St Paul Mayor Chris Coleman Offers Vikings Stadium Solution.
After standing on the sidelines for weeks as the search for a new Minnesota Vikings stadium progressed, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman rolled out an ambitious plan Wednesday that could also be described as a long shot.
The plan would affect the NFL’s Vikings, the NBA’s Timberwolves, the NHL’s Wild, the WNBA’s Lynx and even the minor-league baseball St. Paul Saints – just about everyone but the Twins – as well as the city’s parks and libraries.
But the most important entities involved – Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, the Vikings and Timberwolves – shot the idea down.
Coleman’s plan, anchored by a statewide 2-cents-per-drink liquor tax, would:
- Build the Vikings a stadium in Minneapolis. (The Vikings don’t like that.)
- Move the Timberwolves and Lynx to St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center from Minneapolis’ Target Center. (The Timberwolves and Lynx – who have the same owners – and Rybak don’t like that.)
- Leave the Target Center essentially empty to be left as a “redevelopment opportunity” while retiring its debt, thus taking it off Minneapolis property tax rolls. (Rybak doesn’t like that, either.)
- Invest $75 million in Xcel Center so it could accommodate the Wild and the Timberwolves, including a $35 million hockey practice facility, a resurrection of a dead hockey-facility plan known as “The Pond.” (The Wild like that.)
- Build a $47 million Saints stadium in Lowertown, using $27 million in public money. (The Saints could not be reached for comment,
but they do want a new stadium there.)
- Forgive state loans on Xcel Energy Center, also a long-sought plan by the city that has never succeeded. (Coleman likes that.)
- Funnel $3 million a year into St. Paul parks and libraries. (Coleman likes that, too.)
- Contribute $5 million annually to an amateur sports fund.
Additional sources of funding would include an additional 0.25 percent St. Paul sales tax and an extension of Minneapolis’ downtown sales taxes to the rest of the city.
A rendering of a proposed St. Paul Saints stadium to be located in Lowertown.
other words, Coleman tries to kill a flock of birds with one stone.
His announcement came weeks after he said he would withhold judgment until he learned more details of the plan Ramsey County and the Vikings have to build a $1.1 billion stadium project in Arden Hills. Because that plan relies, in part, on a 0.5 percent countywide sales tax that would draw much of its money from St. Paul residents and transactions, he said he needed to see direct benefit for the Capital City.
He didn’t. “It has more direct benefit to Blaine than St. Paul,” he said Wednesday.
But while Coleman attempted to shoot holes in the Arden Hills plan as it’s currently understood, he insisted he was not opposed to the site, only to the sales tax portion of the financing mechanism.
“I didn’t want to just say no,” he said. “I wanted to say I oppose this or I oppose that, but I wanted to be creative. I know the Vikings are an important asset to the state of Minnesota, but that’s one of the critical pieces: They’re an asset to the state of Minnesota, not just to Arden Hills, not just to Ramsey County.”
Technically, Coleman’s plan is site-neutral; the $550 million that would be financed from the statewide alcohol tax could pay for the taxpayer portion of a stadium in either Minneapolis or Arden Hills.
To a select audience at least, Coleman succeeded. He won the support of Ramsey County Commissioner Victoria Reinhardt, who opposes the sales tax associated with the Arden Hills plan, and St. Paul City Council members, many of whom oppose the Arden Hills plan as well.
“St. Paul gets a lot out of the deal,” council President Kathy Lantry said. “I like the fact that he’s thinking about it in a much more global fashion. It solves a lot of issues for us. It gets us financing for the Saints stadium, it gets the Xcel Center paid off.”
Coleman’s plan is likely to be greeted warmly by at least a few Ramsey County Democratic lawmakers who are opposed to the Arden Hills plan but recently said they liked the idea of a drink tax.
But outstate legislators would likely look askance at levying a tax on all their constituents for a pro sports stadium. A framework proposal introduced by Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, and Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, spells out a series of specialized sales taxes, including a sports memorabilia tax and a tax on satellite TV, that would finance the state’s share of a Vikings stadium, which Rosen, Lanning and Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton have said cannot exceed $300 million.
The Arden Hills proposal never made it to the Republican-controlled Legislature, which adjourned Monday without a budget acceptable to Dayton. The Vikings and other supporters say they believe it can succeed in a special session, which Dayton will be forced to convene sooner or later, since the state’s finances run out June 30.
The team, lawmakers and Ramsey County officials are negotiating changes to the county-team plan in hopes of making it more palatable for Dayton and other lawmakers.
Neither Rosen nor Lanning could be reached for comment on Coleman’s plan.
Dayton had no comment.
Ramsey County Commissioner Tony Bennett, a key figure in the Vikings-Ramsey County deal, criticized Coleman as being focused only on St. Paul, calling it “not a regional way of thinking.”
As for the countywide sales tax, Bennett said he understood Coleman’s concerns.
“I’d love to put a liquor tax on there, but I don’t think the Legislature would go for it,” he said.
And with the exception of the Wild, whose owner praised Coleman’s plan, no other affected sports team had good things to say about it.
Lester Bagley, Vikings vice president of public relations and stadium affairs, said: “We have great respect for Mayor Coleman, and we appreciate his view on the stadium solution, but we’re going to Arden Hills.”
Timberwolves and Lynx spokesman Ted Johnson said in a statement: “While we appreciate Mayor Coleman’s efforts to advance the stadium conversation, we are very happy with our home in Minneapolis. We continue to believe that the best path forward is the sensible solution of renovating Target Center, which has been such a tremendous economic engine for this region for the past 20 years.”
Rybak, who backs a proposal to build a Vikings stadium on the site of the Metrodome in Minneapolis and inject $100 million into the Target Center to renovate it, also didn’t welcome his counterpart’s proposal.
“I met with Mayor Coleman to hear his plan and will consider all ideas to keep the Vikings in Minnesota,” Rybak said. “However, after a decade of investing tax dollars in a civic building and important economic engine, it would be a mistake to close the Target Center and move the Timberwolves. The sensible solution is to renovate the Target Center.”
St. Paul City Council member Dan Bostrom said he liked the plan, but he wanted to add “just one more thing.”
“I’d get the funding for my performing arts center at Payne-Maryland,” said Bostrom, referring to a plan for a regional rec center in the city’s Payne-Phalen neighborhood. “Why not?…I call it the Herb Brooks Miracle Center. It kind of ties in with all this sports stuff, doesn’t it?”
The Vikings need a new home and they have made it pretty clear that at this time they are only interested in the Arden Hills location. In fact, they have already responded to this suggestion with the following response (source:vikings.com)
“We appreciate Mayor Coleman’s thoughts regarding a stadium solution, but we are entirely focused on our partnership with Ramsey County,” said Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley. “The Arden Hills plan offers the best site for the State, the team and our fans. We have done what State leaders asked us to do by bringing forward an ideal site, a workable finance plan and significant team and local contributions. Our work with State leaders on stadium legislation is on-going as part of the Special Session discussions.”