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Thursday, May 12, 2011
Vikings' share includes NFL, PSL money

By Kevin Seifert

My advice if you're ever having trouble sleeping: Pick up a copy of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) -- any will do -- and start reading. If you make it past the second page, you need to see a sleep therapist.

While heading out East Thursday, I plowed through the recently-released MOU of the Minnesota Vikings' stadium site agreement with Ramsey County. It took a few tries, but I made it to the end and picked out a few interesting tidbits worth mentioning here.

Most important, either side can opt out of the agreement if the state legislature hasn't passed the corresponding bill by July 1, or if Gov. Mark Dayton vetoes it. That caveat essentially confirms what we discussed Tuesday: All bets are off if the legislature adjourns without taking action May 23. Unless Dayton calls a special session to address it before July 1, the Vikings could re-open the bidding to a number of Minneapolis sites in the fall or winter.

There is no indication the Vikings are wavering in any way, and owner Zygi Wilf has consistently professed a vision -- complete with tailgating and a shopping district -- that can't be achieved in any of the urban Minneapolis sites. But if the Vikings were completely and totally committed to the Ramsey County site, there wouldn't be the need for an opt-out clause so soon in the process.

Answering a question we asked Tuesday, the Vikings' $407 million share does in fact presume an NFL contribution. The precise amount isn't detailed, but as you know, the NFL's mechanism for funding stadiums has been tapped and is subject to negotiation in the next collective bargaining agreement.

I reached out to league spokesman Greg Aiello to find out if the Vikings have been assured some level of league involvement in this project. They have not. Here's what Aiello said: "The NFL clubs would address a request from the Vikings for league financial support at the appropriate time." Aiello added that any league support would come in the form of a club seat waiver, where visiting teams forfeit their share of club seat premiums to contribute to the stadium fun. That perk requires approval from three-fourths of NFL owners.

The Vikings' contribution also includes revenue generated by selling personal seat licenses (PSLs), up to $125 million. If you consider a PSL a user fee, you can argue that the public will provide part of the Vikings' private contribution -- in addition to all of the county's $350 million share and the state's $300 million portion. If PSLs generate more than $125 million, the money will be diverted to cover the Vikings' portions of construction cost overruns.

The inclusion of a retractable roof in the original announcement was a surprise, and the MOU portrays its final inclusion as something less than a certainty. It will be installed "cost permitting." The roof represents $206 million of the project's total cost, and annual maintenance is estimated at up to $6 million.

The MOU gives the Vikings the discretion to scrap the retractable roof plans and install a fixed roof if it's "not economically or otherwise feasible." That sounds to me as if it is up to negotiation.