requires a stadium. I don't think we'll be in a position to make that decision by 2012, but we'll continue to work with the different alternatives in Los Angeles and hope that we get a solution that will work."

NEW TAX SUPPORTED FOR VIKINGS STADIUM
December 22, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures

Arden Hills, Minn. - Two Ramsey County commissioners sent a letter to key Minnesota legislators saying a 3 percent countywide food and beverage tax is the "only viable financing plan" for a new Minnesota Vikings stadium, the Star Tribune reported.

Commissioners Tony Bennett and Rafael Ortega have been pushing for a $1.1 billion stadium on a former munitions site in Arden Hills. They touted their financing plan in a letter to state Rep. Morrie Lanning and state Sen. Julie Rosen. They are the sponsors of stadium bills and have said they want to introduce a site-specific plan soon.

In a letter just more than a page long, the commissioners underlined two sentences: "This is the only viable financing plan on the table, and the only plan that would make the local share available immediately. Additionally, it is the only plan that has already been negotiated with the Vikings."

Others, however, aren't convinced it's the way to go.

County Finance Director Lee Mehrkens first raised the plan in legislative hearings this month, but the concept received a tepid reception. Rosen said at that time those taxes were "not acceptable."

The letter proposes a cocktail of "special local taxes on food and beverages, liquor, lodging, entertaining and admissions" to generate about $24 million a year to support $350 million in bonds. The commissioners attached a legal analysis saying the taxes would require only legislative authorization and a County Board vote – not a referendum of county voters.

The commissioners previously had offered a plan to increase the countywide sales tax by a half-cent to support the stadium bonds, but that tanked when a referendum push got rolling. Under that plan, the Vikings were to pay $407 million and the state $300 million.

After the county's sales tax plan died, Lanning said he told Bennett and Ortega that "they needed to bring some revenue to the table." He said that he expected that Ramsey County would propose a hospitality tax.

"I'm open to this option of raising revenue, and it's consistent with what we've allowed other communities to do, including the city of Minneapolis and others," Lanning said.

Minneapolis has a citywide 3 percent entertainment tax, a citywide 2.625 percent lodging tax, and downtown liquor and restaurant taxes of 3 percent. Revenues are used to pay off the city's convention center.

But County Board Chairwoman Victoria Reinhardt said that any plan requiring Ramsey County to shoulder an "undue burden" is "inappropriate."

Legislators "need to determine whether the Vikings are a state asset they want to keep and if they do, there should be a statewide solution, period.

"Quite frankly, it's irritating that they keep throwing it back to the county ... and making it seem like we have to come up with a solution for a statewide issue," Reinhardt said.

VIKINGS SHOW INTEREST IN MINNEAPOLIS SITES
January 5, 2012
Copyright 2012 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - In meetings with key political leaders, Minnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wilf indicated the team may be warming to a pair of downtown Minneapolis sites for a new football stadium, according to the Star Tribune.

Newly elected Senate Majority Leader David Senjem said Wilf displayed maps showing how a new Vikings stadium would fit at a location near the Basilica of St. Mary or at a so-called Farmers Market site nearer the Minnesota Twins' Target Field. Team officials, however, remain skeptical of building on the site of the Metrodome.

While the Vikings remain publicly committed to building a $1.1 billion stadium in Ramsey County's Arden Hills, the newspaper said the day's events included several wrinkles in the high-stakes political maneuvering by the team, Gov. Mark Dayton, legislators and business leaders. The negotiating continued as stadium supporters – with an eye on a legislative session that begins Jan. 24 – remained undecided over where to build the project and how to pay for it.

Meanwhile, Sen. Julie Rosen, the Senate's lead stadium proponent, said she wants to unveil a plan for the project by the time the Legislature convenes and then move quickly toward a vote.

"This is my personal goal [to] have something right away at the beginning of the session that we can get an up-or-down vote, and get it done," said Rosen.

Senjem seemed to distance himself from such an aggressive approach, saying that any stadium plan would "move deliberately" through the Legislature and would have public hearings that likely "would take a while."

The Senate majority leader, who was elected just a week ago following a major political shakeup at the Capitol, met separately with Wilf and Dayton. Although Wilf showed drawings of the two Minneapolis locations, Senjem said he felt that much work still needs to be done.

"It just seems like there's a lot of balls up in the air," Senjem said. "I'm not sure the balls have moved a lot on this one. That's not being critical - it just really hasn't."

Ted Mondale, Dayton's lead stadium negotiator, said recently that stadium supporters hoped to have a site chosen by mid-January.

While the Vikings want a stadium in Arden Hills, Minneapolis officials have said the Basilica of St. Mary, Farmers Market and Metrodome sites are all less expensive. City officials said they prefer a new stadium at the Metrodome, the team's home for 30 years.

The Vikings have pledged $425 million toward the Arden Hills project - an amount that would likely include a loan from the National Football League – and the team wants state and local government to contribute $650 million.

MINNESOTA GOVERNOR SETS DEADLINE ON STADIUM
January 12, 2012
Copyright 2012 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - The St. Paul Pioneer Press said Gov. Mark Dayton set another deadline to try to jump-start progress on a Vikings stadium bill, giving Ramsey County and Minneapolis leaders a week to submit final plans. The deadline is 5 p.m. today (Thursday).

"I've always believed you need to have deadlines in order to get people to finally do what they need to do," Dayton said at a news conference at the Capitol.

The Democratic governor set a similar timeline last fall to have information submitted in preparation for a pre-Thanksgiving special session, but that plan fell apart in the face of opposition from Republican House Speaker Kurt Zellers.

Since then, Dayton said: "We're left back in this sort of semi-Twilight Zone where we know some of the facts but we don't know all of them, and some people are showing cards and some people are not showing cards. That's why, again, we've got to get all the cards face up on the table."

Dayton acknowledged there's no guarantee that this deadline, but he said he collaborated with key stadium lawmakers Rep. Morrie Lanning and Sen. Julie Rosen in setting it in order to facilitate legislative buy-in.

Lanning and Rosen have been leading a group of lawmakers in an attempt to draft a bill. That group, which last met before Christmas, had requested more detailed information from the city, county and team, and Dayton's announcement is in line with those efforts, Lanning said.

Rafael Ortega, Ramsey County Board of Commissioners chair, said the county will meet the deadline.

"We will submit a proposal. It's not going to be a big deal for us," he said. "We've been at this for a year. We've been fully vetted by everybody."

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and St. Paul City Council President Barb Johnson issued a statement saying that they also would submit materials by the deadline.

City leaders will bring a plan to renovate the Metrodome, said Rybak aide John Stiles.

That's been Rybak and Johnson's stated preference, but two other sites at the Farmer's Market and on Linden Avenue near the Basilica of St. Mary have been lingering as possibilities. The Vikings have had traffic engineers evaluate the Linden Avenue site, according to team vice president of stadium development Lester Bagley.

Lanning also said Minneapolis needs to come forward with support beyond the mayor and council president.

He said he's not sure whether the city council can weigh in before the deadline, but "at some point, the city of Minneapolis is going to need to take a position."

The city may also have to deal with new objections raised by the Vikings who say $67 in hidden costs at the Metrodome site keep it from being the less expensive option.

Playing at the University of Minnesota for three seasons while a new stadium is built would require $19 million to expand parking on campus and $11 million to refurbish two-year-old TCF Bank Stadium to National Football League standards, team officials told the Star Tribune. Team revenues, they added, are expected to shrink by $12.3 million annually. Together, those expenses bring the cost of building on the Metrodome site to $962 million, the team said.

Another potential complication came from suburban Shakopee which has offered its own stadium site.

Supporter Cory Merrifield told Minnesota Public Radio that initial estimates put the cost of the project at just over $900 million, which would make it the cheaper than the options provided by Minneapolis or Ramsey County. He says proceeds from casino games at nearby Canterbury Park would help fund the public share of the stadium.

"You have this 130-acre lot that's sitting there wide open, with a lot of infrastructure, and it's what we could use for a Vikings stadium," Merrifield said. "So we think it's a tremendous opportunity to give the Vikings an alternative to Arden Hills."

The bid doesn't have formal city backing yet, and doesn't include any local tax revenue.

Bagley told the Pioneer Press that Dayton's deadline is "a positive step. Deadlines drive decision makers to make decisions, and we appreciate that."

After the information is submitted, Dayton said, he expects one plan will emerge as the clear winner.

A winning plan alone may not be enough. The Star Tribune said an ad hoc group of Ramsey County leaders publicly launched a petition drive to require a referendum before tax dollars can be used to build a stadium in Arden Hills.

The No Stadium Tax Coalition announced it will try to collect nearly 15,000 signatures to put the question on the November ballot. If approved, Ramsey's charter would be amended to bar the use of "tax revenues, bonding authority, or any other county resources" to build or operate a pro sports facility unless approved by a majority of voters.

Shoreview City Council Member Ady Wickstrom, who chairs the coalition, said the signature drive will show state leaders that Ramsey County citizens want to decide for themselves whether to finance the stadium.

The coalition's leadership team includes two members of Ramsey's charter commission, Rod Halvorson and Bryan Olson, and former Arden Hills City Council Member Gregg Larson.

Wickstrom said the coalition has lined up 70 to 80 volunteers to collect signatures through door-to-door canvassing, camping out on street corners or inviting people into their homes.

The Vikings are asking for public money to help build a replacement for their current home at the Dome, which they say is not equipped to generate sufficient revenue. They played the last game under their lease and officials have said they won't renew it without a stadium deal.

The Pioneer Press said the team's preference remains a $1.1 billion stadium complex on 430 acres of former ammunition plant land in Arden Hills.

It would create a 65,000-seat stadium with nearly 20,000 parking spots, with room for commercial development as well.

The team has pledged $425 million toward the Arden Hills project. The state's portion would be $300 million, and county leaders have proposed food, beverage, hotel and motel taxes to finance a $350 million contribution.

Minneapolis's Dome renovation plan is estimated to cost $895 million. The plan is to redirect tax revenue that currently supports the convention center toward a stadium.

Convention center bonds would be paid off in 2020, and the city would plan to contribute $8.5 million per year after that to stadium operations, for a total of about $300 million over 30 years.

QUICK DECISION WANTED ON VIKINGS STADIUM
January 19, 2012
Copyright 2012 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - Gov. Mark Dayton began sifting through nine plans to build a Minnesota Vikings stadium. Reports said he initially focused on two proposals - one for a $1.1 billion stadium in Ramsey County's Arden Hills and the other that would put the project where the Metrodome now sits, but as the week wore on, Dayton said he was leaning toward Minneapolis' Linden Avenue site near the Basilica of St. Mary.

With the Legislature set to convene Jan. 24, the Star Tribune said the first stadium-related legislative bills also emerged, including one that suggests simply transferring ownership of the Metrodome. Any improvements to the Dome site would be left up to the team.

Dayton was firm about the fate of one site: The Vikings' previously preferred site at Arden Hills, he said, "is not financially viable." The Vikings, he said, could choose to contribute $700 million to the cost of the $1.1 billion stadium - something the Vikings immediately said would not be possible.

Vikings spokesman Lester Bagley called the Linden Avenue site "intriguing," and said: "It's got the ability to share game-day experience with [the] Twins and Target Center. If Arden Hills is not achievable, we will work with state leaders and the city of Minneapolis to try to negotiate an agreement."

The Star Tribune said proposals for a stadium near the Basilica are far pricier, but more realistic.

However, there could be new problems with the site near the historic church.

The city's charter requires a super-majority vote of the City Council - nine of the 13 members - to approve the sale fo city-owned land needed for the project.

The site is home to the city's traffic and parking services. Chuck Lutz, the city's development director, said that it is where, among other things, all the city's stoplights are controlled.

The city charter states: "No real estate belonging to said City shall be sold unless ordered sold by a vote of two-thirds ( 2/3) of all the members of the City Council."

City Council Member Lisa Goodman called it "one of the deal-breakers." Goodman is chairwoman of the city's community development committee and the Linden Avenue site is in her ward.

A deputy city attorney, however, said the Legislature could simply override the super-majority requirement.

The governor touched on the stadium's other main stumbling block - how a public subsidy package would help pay for it - but reiterated that allowing electronic pulltabs in Minnesota's bars could raise more than enough money without drawing the ire of Indian tribes, who operate the state's casinos and generally oppose any expansion of gambling.

MINNESOTA GOVERNOR SAYS METRODOME SITE IS ONLY OPTION
January 26, 2012
Copyright 2012 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - The St. Paul Pioneer Press summed it up: "Gov. Mark Dayton told the owners of the Minnesota Vikings on Monday that the team's new stadium will have to be at the Metrodome site if a stadium bill is to pass the Legislature this year, and the team is not happy."

Team vice president Lester Bagley responded saying, "Vikings ownership is extremely frustrated with the situation."

A few days later owner Zygi Wilf appeared to accept the situation, saying he was "optimistic" that an agreement could be made on the Metrodome site while holding out some hope that the Ramsey County plan might still work.

The Vikings' lease at the Metrodome expires Feb. 1, and team owners are asking for public money to replace a 30-year-old facility they say is no longer profitable enough compared with other NFL facilities. Fans fear that no new stadium could drive the team to another city.

Dayton spokeswoman Katharine Tinucci said she didn't know what led Dayton to decide the Dome was the more practical option.

According to the Star Tribune, the team says the Metrodome site does not provide as good a "game day" experience as other potential sites would and noted that the team would lose money if it is required to play at the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank stadium while the Metrodome is rebuilt. The Vikings have said there would be at least $50 million in additional costs.

The Vikings have said they prefer the Ramsey County proposal to build a $1.1 billion stadium in Arden Hills, but Dayton said that site faced significant obstacles, in particular lawmakers' reluctance to approve a countywide food and beverage tax without a voter referendum.

Ramsey County Commissioner Tony Bennett was more than disappointed upon hearing about Dayton's message to the team, noting the county has given two detailed proposals for the Arden Hills plan.

Minneapolis still faces challenges, he notes, with funding and a charter amendment in that city that limits money to a pro stadium to $10 million.

Ted Mondale, Dayton's chief stadium negotiator, said legislative negotiators would argue that the city sales tax revenue would be deposited with a newly created – and independent - stadium authority that would spend the money. Because of that, he said, the city charter would not apply and the legislature would be asked to create an exemption.

"It really isn't the city spending that money," Mondale said. "In order to do this in Minneapolis, we need that" exemption from the city charter, he said.

The Star Tribune quoted Mondale saying lawyers were attempting to get around a requirement that nine City Council votes in Minneapolis would be needed to sell city land near the basilica for the project. He said a new legal opinion obtained for the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission argued that only seven votes would be required because the city would be selling the property to another public entity. Mondale is the chair of the commission.

The Metrodome plan was the least expensive – $918 million – of those proposed. That figure includes $11 million for improvements to TCF Bank Stadium to make it NFL ready.

Minneapolis' plan uses some tax revenue that now supports the convention center. Starting in 2016, the city would kick in $6.5 million annually (escalated by 3 percent a year) for 30 years, plus backing $150 million in capital costs. That works out to $313 million in 2016 dollars, officials said.

The plan likely would need to be OK'd by the city council, and legislative intervention would be required to override the $10 million cap in the city charter.

The new stadium, as well as a renovated Target Center that's also part of the deal, would be owned and operated publicly by a new stadium authority.

MINNEAPOLIS COUNCIL INSISTING ON STADIUM ELECTION
February 2, 2012
Copyright 2012 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - City Council insistence that public funding for a new Minnesota Vikings stadium must go before Minneapolis voters put the brakes on Mayor R.T. Rybak's plan for the Metrodome site according to the Star Tribune.

Sandra Colvin Roy, whose stance on the mayor's stadium plan was previously unknown, became the seventh member of the 13-member council standing against the proposal absent a citywide referendum. That vote is required under the city's charter if the city spends more than $10 million on a stadium, but the mayor and council President Barb Johnson would like the Legislature to override it.

"Looking across the street at Occupy Minnesota and thinking about what's going on in our country right now, some of the discussions that are happening relative to government - can we trust them or not? – I cannot countenance going around that referendum," Colvin Roy said during a hearing. Also, the chair of the first House committee that likely would handle the Vikings stadium plan said she would oppose any attempt to waive a referendum requirement.

"I'd like to see a referendum if it involves taxpayer money, which it undoubtedly will," said Rep. Joyce Peppin, who chairs the House Government Operations and Elections Committee.

The idea of putting a new Vikings stadium on the Metrodome site with $300 million in city sales tax revenue had gained momentum at the State Capitol and with the team's owners, the Star Tribune said.

The majority council opposition is a major blow to the mayor's plan, though he maintains he can muster the seven votes to pass it.

"It's not going to be a slam dunk here or at the Capitol or anywhere else, but we can see a way to get there," Rybak said.

"We're not going to do a referendum in the city," the mayor said. "We are going to have a referendum in a couple years when I stand for re-election."

But Colvin Roy noted that the charter amendment, which passed overwhelmingly on the 1997 ballot, expressed the "will of the people" to have a say in stadium decisions. She also said state taxpayers should bear more of the burden for what will be a statewide asset.

"It's a very tough position to be in on this council, the seventh vote," Colvin Roy said. "For anything, whether it's for or against."

Meanwhile, lawmakers drafting a stadium bill emerged from a two-hour meeting at a St. Paul restaurant to tell the St. Paul Pioneer Press they are leaning toward using revenue from electronic pulltabs to pay for the state portion of the project.

"We are absolutely looking toward that direction," said Sen. Julie Rosen. "There was a very favorable response to charitable gaming."

The consensus is that the other leading funding contender - slot machines at horse-racing tracks - wouldn't get enough support as part of a stadium package, she said.

Group members still had questions about e-pulltabs, Rosen said, but they are clearly the odds-on favorite.

Gov. Mark Dayton has said he wants to pay the entire state portion of a stadium's costs with revenue from e-pulltabs, which are an electronic version of the game now played on paper in bars and restaurants around the state.

Backers say offering an electronic option would expand interest in the game, particularly among young people.

The move could generate $60 million in tax revenue for the state per year, roughly half of which could be used to finance the state contribution of $340 million for building a stadium on the Metrodome site, Dayton has said.

American Indian tribes, which oppose other forms of expanded gambling, have said they wouldn't oppose electronic pulltabs.

MINNEAPOLIS FACES FINANCING CONCERNS
February 9, 2012
Copyright 2012 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - The Star Tribune says negotiators are hurriedly finishing a plan that would have a new Minnesota Vikings stadium alongside the Metrodome substantially complete by 2016, requiring the team to play only a handful of games at the University of Minnesota.

But the rush is accompanied by new concerns about whether Minneapolis can meet its financial obligations. A financial analysis obtained by Minnesota Public Radio shows the city is nearly 20 percent short of the pledge it hoped to make to the project. The report also includes some steep new fees in the deal, including a $25 charge to park on downtown streets on game days.

The radio network said the analysis is the most detailed look yet at the dollars and cents behind a Minneapolis stadium deal. It's the homework city officials are doing as they put together a winning bid of $313 million to keep the Vikings downtown. They want a $150 million upgrade for Target Center, as well.

"It doesn't add up," said Minneapolis City Council Member Gary Schiff, a stadium opponent. The city's stadium finance consultant, Mark Kaplan, provided the analysis to Schiff and the rest of the council. It shows the city is more than $50 million short of the $313 million planners pledged as a local contribution to a new stadium.

That works out to a deficit of more than $100 million over the 30-year life of the deal, Schiff said.

"So far, the city plan has a $107 million gap even after we use every sales tax that we have access to for the next 30 years," Schiff said.

Mayor R.T. Rybak's spokesman John Stiles confirmed the numbers in the analysis. Stiles said the city is $55 million short of its pledge. He said the city had always acknowledged that the plan "comes up a little short," but that the city hopes negotiations will narrow that gap.

Several city council members say they also believe the city is considering paring back its plan for upgrades to the Target Center costing $150 million – a key selling point for the city council. The Star Tribune said Ted Mondale, Gov. Mark Dayton's chief stadium negotiator, said the fast-moving site plan should be completed this week and could dramatically accelerate a decision to select a location for the long-debated project.

Although the newest plan involves an array of details, Mondale said the goal is still to offer an overall stadium plan - financed partly by money from electronic pulltabs – in time for a legislative vote this spring.

The latest proposal would have the Vikings play at the Metrodome through 2015. By that time, a new stadium next-door would be 75 percent complete. The Metrodome would be torn down and turned into a large plaza for pregame activities, according to both Mondale and a Vikings spokesman. The space would be large enough to accommodate a $19 million parking ramp for the team.

"I would think 2016 would be the ‘go live' year," Mondale said. "Maybe the first two games you play" at the university's TCF Bank Stadium, "but before it gets cold, you'd be ready to go."

Playing at the smaller university stadium, "would be much more of a temporary thing," he said. Both Mondale and the Vikings acknowledge that the scramble to find yet another way - and site - for the stadium is being driven by the team's estimate that it would cost nearly $50 million for the Vikings to play at TCF Bank stadium for three years while a new stadium was built at the Metrodome.

Since last year, the Vikings stadium drama has involved at least four sites: An abandoned ammunition plant in Arden Hills – the team's preferred location; the Metrodome; a farmer's market location near the Minnesota Twins' Target Field in downtown Minneapolis, and another downtown site near the Basilica of St. Mary.

While the competition has narrowed to Minneapolis and Ramsey County's Arden Hills, both the city and the county have local financing plans that face significant financial and political hurdles. Local funding is being counted on to pay for roughly a third of a nearly $1 billion stadium. State financing, according to the latest estimates, would account for at least $340 million of a new stadium. The Vikings have pledged $425 million toward a new stadium in Arden Hills but have declined to commit to a dollar amount for a stadium in Minneapolis.

Rep. Morrie Lanning, the chief House stadium legislation author, raised another possible roadblock. He said both the Ramsey County and Minneapolis financing plans could be rejected by legislators as inadequate. That almost certainly would scuttle any immediate chances of public subsidies for the project.

"At this point, either one of those could wind up falling by the wayside," Lanning said.

Mondale said the newest plan, pieced together over the past few weeks, would attempt to build the stadium next to the Metrodome without buying a nearby telecommunications center that houses a series of high-tech companies. The building's owner has said repeatedly that his building is not for sale, and Mondale said the owner's lawyer reiterated that position.

"If this could be workable, we would of course be interested in it," Bagley said of the latest plan. "[But] there are challenges with the scenario that Ted laid out."

NEW FINANCING PLANS SURFACE IN MINNEAPOLIS
February 16, 2012
Copyright 2012 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - The Minnesota Vikings and legislators heard new stadium financing plans this week as the team announced it would stay in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome another year.

Ramsey County offered a new plan to raise $300 million for its share of construction costs with user fees. The St. Paul Pioneer Press said the team is not a fan.

The Star Tribune said the White Earth Tribe released its own plan to split revenues from a proposed new casino to fund the stadium.

Ramsey County commissioners said parking revenue, naming rights, hospitality taxes targeted to the stadium area and an admissions surcharge could generate about $20.6 million a year for a $1.1 billion stadium in Arden Hills.

"Our new plan's a game-changer. It's totally different than the first two proposals we put forward," Ramsey County Commissioner Tony Bennett said after briefing Gov. Mark Dayton on the new financing proposal.

Vikings spokesman Lester Bagley, though, took a dim view of the proposal. Nearly half of the projected revenue under the new plan was slated to go to the team under previous agreements.

"We think their earlier proposals were more viable. Right now, it's not something we could support," Bagley said.

The financing proposal could generate up to $618 million over 30 years, enough to pay off Ramsey County's share of the state bonds on a new football stadium, plus interest. Bennett and fellow Commissioner Rafael Ortega spoke to reporters after briefing Dayton.

"When we met with him, he was very thankful and he was very congenial," Bennett said. "Whether he'll support us, I don't know."

The tribe said its plan calls for revenue from the proposed casino to be evenly split with the state. Backers say that would be enough to pay the public's share of a new stadium without new taxes. The tribe would use its share for housing, economic development, health care and education needs on its 1,300-square-mile reservation in northwestern Minnesota.

The casino would be the first on non-reservation land and the first to share revenue with the state.

White Earth officials say they've already secured financing for development and construction, and that the casino would pay property and sales taxes. Officials estimate 2,500 jobs would be created to build the casino and up to 2,000 new, permanent jobs would be needed to operate it. After the stadium is paid off, revenue would continue to go to the state. The state would regulate and audit the casino, which is not the case with tribal casinos generally.

Meanwhile, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak's plan to finance a stadium would raise game day downtown parking meter rates to $25. It would add a tax on football tickets and extend existing restaurant and hotel taxes decades past their sunset date.

The Pioneer Press said one thing the package would not do, according to a recent financial analysis, is cover the $300 million the city has committed to the stadium project. The plan comes up $55 million short.

"It's this financing plan that is a really rotten deal for taxpayers," said Minneapolis City Council member Gary Schiff, who is leading the charge to kill Rybak's financing proposal. "We (will) have gobbled up every sales tax we have, sold bonds, paid the interest, and there is still not enough money in this plan."

The city's $300 million stadium contribution would exceed $600 million by the time the bonds are paid off in 30 years. And the $55 million funding gap would grow into a $107 million shortfall by the year 2045, the analysis says.

Rybak spokesman John Stiles said the five-page projection of revenue and expenses was prepared by a consultant and shared with the city council in late January.

Stiles noted Rybak's proposal combines funding for a new stadium on the current site of the Metrodome with funding for the Minneapolis Convention Center and a refurbished Target Center.

"If you take the whole package of convention center, Target Center and stadium, there's $55 million unaccounted for out of $1.362 billion," said Stiles, downplaying the shortfall. "That's a 4 percent gap."

Minneapolis' plan faces additional hurdles. It does not have the seven votes needed on the 13-member city council to pass, Schiff said.

Gov. Mark Dayton has said the Metrodome is the only site that stands a chance of gaining legislative approval this session. Legislators are still working on a plan that would detail how the state would finance its portion of a new stadium., estimated at about $300 million as well.

VIKINGS, UNIVERSITY AGREE ON STADIUM USE TERMS
February 23, 2012
Copyright 2012 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - The Minnesota Vikings and the University of Minnesota have struck a tentative deal on how much the team will pay to play at TCF Stadium while a new Vikings stadium is built near the Metrodome.

While declining to say how much the Vikings would pay per game, Vikings spokesman Lester Bagley told the Star Tribune that the tentative agreement would add roughly 3,000 temporary end zone seats to the university's 50,000-seat stadium.

"We have close to 53,000 season-ticket owners, so we're trying to at least get to that," said Bagley, the team's vice president for stadium development and public affairs..

Other details still need to be resolved before the plan can be finalized, Bagley said.

"I'd say there's an agreement in principle there, but formal signoff is yet to occur between the Vikings and the university," he said.

Because it is unclear how many games or seasons the team would play at TCF, Bagley said the school and team had reached a tentative agreement on the cost per game.

In December 2010, the team paid $1.7 million to play a game at TCF after the Metrodome roof collapsed.

Also, Minneapolis officials asserted that Target Center improvements remain on the table as they work toward a public deal for a new football stadium. Officials say they hope to have a deal in place within a week.

Sources told the Star Tribune last week that Target Center renovations and refinancing were being handled separately from the proposed Vikings deal.

The city would, however, be allowed to use existing taxes for the aging, city-owned arena. Mayor R.T. Rybak wants to use hospitality taxes to help pay for a stadium after Convention Center bonds are retired in 2020, while redirecting some money to renovate and pay debt on Target Center.

"It is still part of the deal," said Chuck Lutz, the city's development chief. "It's an integral part of the deal. ... The key reason why we're doing this deal is because of Target Center." Taken over by the city in 1995, Target Center has become a burden to city taxpayers. The city recently calculated that it will have to spend about $32 million on the arena over the next 10 years.

DEAL STRUCK FOR VIKINGS STADIUM
March 1, 2012
Copyright 2012 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - Legislators, Gov. Mark Dayton and Minneapolis officials have reached an agreement on a new fixed-roof Vikings stadium adjacent to the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome that requires the team to stay in the city for 30 years. The deal includes the possibility of upgrading the Target Center arena.

According to the Star Tribune, the Vikings would pay "more than" 50 percent of the construction and operating expenses. The state would contribute $398 million, the city of Minneapolis, $150 million, and the Vikings or other private sources, $427 million. The new stadium would be owned by a Stadium Authority, which would have gubernatorial and Minneapolis city council appointees.

Rybak pitched the deal as a jobs bill that would put people to work and leading the city and state to greatness.

"We believe we have a compelling case to make," Rybak said. He said that the stadium deal could still allow city to spend some of its sales tax dollars on the Target Center, rather than having the tax end completely. The deal would redirect a portion of those tax dollars toward the stadium project and allow the city to control the rest.

Zygi Wilf, Vikings owner, said the deal is something he has been waiting for the entire seven years he has owned the team.

"This is an exciting day," Wilf said. He said the "dream of keeping the Vikings here" is closer to reality. "Here we are at the cusp of getting this done."

The actual stadium bill for the Legislature to approve is expected to be introduced on Monday.

The new stadium would include the current footprint of the Metrodome but add in plaza and tailgate space.

Ted Mondale, the chair of the Metropolitan Sports Facility Commission, said the construction plans would allow the team to continue playing at the Metrodome for all but one year of construction.

Under the arrangement, the public would operate the stadium, the Vikings would keep the revenue related to football games and the non-football related income would be held by the public, Mondale said.

The state would raise its contribution through electronic pull-tabs, which would allow bars and restaurants to operate hand-held gambling devices and the state would capture a percent of the profits to pay back the costs of building the stadium.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press said negotiators have been working for weeks on an agreement for a stadium near the Dome, and a deal comes as some at the Capitol were starting to lose patience. But any proposal has a long way to go.

Besides legislative approval, the deal must be OK'd by the Minneapolis City Council, where Rybak and council President Barb Johnson have yet to muster a majority.

Legislative approval is also expected to be needed to override a voter-approved city charter amendment that caps Minneapolis' contribution to a professional sports stadium at $10 million without a referendum.

The Star Tribune said the next step would be for a legislative bill to be introduced that contains the basic terms of the deal. About half the 2012 session remains before the Legislature is scheduled to adjourn in late April – time enough, most legislators say, for the bill to be heard and passed.

MINNESOTA LEGISLATURE CONSIDERS BACK-UP FUNDING PLAN
March 8, 2012
Copyright 2012 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - Minnesota lawmakers crafting a Vikings stadium bill are discussing whether and how to include a backup funding plan in case proceeds from gambling in bars doesn't adequately cover a needed state contribution, prominent lawmakers told the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

The hang-up is one reason legislation for the nearly $1 billion football stadium won't become public earlier than Monday. That's more than 10 days after city, state and team officials celebrated a handshake deal to build their franchise a new home.

The difficulty turning a term sheet into actual legislation is but one challenge ahead for the Vikings stadium effort. The session clock is working against advocates: Lawmakers expect to adjourn no later than April 30, and a gauntlet of time-consuming committee and floor votes stands between the bill and Gov. Mark Dayton's desk.

The House sponsor, Rep. Morrie Lanning, acknowledged that "time is short" and said that negotiators are still working through key details, including the security of the state financing.

Another challenge is in Minneapolis where Mayor R. T. Rybak said the city could invest in the project without a public vote, despite a referendum-inducted charter requirement for an election on any project that invests $10 million or more in sports subsidies.

The Star Tribune said Rybak wants to fund the city's contribution to the 30-year project by redirecting hospitality taxes - sales, liquor, lodging and restaurant - now paying for debt and operations at the city's Convention Center. That debt will be paid in 2020.

Stadium backers argued that step would merely reclaim state-authorized taxes for other uses, so there would be no legal grounds for a referendum.

"These are state dollars," Rybak said. "And the state imposes them on the city, and the state has control over them in the city."

City Attorney Susan Segal offered her legal backing. Since the state would "retain" the taxes for the stadium, Segal said in a statement, "the taxes would be outside the control of the City and our charter provisions."

Gov. Mark Dayton's chief negotiator for the stadium deal, Ted Mondale, agreed: "The money is never touched by the city. The state in the end spends the money. So therefore the city's not spending money."

A $975 million stadium on the Metrodome site could open as early as the 2016 season, but only if Dayton and other backers can persuade legislators to vote for a $398 million state subsidy and get council members to agree to the diversion of $150 million in hospitality taxes without going to a referendum.

Despite the hard lobbying task ahead, Vikings owner Zygi Wilf said the deal was a day he had looked forward to for the entire seven years he's owned the team.

Dayton said the bill would build "a premier stadium" to keep the Vikings in Minnesota, showcase major events and create up to 13,000 construction-related jobs and 2,000 permanent positions - all without general fund dollars.

The state plans to issue bonds for its share of stadium costs and pay them off with gambling profits from electronic pulltabs. Legislators must change the law to allow bars and restaurants to operate handheld gambling devices.

Officials say that type of device avoids a direct conflict with tribal casino gambling, sidestepping a court battle that could mire stadium financing in litigation.

The new plan allows for a 65,000-seat, fixed-roof stadium, half on the Dome's footprint and half in its east parking lot. It includes a large plaza on the downtown side of the Dome, a new parking ramp connected to the stadium by skyway and a city block dedicated to tailgating on game days.

City development chief Chuck Lutz said there is no developer or plan for those sites, but they "have prime development potential for something."

The stadium plaza also includes the light-rail transit station across Chicago Avenue and part of another block that contains the Hennepin County morgue and crime lab.

Team President Mark Wilf said the Dome site was "the most cost-efficient stadium alternative."

The Wilfs' preferred stadium site had been the former ammunition plant in Arden Hills. A deal to build a stadium there was announced with fanfare last year but withered when Ramsey County was unable to come up with viable financing.

Under the new agreement the Vikings would kick in $427 million - roughly the amount the team pledged to the Arden Hills project. The Wilfs declined to say where that money would come from, but it's believed the team may get a loan of up to $200 million from the National Football League's restructured loan program.

The team's contribution would cover 44 percent of the construction, with state and city funding making up the remaining 56 percent of the $975 million in up-front costs. Of the $1.5 billion long-range cost of construction, maintenance and debt service, the Vikings' share would be $754.1 million – a little more than half the total. The city would pay long-range costs of $338 million, nearly 23 percent. The state's contribution is capped at $398 million in up-front costs.

The stadium would be run by a new stadium authority, with three members appointed by the governor and two by Minneapolis. The authority would be responsible for cost overruns, unless it agrees to let the team manage construction.

The Vikings would keep all revenue from NFL events, including concessions and club seat and suite revenue. It also would get the money from naming rights and advertising on the stadium site. Revenue from events not related to the team would go to the stadium authority.

MINNESOTA LEGISLATURE GETS STADIUM FUNDING PACKAGE
March 15, 2012
Copyright 2012 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - The St. Paul Pioneer Press said Gov. Mark Dayton minced few words as he called on House and Senate leaders to end the "theater of the absurd" surrounding the Minnesota Vikings stadium proposal and move the bill to a final vote.

Without identifying House Speaker Kurt Zellers or Senate Majority Leader David Senjem by name, the governor urged the Republican leadership to take the stadium proposal to an up-or-down vote on the Senate and House floors.

"I know when I'm not getting any help," Dayton said. "I'm not as naive as someone thinks I am." Earlier, the Senate Local Government and Elections committee held a nearly two-hour public hearing on the governor's $975 million proposal for a 65,000-seat stadium in downtown Minneapolis.

The hearing ended without a vote. That puts the Vikings stadium bill behind a deadline in the three-committee process, throwing further doubt on the likelihood that the proposal will reach House and Senate floors this legislative session.

"This stadium bill will not be successful this year without the active, positive leadership" of House and Senate leaders from both parties, Dayton later told reporters.

"To kind of dismantle the foundation of the proposal in an underhanded way is really irresponsible and needs to stop."

"I personally don't believe in funding for the Vikings stadium," Zellers told the Star Tribune before the hearing. "I didn't vote for the [public subsidies for a Minnesota Twins ballpark]. Doesn't mean it won't get a fair trial, a fair hearing."

Asked whether he was an advocate for the Vikings stadium, Zellers replied with one word: "No." The Star Tribune said the funding package now includes new estimates for charitable gambling money for the project, and was immediately challenged by the industry's main lobbying group.

Dayton said when the bill was filed that allowing electronic bingo and pulltabs in the state's bars and restaurants would produce $62.5 million annually to finance the state's total $398 million stadium contribution.

That figure is $10 million a year less than a previous calculation. It was revised to satisfy charitable gambling officials who want tax relief for their industry as part of any stadium deal.

"We feel confident that this is a revenue stream that we can rely on" for the stadium, Frans said. But the revision quickly came under fire. A spokesman for Allied Charities of Minnesota said that leaders of the charitable gambling industry did not know about the briefing and said there was no agreement with the Dayton administration on whether the revenue estimates were accurate or how the new revenues should be divided.

"We have no deal," said Ray Bohn, a spokesman. "We're pretty offended."

Bohn said Dayton administration officials had begun meeting with charitable gaming officials just three days before, and that discussions had been expected to spill into the weekend.

"It's very weird," Bohn said. "I've never been treated like this before."

The briefing – which was tacked onto a news conference on education grants - and the new revisions showed that even as the stadium bill was being introduced, concern over the reliability of electronic pulltab projections is but one more worry in a project plagued by complicated politics and financing.

State officials said that while $38 million to $40 million a year would be needed for debt service on stadium borrowing, bond houses might require twice as much because gambling is seen as an unstable funding source.

But any move to use direct state money carries a new set of political worries - many Republican legislators who hold the majority in the House and Senate already have said they would reject any such move.

"If the electronic pulltabs just [don't] work why, then, no one can probably vote for it," said Senate Majority Leader David Senjem after meeting with Dayton. "We have to be assured there's a financing mechanism that works."

The stadium would be built on the Metrodome site. The Vikings would contribute $427 million toward construction costs, while the state's share would be $398 million. Minneapolis is to give $150 million up-front and share other continuing costs with the team.

Mayor R.T. Rybak's latest proposal to fund a Vikings stadium in downtown Minneapolis would pay for the city's share of the facility by redirecting a group of sales taxes that currently pay for the convention center. That money becomes available when the convention center debt is paid in 2020. Stadium backers argue the sales taxes are state-authorized and therefore not city resources, an argument reflected in the stadium bill.

The bill would also allow the Vikings to play at least one home game a year outside the stadium. Ted Mondale, Gov. Dayton's chief stadium negotiator, downplayed how often the Vikings would play home games away from the team's new stadium. He said "it could, but [would] not likely" involve a regular season home game.

March 22, 2012
Copyright 2012 MediaVentures

Lobbying efforts for a new Vikings stadium focused this week on Minneapolis City Council members who could influence whether the issue goes before voters. The Star Tribune said Gov. Mark Dayton met with members Kevin Reich and Sandra Colvin Roy in an attempt to sway them and build a pro-stadium majority on the 13-person council, which has been split over the project. Reich and Colvin Roy have tentatively opposed a city subsidy package for the stadium - particularly if there is no city referendum first. "I don't know that either of them have taken a firm position,” the governor said afterward. “We didn't get any final commitments, but we didn't ask for any final commitments."

MINNEAPOLIS COUNCIL TO SUPPORT STADIUM PLAN
March 29, 2012
Copyright 2012 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - A majority of the Minneapolis City Council now backs Mayor R.T. Rybak's plan to fund a new Vikings stadium in Minneapolis, setting up what the Star Tribune calls a last-ditch effort by Gov. Mark Dayton to win over reluctant Republican legislators.

The newspaper said the announcement that seven council members had signed letters of support seemed unlikely just a week ago, when seven members publicly opposed the plan. But after heavy lobbying by stadium backers, including Gov. Mark Dayton, Council Member Sandra Colvin Roy abandoned her insistence on a referendum and gave Rybak the majority he needs.

"I didn't change my mind," Colvin Roy said. "I made up my mind."

The deal is far from done, however. Legislators were still scrambling to obtain an agreement with charities over the use of charitable gambling funds to pay for the state portion of the stadium. It is also uncertain whether there are enough votes at the Legislature to pass the plan.

"Now [the] motion shifts over here to the Legislature," Rybak said at a state Capitol news conference. "If the Legislature acts, the City Council will act as well."

Under Rybak's plan, Minneapolis would contribute $150 million toward building the stadium, plus an additional $189 million to help operate it. The money would come from excess city sales taxes that become available when debt is paid off for the Minneapolis Convention Center.

The mayor's plan ran into immediate turbulence with the council because it bypassed a provision of the city charter that requires a citywide vote whenever the city wants to spend $10 million or more on a sports facility. Colvin Roy had said in January that she could not "countenance going around" the referendum requirement.

But in early March, City Attorney Susan Segal offered an informal opinion that the plan would not trigger the referendum because the taxes are merely being reclaimed by the state. That prompted Colvin Roy to look into the finer details of the stadium proposal. She says her initial comments were a "knee-jerk reaction to the idea of funding for professional sports."

"I made a statement about the referendum," Colvin Roy said. "I did not have the legal opinion about whether it would be triggered or not, whether it would be required. And now I do. And once I did have that, I disregarded my personal feelings and started looking at facts."

Her discussions with stadium negotiators to review whether the finances were sound culminated in a City Hall meeting with city development chief Chuck Lutz and Mark Kaplan, a former council member and consultant with the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission.

Colvin Roy said she's been warned that she'll suffer political consequences, but she is convinced the plan means property tax relief for Minneapolis homeowners.

Council Member Kevin Reich, who was publicly undecided, wrote in a letter to the governor that he "will support the Senate and House legislation" that keeps the sales taxes in Minneapolis, builds the stadium on the Metrodome site and does not require him to violate the city's charter.

Colvin Roy and Reich were under intense pressure from labor groups. Dan McConnell, business manager for the Minneapolis Building and Construction Trades Council, said he spoke with both Colvin Roy and Reich over the weekend – as well as stadium opponents on the City Council. Colvin Roy said she hasn't talked with McConnell about the stadium since at least last week.

"We had people talking to them that were constituents from their wards," McConnell said.

Council Member Meg Tuthill, who said she made up her mind last week, reasoned that securing the long-term future of the city's sales taxes - the bill extends them until 2045 - ensures the stability of the Target Center and Convention Center. That refers to the deal's provision to direct money to both facilities.

"We need to tie that money up so that we can continue to keep those as first-class venues to bring folks here," Tuthill said.

Even as Rybak, Dayton and other stadium supporters cheered the breakthrough, Republicans who hold a majority in the House and Senate were still lukewarm to the stadium project as the Legislature heads into its final weeks.

Sen. Ray Vandeveer, who chairs the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee, where the stadium project recently stalled, said he would leave it up to the stadium legislation's chief Senate sponsor to decide whether the bill should now get another hearing.

Asked if there is time to have another hearing this session, he said: "That's up to the leadership."

State Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans also acknowledged that talks were still stalled with charitable gaming officials over the state's decision to allow electronic bingo and pull tabs to generate $398 million for the state's share of the stadium. Charitable gaming officials have said that the revenue package does not provide enough tax relief for charities - the industry's main reason for wanting electronic bingo and pull tabs in the first place.

Dayton meanwhile also indicated that there was no solution yet on how to provide backup state financing - that would not involve the state's general fund - should revenue from electronic bingo and pull tabs fall short.

"The question is, what will it be?" the governor said. "I'm open to suggestions."

DOCUMENTS SHOW HOW VIKINGS' DEAL WAS DONE
March 29, 2012
Copyright 2012 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - Emails obtained by the Star Tribune show that support for Mayor R.T. Ryback's stadium funding plan was assured more than a month before City Council members publically signed on.

The newspaper said the mayor's top aide was drafting letters of support as early as Feb. 21, featuring names of the same seven council members who eventually backed the deal on March 26. The letters are among 120 pages of e-mails released by the city at the Star Tribune's request that shed light on the behind-the-scenes frustrations and horse trading that preceded a March 1 agreement between the Vikings, the city and the state.

The emails also reveal the influence a top Target Corp. executive had in shaping even the smallest details regarding the city's Vikings stadium subsidy package.

A week before the stadium deal was announced, Target Executive Vice President John Griffith urged Rybak and others to finalize the city's agreement and bluntly told them what should be included and left out of the package.

"I can imagine that some of this has made many of you anxious, my apologies," Griffith, the company's property development specialist, wrote on Feb. 21. "Much work awaits us. Let's go."

In those final days, the city's source of funding for its share of the nearly $1 billion stadium changed dramatically. In a Feb. 18 presentation by Griffith, much of the city's contribution came from a new hotel tax and game day parking surcharges, both of which were eventually dropped from the plan because of perceived opposition from Republican legislators and downtown residents. Other e-mails show the city pushed unsuccessfully to unload the city-owned Target Center onto a newly created stadium authority.

The messages from Rybak's inbox between Jan. 27 and Feb. 27 illustrate the round-the-clock drive to reach a deal, including many missives sent on weekends and late at night. While the stadium bill faces uncertain prospects at the Legislature, the plan got a significant boost when Rybak managed to pull together the narrowest majority in the face of six firm opponents on the 13-member City Council.

Griffith had been a key player with the Downtown Council's planning vision for downtown Minneapolis, which included a new Vikings stadium. But the e-mails show that Griffith helped put together stadium slide presentations to help city officials sell the stadium plan, and even suggested in early February "a clean simple way to tell the story."

"This is meant to be a quick ‘elevator' speech," Griffith said in a Feb. 9 email. Rybak messaged Griffith back the same day that "we are very grateful for the exceptional help!"

On the same day, Griffith again said that "his team" had slides that would show "inflows will be $20 million in Vikings related taxes, taxes on the 3, 4 thousand jobs over the term as well as taxes on the construction jobs up front, additional hotel, restaurant, [and] bar revenue."

Griffith's influence also extended to the stadium's design, including a new plaza. In a Feb. 13 e-mail to Rybak, Griffith talked of having a plaza that at various times would feature six hockey rinks, two soccer fields, two lacrosse fields and an Olympic-size speed skating oval.

Griffith was not available to the Star Tribune for comment, but Target spokesperson Amy Reilly said his involvement dovetails with his work developing a plan for downtown Minneapolis growth.

VIKINGS STADIUM BILL MAKES LITTLE PROGRESS
April 5, 2012
Copyright 2012 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - Minnesota legislators made little progress this week on a bill to fund a new stadium for the Vikings. The Star Tribune said the issue ran into immediate trouble at the state Capitol, but had enough momentum to pass its first test in the House.

Hours after Gov. Mark Dayton and the chief Senate author of the legislation criticized a key ingredient of the new proposal, a House panel adopted the plan and sent it on its way.

The plan to fund the nearly $1 billion stadium could get more hearings in both the House and Senate before the Legislature begins a 10-day spring break. No Senate panel has yet approved the plan and the newspaper said any stadium deal likely faces choppy political seas as stadium supporters race against GOP hopes to adjourn the Legislature by month's end.

The proposal presented by Republicans in the House would create funding backstops for the state's share of stadium costs. It quickly drew criticism from several corners, and Dayton said a provision to also allow so-called tip board betting on professional sports games would violate federal laws against sports betting.

"It doesn't strike me at first glance as a viable option," the governor said.

King Wilson, the executive director of Allied Charities of Minnesota, an umbrella group for the charities, said he felt certain that tip boards would be deemed legal and were different from outright sports bookmaking. A tip board, he said, is simply a numerical game that is not based on which team wins a particular game. "It does not matter who wins or loses," said Wilson.

But an analyst for the House panel told the committee he was unsure the provision could survive a court challenge. And earlier in the day, Tom Barrett, executive director of Minnesota Gambling Control Board, said New Jersey is trying to challenge the ban, but that the tip boards remained illegal.

Dayton also warned that the legal questions surrounding tip boards would not pass muster with the bond houses that will be needed to finance construction of a new stadium. The state must come up with nearly $400 million for its share, which has left state leaders groping for the roughly $42 million a year needed to make debt payments without tapping the state's general fund.

Hennepin County officials also huddled with lawyers over a separate provision that would tap excess county sales tax money for Target Field as another funding backup.

"That's a travesty," said Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin. "It is breaking faith with the people of Hennepin County. They are scrambling because they can't find their own solution to this problem, so they are taking other people's money. It's obscene."

County lawyers discussed whether, depending on the wording of the final bill, the state could take the money without board approval. Even Rep. Morrie Lanning, the chief House author of the legislation, said he was unsure.

KEY VIKINGS VOTE PLANNED FOR APRIL 24
April 12, 2012
Copyright 2012 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - Minneapolis Council Member Gary Schiff announced in a newsletter that a public hearing will be held on April 24 that will include a key vote on whether the Council endorses redirecting convention center taxes to fund a stadium as a legislative priority, the Star Tribune reported.

Mayor R.T. Rybak has taken his proposal to the Council's Committee of the Whole twice, but not since the bill was introduced at the State Capitol. Neither of the previous hearings included a vote or public testimony.

Schiff said each speaker will have two minutes to testify before the Intergovernmental Relations Subcommittee, which includes all members of the Council.

The committee will then decide whether to amend the city's lobbying agenda to include formal support for the plan. That will be the first test of whether Rybak's seven letters of support translate into seven votes. Passage would also allow the city's lobbyists to advocate for the plan at the State Capitol.

Meanwhile, Rybak held a public hearing this week on the plan. Stadium opponents and supporters made themselves known among the 100 people crowded into a gym at the Lake Nokomis Community Center. Based on moments of applause, the newspaper said the crowd appeared fairly evenly split on the stadium issue.

GOVERNOR SUGGESTS VIKINGS WAIT ANOTHER YEAR; NFL THREATENS SALE
April 19, 2012
Copyright 2012 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - As Gov. Mark Dayton and legislative leaders tried to hand each other responsibility for the fate of the Vikings stadium bill the day after a major defeat in a House committee, Dayton raised the possibility that a new football stadium might have to wait till next year.

To which a team official responded: “There is no next year," the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported.

The following day, the NFL weighed in with Eric Grubman, vice president of business operations for the NFL, telling the Star Tribune the team was “getting ripe" for a sale.

“There are plenty of willing buyers. I think the Wilfs do not want to sell the franchise, but I think there is a point where they probably would be open-minded," he added. “I would not be surprised if [Goodell] tells the governor, if he asks, what other cities are interested."

Grubman said Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney II, chairman of the NFL stadium committee, plans to be part of a planned conversation with Dayton, a step that Grubman said was a “pretty serious" sign that other team owners are concerned about the Vikings situation. The conversation is to include NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

"This is getting ripe," Grubman said. "You have a very dejected ownership. They've run out of options. They feel like they've done everything they've been asked to do, and they can't get a vote."

Lester Bagley, Vikings vice president of public affairs and stadium development noted, "No action this year is a decision."

The Pioneer Press said Bagley struck the same slightly aggressive tone after the House Government Operations and Elections committee rejected the bill for a $975 million stadium on a 9-6 vote. He told reporters "it's a mistake" to assume the team will continue operating under the status quo.

Bagley said there is support this year to get the bill done and it needs to get to the floor for a vote in both chambers.

"Legislators are afraid of voting on this issue," Bagley said.

Dayton said he still has hopes for this session, but if a bill doesn't pass, he'll ask the Vikings to give the state one more year to work it out.

"We've got to get a stadium next year or the Vikings will leave," Dayton said. "I mean, it's just as clear as that. We can't have it both ways. We can't not do a new stadium and have the Vikings remain here for very long."

The governor made the comments after meeting in his office for almost an hour with Republican leaders about their tax proposal.

Julie Rosen, sponsor of the stadium bill in the Senate, said the plan still has life. The bill got a hearing but no vote last month in the Local Government and Elections committee, and backers have been trying to get another hearing since.

"I think people are trying to find out what's the next move, and to me it's obvious: You still continue to work on getting it out of Local Gov, and keep plugging away. This place works fairly amazing. We can still resurrect something," Rosen said.

"I think the conversations are going on with the governor right now, and I think a lot of decisions going forward will be based off these conversations with the governor."

It goes to show the issue would have been better dealt with in a special session in the fall, as he had proposed, Dayton said.

Dealing with a controversial issue at the end of session, "you get just this kind of behavior, everybody angling for their own self-interest and trading this vote off for that vote...it gets to be a huge jumble and very hard to get resolved."

But he said he's confident it will get done in 2013 if not this year, "and it will probably be a better bill, and maybe a better location and better result." If Minneapolis doesn't want it, "then someone else, Arden Hills or some other site in Minnesota."

The bill backed a stadium for the Vikings at the Metrodome site. The team would chip in $427 million, likely relying on an NFL loan as well as the proceeds from selling naming rights to the stadium. Minneapolis would add in $150 million by redirecting taxes that otherwise would go toward its convention hall. And the state's contribution would be $398 million, coming from new electronic pulltab games.

The team hoped to finalize a deal this year so construction could begin and the team could move in to a 65,000-seat stadium by the 2016 season.

MINNEAPOLIS COUNCIL SUPPORTS STADIUM PLAN IN TEST VOTE
April 26, 2012
Copyright 2012 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - Mayor R.T. Rybak delivered seven ‘yes' votes for his Vikings stadium plan from the Minneapolis City Council in a test vote that followed two hours of public testimony.

But in what the Star Tribune said was "a potential stumbling block for a new Minnesota Vikings stadium," the chair of the Senate Taxes Committee has asked that the panel review the project.

That was further complicated by Senate Finance Committee vote to authorize racinos as a way to fund the stadium.

The Star Tribune said the racino addition approved by the Senate Finance Committee was another indicator that many legislators remain doubtful that the state's $398 million share of the $1 billion stadium can be funded solely by electronic bingo and pulltabs in bars and restaurants.

The racino plan, to authorize slot machines at the state's horse racing tracks, could disappear quickly when the stadium plan goes before the Senate Taxes Committee, but its emergence left stadium backers concerned.

Sen. Julianne Ortman, the chair of the tax committee, said the plan for the $1 billion project "contains provisions that require the consideration of the Senate Tax[es] Committee." She asked that the panel debate the Vikings stadium plan following its finance committee hearing.

The newspaper said the public subsidy package for the stadium has been rolling towards approval this week at the state Capitol, but the Senate Taxes Committee - containing several high-profile stadium opponents - could give the project its toughest political test.

Back in Minneapolis, the council vote reaffirms to lawmakers at the State Capitol that Minneapolis has enough support to pass the final legislation.

Rybak has proposed using existing sales taxes – a citywide sales tax, downtown liquor and restaurant taxes and a hotel tax – to pay for the city's share at the Metrodome site.

The city has pledged $150 million for construction and $189 million for operations. But at a public hearing, the city's chief finance officer said the city's contribution would actually amount to $675 million when accounting for interest payments.

"I think that's the first time publicly that dollar figure has ever been released," said Council Member Gary Schiff, an opponent of the mayor's plan.

Opponents frequently criticized the lack of a citywide vote on the plan, which they said clashes with a Minneapolis charter provision requiring a referendum when the city spends more than $10 million on a stadium. The mayor and the city attorney say that referendum isn't legally triggered.

Some versions of the state legislation nullify that portion of the charter. On a 7-6 split vote, the Council rejected a proposal that would oppose such nullifications. Council President Barb Johnson, a supporter of the stadium plan, said the charter nullification was necessary to allow for Target Center upgrades.

NO STADIUM BILL FOR VIKINGS, BUT LEGISLATURE CARRIES ON
May 1, 2012
Copyright 2012 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - As the Minnesota legislature's self-imposed deadline for adjournment expired, there was no action on funding for a new Vikings stadium as legislators wrangled with tax break and bonding issues.

Under the state constitution, the Legislature could stick around until May 21. House Speaker Kurt Zellers told the St. Paul Pioneer Press he thinks the session may go one or two more days, but he added, "I think I'm going to quit guessing on days."

Republicans said providing job-creating tax relief to businesses is more important that meeting an arbitrary deadline.

Gov. Mark Dayton met behind closed doors with Zellers, Senate Republican Majority Leader David Senjem, Senate DFL Minority Leader Tom Bakk and House DFL Minority Leader Paul Thissen. Afterward, he said they talked briefly about the stadium and a bonding bill to fund state construction projects, but they focused most of their attention on a tax bill. The stadium bill is said to be third in priority.

While they have "significant differences" on tax policies, he said they agreed to try to negotiate a compromise.

The Republican leaders said cutting taxes is their top priority, and they hinted they wouldn't pass the stadium bill that Dayton wants until they get a tax bill.

"We're growing concerned that they're going to run out of time to get a stadium bill negotiated that works for all parties," said Lester Bagley, Vikings vice president for public affairs and stadium development.

"The problem is it not only has to go to a vote, it has to go to negotiation to put a package together that works," Bagley told the newspaper.

The stadium bill - which provides public funding for a $975 million stadium in downtown Minneapolis - is significantly different in the House and Senate. A conference committee would be needed to resolve the differences assuming it passes on the floor in both chambers.

Because it involves raising revenue, under the state constitution the stadium bill has to originate in the House and be sent to the Senate.

It's been ready for House floor action for about a week, but it has not been put up for a vote. On another front, the legislature forged an agreement between Canterbury Park horsemen and Indian gambling interests for a rare agreement that would allow an increase in Canterbury's poker and blackjack business and pave the way for racetrack simulcasting and off-track betting at Indian casinos, the Star Tribune reported.

"It's somewhat akin to bringing the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings together to do something positive," Rep. Joe Atkins, said as the House passed the agreement and sent it to Gov. Mark Dayton. Canterbury and the tribes have long fought over the idea of allowing slot machines at racetracks. That plan, called a racino, would put the tracks in direct competition with tribal casinos.

This year, horse industry officials searched for another way to help the racing industry by increasing revenue for its purses. Several weeks of discussions among the principals resulted in an amendment to a minor bill that rapidly hit the Senate floor late Saturday and the House floor on Monday, without any of the normal committee hearings or oversight.

By some estimates, the new revenue could increase purses at Canterbury as much as 40 percent, said Ron Rosenbaum, who represented Canterbury in the drive for a racino.

VIKINGS' STADIUM DEAL GOES TO THE WIRE - AGAIN
May 10, 2012
Copyright 2012 MediaVentures

Minneapolis, Minn. - The Minnesota Vikings have agreed to add $50 million to the team's share of a nearly $1 billion stadium. The concession was enough to win a final House vote on funding. A positive Senate vote is expected today (Thursday).

The concession came after significantly different versions of a bill to fund a new stadium passed the Minnesota Senate and House, sending the issue to conference committee, the Star Tribune reported.

Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley said after the original Senate vote that the team remains committed to paying $427 million toward a roofed stadium at the Metrodome site. He had said that spending $532 million, as the House wanted, was unworkable and did not publicly warm to the Senate's call for $452 million from the team. Under the final bill passed by the House, the team agreed to a total of $477 million.

The plan created by the House-Senate conference committee would impose a series of so-called blink-on taxes should revenues from electronic bingo and pull tabs fall short of covering the state share of the stadium bill. But the report generally maintained that electronic bingo and pull tabs - despite doubts from many legislators - would generate enough stadium money.

The backup revenue sources include a 10 percent admissions tax on stadium luxury seats and a sports-themed lottery game predicted to produce at least $2.1 million per year.

The House-Senate compromise would also restore exclusive, five-year rights for the Vikings to obtain a professional soccer franchise that would play at the new roofed stadium in downtown Minneapolis.

The conference committee report generally left intact Minneapolis' $150 million stadium construction contribution and the complicated financing surrounding it.

Addressing another topic that stadium opponents said could ultimately increase taxpayer costs, the House-Senate recommended that the publicly owned stadium be operated in a "first-class manner" that would be "consistent with other comparable" National Football League stadiums.

Rep. Joe Hoppe, a member of the House-Senate conference committee, said "there are a lot of moving parts to it (the stadium deal)."

One of those parts is the option of having a retractable roof, included in the new agreement for a stadium.

"It's going to be difficult with a $975 million budget", Bagley said after the House-Senate agreement on the project was released. "It's still an option ... That's to be determined," he added.

Rep. Morrie Lanning, author of the House bill, said the Vikings might push for a retractable roof because of the soccer franchise.

Minnesota Vikings

Metropolitan
Stadium

Metropolitan Stadium

1961-1981
Hubert H. Humphrey
Metrodome

Hubert H. Humphrey
Metrodome

1982-Present
New
Stadium

New Stadium

Future


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