Lawmakers propose Vikings stadium funding bill

The two options outlined would require funds from the Vikings.

James Nord

Lawmakers urged support for a bill unveiled Monday to build a new $791 million closed-roof stadium for the Minnesota Vikings. They hope to pass the measure before the legislative session ends in two weeks. The bipartisan group of legislators outlined two proposals to fund the stadium, both of which would require money from the Vikings, but appeared to favor a measure that would employ new taxes and lottery sales as part of the financing. Under the plan, the Vikings would provide $264 million for construction up front and would be locked into a 40-year lease. The bipartisan group of legislators who introduced the bill, including Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, said they are concerned the Vikings could leave Minnesota if a new stadium isnâÄôt constructed by the time their Metrodome lease runs out after the 2011 season. âÄúImagine Minnesota without the Minnesota Vikings,âÄù Rosen said in a press conference Monday introducing the details of both plans. The lawmakers also highlighted the dent in economic activity the teamâÄôs departure could make âÄî about $20 million in tax revenue a year, said Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead. Rep. Loren Solberg, DFL-Grand Rapids, said a study commissioned to determine the economic impact of the Jan. 17 Vikings game against the Dallas Cowboys found it generated $5.8 million in economic activity directly and an additional $3.3 million indirectly. In addition to earnings from the team, building a new stadium could provide about $300 million in wages to construction workers, said Sen. Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook. He said current unemployment in the industry ranges from 30 to 50 percent based on trade. Members of the private sector, including a representative of the construction industry, also supported the bill. But it still faces a host of difficulties. Gov. Tim Pawlenty previously said he wouldnâÄôt support a funding mechanism that raises taxes, which is included in the primary option. âÄúThe state isnâÄôt going to be participating in raising taxes to fund a stadium,âÄù he said Friday, before he had seen the provisions. Dubbed âÄúthe purple plan,âÄù more than $30 million per year over 40 years would be collected in new taxes on hotels, rental cars and jersey purchases aimed at Vikings fans. Phil Krinkie, president of the Taxpayers League of Minnesota, said taxes on services and jerseys could be swallowed by more than just the intended recipients. âÄúSomeone who buys a Wild jersey now gets to pay for new infrastructure for the Vikings,âÄù Krinkie said. A missing link also exists in the lack of a local government partner. The legislators involved in the project represent out-state constituents. Although no site is specified under the main proposal, Brooklyn Park and Minneapolis have been considered, said Lester Bagley, Vikings vice president of public affairs and stadium development. âÄúMinnesota has a problem âĦ because weâÄôre going to lose one of our major assets in this state if we donâÄôt act, if we donâÄôt find a solution,âÄù Lanning said. âÄúLocal government officials have an opportunity to retain this asset. We hope that theyâÄôll step up.âÄù The Vikings also raised concerns. Bagley expressed apprehension over the costs the team is expected to cover. He said the National Football League standard âÄî open-air stadiums âÄî would only require a contribution of $210 million on the part of the Vikings. The bill was introduced with only two weeks left in the session, which Krinkie said doesnâÄôt leave enough time for it to go through. Both Bagley and the group of lawmakers disagreed. They said the reason for the delay is because fixing the stateâÄôs budget was their highest priority. Despite the delay, they stressed it is imperative to pass the legislation this session. It could cost an additional $50 million to wait until next session, Bakk said. On top of the cost, the incoming host of legislators and a fresh governor may not support the measure. The bill will be heard before a House committee Tuesday. Solberg said funding from a âÄúracinoâÄù is not under consideration to make the bill viable for the governorâÄôs signature. Otherwise, Pawlenty said he would consider creative ideas for funding. The other method presented by lawmakers was considerably more creative and longer term. From now until 2020, the Vikings would be required to pay a debt service of $420 million for the stadium. A new scratch-off lottery ticket would be used to pay for the roof. Over the next 30 years, the city of Minneapolis, where the stadium would be located under the plan, would repurpose an existing tax to cover the rest of the cost. âÄúThere are a lot of things to like in this bill, and there are things that are going to give people some heartburn,âÄù Bakk said.