Stadium Task Force finalizes proposal

Maggie Hessel-Mial

Twins, Gophers and Vikings fans alike are one step closer to new stadiums after members of the Minnesota Stadium Task Force agreed on the terms of their recommendation for the state Legislature.

After deliberating for hours, task force members – gubernatorial appointees and state legislators – voted 16-1 to pass the suggestions for two stadium proposals, including where to find funding.

As the plan reads, the University’s football team would share a stadium with the Vikings, and the Twins would be given a new baseball facility.

“I agree with the general direction of the task force,” said Sen. Steve Kelley, DFL-Hopkins. “I agree the Legislature ought to think about what the state can do to assist in financing these stadiums.”

The task force recommended funding each of the stadiums through additional sales taxes on beverages and food sold within the stadiums, team memorabilia sales and ticket sales. An added tax on rental cars and income taxes from players are also options.

Armed with picket signs reading “Housing and Education; Not Stadiums,” and “Schools First, Housing Now,” approximately 20 members of Progressive Minnesota – an independent, volunteer based political organization – protested outside the meeting.

“It’s an issue that (legislators) are spending time to finance a stadium instead of spending time to finance housing,” said Dan McGrath, director of Progressive Minnesota.

Not all task force members were happy with the results of the meeting.

Rep. Liz Holberg, R-Lakeville, was the lone vote against the proposal drawn up by the task force to aid legislators in evaluating stadium funding bills.

“I’m concerned we can’t afford the two stadiums,” Holberg said. “Everyone wants the two stadiums, but until we know where the money will come from, it’s not fiscally responsible to go ahead with them.”

In a session burdened by a nearly $2 billion deficit, some residents are undecided on the stadium issue.

“The majority of taxpayers feel as well that they don’t want the teams to leave,” Holberg said. “But they don’t want to raise tax money to pay for it.”

Kelley, along with other task force members, said the intangible benefits of having the Twins stay in Minnesota are enough to encourage building a new stadium.

“There’s no good time to build a stadium, even in a budget surplus,” Kelley said.

He said that while important issues, such as affordable housing, are still a priority, the threat of contraction of the Twins has sped up the stadium concept.

“We would lose if the Twins leave. This is our last chance to act,” Kelley said. “It’s now or never.”

 

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