The Minnesota Senate and House both passed state financing for a new Vikings stadium and, while the Vikings, Gov. Mark Dayton and bill sponsors all celebrated the passage of the bill earlier this month, there is one remaining piece of the puzzle before the stadium will become a reality. The Minneapolis City Council will have to approve its $150 million piece of the financing puzzle on Friday after a committee makes its recommendation on the vote Thursday.
The impending action is sure to heat up the debates this week, but the two most outspoken on Minneapolis' role, council president Barb Johnson, a supporter, and council member Gary Schiff, an opponent, already stated their position last week on Minnesota Public Radio. They continue to disagree on most aspects.
In April, the council took a vote to support the proposed stadium bill, 7-6. After the legislature passed it, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said the version of the bill that passed was even better for Minneapolis than the one the council approved of the previous month.
"I don't see people wavering. I really don't," Johnson told MPR.
While Schiff didn't disagree, he wasn't wavering from his stand against the bill.
"That's unfortunate because there's still much time before the final vote, and if people are listening to their constituents, all the polls show overwhelmingly 70 percent of Minneapolis residents oppose public financing of sports facilities," Schiff said in response to Johnson's confidence.
While the Minneapolis mayor, Minnesota governor and Vikings brass all seem confident it will pass, Schiff is right. There was and is still time for council members to change their votes and those who followed the bill through all of its fits and starts over the last two months will remember that it was nearly pronounced dead when it failed to garner committee support in the legislature only a couple weeks before the bill was passed on the floors of both the House and Senate.
An even more dramatic turnaround in votes occurred when an amendment seeking to change the funding source of the state's portion initially passed. It would have dramatically altered the Vikings' support, putting the onus on stadium- and team-related taxes on merchandise to cover the state's portion of the funding. But, in a matter of minutes, a revote was taken and the amendment failed, causing Sen. Dave Thompson (R-Lakeville) to reference a Warren Zevon song, "Lawyers, Guns and Money," in accusing outside forces of changing votes inside the Senate chambers.
By all indications, the Vikings will have their way. The Minneapolis City Council is expected to approve its portion of the Vikings stadium bill, mainly because it affords the city money to work on the Target Center.
Schiff and Johnson couldn't agree on much. Johnson argued that taxes in downtown Minneapolis won't increase because taxes to support the convention center will merely shift over to stadium dollars down the road, saying those public buildings are vital to attract people and businesses downtown. Schiff argued that those taxes hurt downtown businesses and said more than $15 million in property taxes will be coming off the tax rolls because of a shift in the land being used for the new Vikings stadium.
"The deal has just gotten worse since the initial deal was first rolled out, particularly for city taxpayers. More property has been taken off the tax rolls than was originally identified, and that totals half a million dollars a year of property taxes that's going to become tax-exempt," Schiff said.
"And over the 30-year lifetime of the deal, that's $15 million that won't go to schools, to the city, to the county and to the parks. And that was one of the things that was negotiated during the Senate and the House deliberations."
Rybak and Johnson see the final stadium bill as being better for Minneapolis. Schiff sees it as being worse.
The mayor and council president may be right that supportive votes aren't wavering, but with two weeks between the passage from the legislature and the vote from the Minneapolis City Council, nothing is certain yet.
The new Collective Bargaining Agreement has made it much easier for teams and agents to agree on the parameters of a contract since the final numbers are fixed by the CBA. The number of picks already signed is quite a contrast to the numbers from previous years provided by NFL spokesman Greg Aiello. Through all of May 2010, only 13 picks had signed. In 2009, it was just 11 and 2008 it was only seven. At this rate, it wouldn't be a surprise to see every pick signed before the end of the month.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.