New Vikings Stadium Financing At Stalemate
The Vikings, the state and Ramsey County are approaching “stalemate” status over how to pay for about $131 million in highway and road improvements over and above the $1.1 billion cost of building a stadium complex in Arden Hills, Gov. Mark Dayton’s point man on the issue said Tuesday.
“The state has been very clear: We’ll do $300 million,” said Ted Mondale, whom Dayton tapped to lead the issue. “It’s 300, 300, 300. Nothing more. The rest has got to come from Ramsey and the Wilfs,” he said, referring to team owners Zygi and Mark Wilf. “And if it doesn’t pencil out, I won’t advance a bill. There’s no other news. The rest is noise. We’ve been here for weeks now. So we’re kind of in a stalemate.”
Ramsey County Commissioner Tony Bennett said the county can’t commit any more than the $350 million it’s already offered from a 0.5 percent countywide sales tax.
“Ramsey’s at its peak,” said Bennett, who has spearheaded the county’s effort to bring the Vikings to an abandoned army ammunition plant near Interstate 35W and U.S. 10. “We’ve offered to loan money on some of the roads, but we’re at the peak in terms of what (cash) we can offer.”
The Vikings also appear unwilling to offer up more than the $407 million they brought to the deal, but the team doesn’t see things as deadlocked.
In the past few days, the team has begun shopping around a plan that seeks to take revenue from the stadium – some of which might have ended up in the team’s coffers – and use it to
create a fourth pile of money, according to those involved.
“We have laid out a transportation finance plan to pay for the roads for the Arden Hills site,” said Lester Bagley, the team’s vice president of public relations and stadium development. “It’s a user-based finance proposal. The intent is to capture transportation revenues at the stadium or near the stadium.”
Bagley declined to go into details but said part of the plan would raise money from taxes or fees on spending around the stadium that wouldn’t have happened were it not for a stadium being there.
Mondale, who was shown the plan, said some revenue generators could include parking fees and extra money from events such as the Super Bowl, which Zygi Wilf has said he’s confident he can land if the 65,000-seat, retractable-roof stadium is built.
Bagley said the plan has been well received. “We’ve met with transportation committee chairs and other lawmakers, and what I heard was a willingness to consider it,” he said.
Several of those lawmakers couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday.
Mondale said he believes it’s premature to assume the plan can fill the $131 million hole where each of the three partners’ funding stream runs dry.
“I’ve seen a lot of their ideas,” Mondale said. “What we’re asking for is a final proposal to see if it’s a reliable source of revenue. Time’s running out here.”
The possible impasse over how to pay for the stadium is taking place as Dayton, a Democrat, and Republican majorities in the House and Senate remain fundamentally at loggerheads over how to balance the state’s budget. If an agreement is reached, Dayton likely will summon lawmakers back to the Capitol to pass a budget in what he would hope would be a brief special session.
Mondale said he’s concerned that the stadium plan, which would need approval by lawmakers and the governor, currently isn’t ready – but needs to be the moment a special session begins.
The role of Mondale himself isn’t exactly clear – although the former state senator disagrees with that assessment.
“I think it’s pretty clear,” he said Tuesday. “I report to the governor, and my job is to try to keep the Vikings in Minnesota.”
When Dayton selected Mondale in January, he gave him two roles to fill. Dayton appointed him chairman of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, and he announced that Mondale was his point man in the hunt for a stadium site and the search for a way to pay for it. Both Dayton and Mondale used the phrase “site-agnostic,” emphasizing they had no preference where a stadium might be built.
The sports facilities commission owns the Metrodome and, under the current proposal, would have no involvement in an Arden Hills stadium. In fact, the future of the Dome and the commission would be so uncertain without the Vikings that lawmakers have proposed creating a task force to figure out what to do with the Dome, which, under its current financing structure, would not be able to pay its operating costs without the NFL.
In announcing Mondale’s appointment, Dayton’s office described the commission thusly: “Its mission is to bring urban and suburban and statewide, business, labor and the general public together to find common ground and work on issues related to stadium infrastructure in Minnesota.”
That’s not inconsistent with the 1977 legislative charter that created the panel, but the suburban representation often has been questioned. Its six members are appointed by the Minneapolis City Council.
Mondale acknowledged that the commission as a whole isn’t site-agnostic. “Does the majority of the board that I work with like it in Minneapolis? Yeah,” he said. “But my job is to get a deal done anywhere, and I answer to the governor….Nobody from the commission is putting pressure on me to do anything.”
So it raised eyebrows when former state Sen. Duane Benson appeared instead of Mondale at a pair of recent negotiations involving the chief Republican co-sponsors of a new stadium and representatives of the county and Vikings. Benson, a former Republican minority leader, said he represented Tunheim Partners, a public relations firm representing the sports facilities commission.
“I’m actually not participating in these meetings,” Benson said Tuesday. “To the extent that I’m involved in those meetings, it’s strictly as a listener. Much like the church pageant, I’m the shepherd. I have no speaking parts. At the request of the chairman, Ted Mondale, I’m sitting in on those meetings just to monitor and listen.”
Thus, the sports facilities commission had a silent seat at the negotiating table over a stadium in Arden Hills, but Dayton had no representation.
Dayton spokeswoman Katharine Tinucci said Mondale has the governor’s confidence.
“Obviously, Ted Mondale can balance these two roles,” Tinucci said. “He brings a wealth of experience that makes him uniquely qualified to do so.”
Mondale said there should be no confusion, and brushed off criticism he’s received previously that he favors a Minneapolis site.
“My mission, Duane’s mission, the commission’s mission is to keep the Vikings in Minnesota,” he said. “What’s the alternative? Keep them in the Dome? We know that doesn’t work. The real story is we’ve got a $131 million gap.”
Not much to contribute here: Sounds like one of the biggest issues (as we covered earlier this week) is the 131 million dollar road construction cost. It sounds like it could be a stretch to get this bill passed this year. However, let’s all continue to be supportive and contact the powers to be!