Gov Dayton Questioning 131 Million Expense Towards New Stadium
Gov. Mark Dayton has put the owners of the Minnesota Vikings on alert that while he and key state lawmakers remain committed to keeping the football team in Minnesota, he can’t support a $1.1 billion stadium project in Arden Hills without knowing who will foot the bill for $131 million in unresolved road improvements.
In a letter to Vikings owners Zygi Wilf and Mark Wilf on Friday, Dayton joined stadium-bill authors in reiterating that the proposed $300 million state contribution is a hard upper limit.
“As soon as possible, we need to receive a transportation financing plan that does not increase the state’s $300 million investment and is deemed workable by the state’s transportation leaders,” the governor and lawmakers wrote.
Dayton also asked to see a stadium partnership agreement spelled out: “We have yet to see a plan that would result in a proper partnership with the state in the construction, ownership and operation of the stadium.”
The letter was co-signed by the two stadium-bill authors, state Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, and state Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead.
Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley said the team met Tuesday with the governor’s office and Wednesday with the bill’s authors, and “the topics of conversation were those issues pointed out in the letter.”
“We forwarded (to the chairs of the House tax and transportation committees) what we believe to be a comprehensive transportation finance plan … and have gotten generally
positive feedback on the proposal,” Bagley said. “But we’re not there yet.”
As for stadium operations, Bagley said operational control, costs and revenue from events outside of football have all come up as red flags in discussions. He said revenue from outside events should offset nearly $20 million in annual operating costs, such as security.
“We’re open to another model,” Bagley said. “We’re willing to give the state the appropriate level of authority in terms of operations, ownership….We’re trying to address that issue.”
Ramsey County Commissioner Tony Bennett, one of the architects of the Arden Hills stadium proposal, said the Vikings have already pledged $407 million to the site.
“It looks like the governor and the authors are trying to get a settlement and get the Vikings to put in some more money,” Bennett said. “There are a couple of solutions we’re looking at. Maybe this will speed things up a little bit, maybe it will not.”
Bennett declined to offer further details. He and fellow Commissioner Rafael Ortega have proposed that the county contribute $350 million to the Arden Hills proposal, generated by a 0.5 percent countywide sales tax, which would be exempted from a state law requiring a public vote on local sales-tax increases.
Bennett questioned, however, whether the governor and lawmakers were playing fair by not offering more money for road and highway improvements many consider long overdue, regardless of whether a stadium is built.
Minnesota Transportation Commissioner Tom Sorel has estimated that $100 million in work would be necessary on county roads, such as County Road 96, with additional improvements required on Interstate 35W and its interchange with Interstate 694.
“Of the $131 million, some of this money is going to be used on public roads that should have been improved in 2005, 2006 or 2007, before (MnDOT) took it out of the 20-year (road improvement) plan,” Bennett said.
Proponents have pointed out that the earliest a stadium would open is 2015, and roadwork could occur in stages.
“We’ll continue on a plan to finance the $131 million,” Bennett said. “It shouldn’t be $131 million anyhow. It should be $110 million because of a lower contingency. There’s a little markup in there for inflation. Engineers like to make sure they have enough to work with.”
Bennett also challenged Ted Mondale, chair of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, to become more actively involved in discussions with the team and lawmakers about an Arden Hills operations agreement.
The stadium bill is on hold until the Legislature wraps up a budget, but it could come up in an expected special session.
The mayors of Minneapolis and St. Paul have drawn up rival stadium proposals that would keep the Vikings at a refurbished Metrodome in downtown Minneapolis.
The Arden Hills proposal envisions a retractable-roof stadium with 65,000 seats on land formerly occupied by the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant.
With the lockout still going strong the only real news we have to report is on the Vikings stadium. It’s no question that 1.1 billion dollars is a lot of money and especially hard to justify with the economy the way it is. However, the Vikings and the state of MN need to make something work because losing the team will do this state absolutely NO favors. Let’s just get this done!