Vikings stadium at the center of campus debate

The event was held on the West Bank by the University’s debate team.

Michael Zittlow

Football fans, a state senator and a University of Minnesota fellow squared off Wednesday night over the expected proposal to use public money for a Vikings stadium.
The event, held on the West Bank by the UniversityâÄôs debate team, pitted purple pride against opponents of big business handouts.
Supporters of public funding said Minnesota is in danger of losing the Vikings âÄî a team that provides the state with jobs, taxes and cultural pride.
âÄúHereâÄôs what it comes down to: Do you want the Vikings or not?âÄù said Cory Merrifield, founder of savethevikes.org, a nonprofit dedicated to getting the team a new stadium.
Jeff Anderson, assistant director of public affairs for the Vikings, advocated for a $920 million stadium funded by taxpayers, corporate partners and the team itself. The Metrodome, VikingsâÄô current home and the second-oldest stadium in the NFL, is inadequate, Anderson said.
âÄúI donâÄôt think anyone will disagree that it doesnâÄôt work as a facility,âÄù Anderson said, pointing to the Metrodome roof collapse this winter.
The Vikings should get a new stadium without taxpayersâÄô money, said Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville.
âÄúIt should be done,âÄù Marty said. âÄúIt should be done with private financing.âÄù
Marty said the threat of losing the Vikings was empty. Vikings owner Zygi Wilf testified before the tax committee three years ago, saying he would not move the team outside of the state, Marty said.
But Merrifield countered that Wilf could be forced to sell the team as revenues decrease, in part because of the VikingsâÄô crumbling current stadium.
A bill proposing a new stadium has been expected at the state Capitol for the last few weeks.
However, the Republican majorityâÄôs push to get its budget through the Senate and House has overshadowed any new business.
Lawmakers have exhaustively debated the proposed budget, which cuts funding to areas like higher education, health care and public employees to close the stateâÄôs $5 billion deficit, leading some to voice concern over a spending bill for a professional sports team at a time of economic crisis.
Sen. Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis, said it would be difficult for a legislator to convince colleagues to support a bill that would provide public funds for a new stadium.
Gov. Mark Dayton has repeatedly voiced his support for the Vikings and their hopes for a new stadium, including using public money to partially fund construction.
âÄúWe need a peopleâÄôs stadium,âÄù Dayton told a group of construction workers visiting the Capitol on Tuesday.
Dayton said new construction projects like building a stadium will help revitalize the stateâÄôs dipping economy by creating jobs.
Art Rolnick, a senior fellow at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, said it is not the role of government to subsidize private businesses like professional sports teams. He labeled the Vikings lobbying for a new stadium at the Capitol âÄúeconomic blackmail.âÄù
Rolnick said the Vikings, while cushioning the economy with jobs and charitable donations, provide relatively little state revenue and community outreach compared to other private businesses in the state.
While the state is in danger of losing ground on areas like education, he said, tax revenue should not be used to help private businesses.
Still, Rolnick and Anderson agree: The Vikings will likely be getting a new Minnesota home soon.