Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Vikings stadium: Anyone got $350 million?
By Kevin Seifert
For weeks, we've been discussing what appeared to be the largest obstacle to the Minnesota Vikings' stadium plan: A state legislature that successfully eliminated all new taxes in its most recent budget negotiations. Would those same legislators reverse course and agree to a plan that called for raising the sales tax in Ramsey County?
Tuesday, we got our answer: No way.
Gov. Mark Dayton announced there is no legislative support for that funding mechanism, which would have raised $350 million for the project in suburban Arden Hills, without a county-wide referendum. That vote wouldn't take place until next year and, based on history, would almost certainly fail.
So if the Vikings want to move forward with their plan, they'll have to find another source for that money. In a news conference Tuesday, Vikings vice president Lester Bagley suggested electronic pull-tabs, a memorabilia tax and a lottery scratch-off game, among other possibilities.
There have been some strong reactions to this news. Some of you see Dayton's announcement as the effective end of the Ramsey County project. Others think it's the beginning of a site shift to Minneapolis. And all of you are wondering if it's possible to finalize a deal before the Feb. 1 expiration of the Vikings' lease at the Metrodome. After that point, they would be franchise free agents and officially in play for relocation to Los Angeles or elsewhere.
My take: Given the political situation in Minnesota, this development shouldn't be a surprise. Did we expect state legislators to raise taxes for a football stadium when they refused to do so for schools and health care?
Gone is the proposed funding for a third of the stadium's financing. But that doesn't mean state leaders have turned their back on the project entirely. More likely, the Vikings will have to team up with another special interest group, possibly the gambling lobby, to solve multiple issues in one move.
Can that happen before Feb. 1? We'll find out in a matter of weeks. Dayton has said he will endorse a site and funding mechanism by Monday, which would conceivably be followed by a pre-Thanksgiving special session of the legislature. Stay tuned.