Get the shovels ready.
The city of Minneapolis gave final approval Friday to build a Minnesota Vikings stadium on the grounds of the current Metrodome.
Two weeks after the state legislature approved a bill calling for a $975 million stadium and Gov. Mark Dayton signed that bill into law, the Minneapolis City Council ratified its Thursday vote to approve its $150 million share of the up-front costs and $159 million in operating costs over the next 30 years.
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak was a proponent of the latest stadium efforts and pushed for certain provisions to aid the city. In the end, with improvements and debt reduction slated for the Target Center and paying off the convention center, the council's split decision ended in favor of the new stadium by a 7-6 vote. The primary funding mechanism, approved a day earlier by a similar vote, extends an existing hospitality tax to pay for the Minneapolis portion.
"It was one of those situations where we were in a very tough spot," Rybak said. "Through a lot of work and a lot of support from a lot of places, we were able to move from a very tough spot into a spot that I think ended up being a very good deal for the city. We were on the brink of having our sales taxes used to build a stadium to take one of our businesses away from this community, and we came back from that to be able to build a new home for the Vikes and fix Target Center and clean up our finances.
"I hope people will recognize what this is about. It's one of those tough decisions that you need every generation or so to keep a city moving forward, but it's also based on what's been something I've had to deal with from the start, which is to clean up the city's finances. And I think we did that."
Groundbreaking is expected in 2013 with the hope the Vikings will begin play in their new stadium in 2016. Construction will begin while the team plays in the Metrodome with the Vikings expected to be displaced for just one season. The team agreed to a plan with the University of Minnesota to play one season at TCF Bank Stadium
The Vikings' lease at the Metrodome, the team's home since 1982, expired after the 2011 season, and agreements have already been made to play this season in the outdated stadium. The plan ends a decade-long battle to secure a new stadium and keep the team in Minnesota for the long term.
"We've been anxiously awaiting this vote for the last couple weeks but really, this moment, for a long time, for several years," Vikings spokesperson Jeff Anderson said. "It's an exciting day for the state of Minnesota, city of Minneapolis, Vikings and our fans; a lot of hard work by a lot of people. Certainly we appreciate mayor Rybak, council president Johnson, not only for working on the legislation but getting seven supportive votes. It's an exciting day. Now we get to look forward to building this project."
Council members opposed to the plan acknowledged the long-expected outcome but made a final pitch to explain why the plan doesn't work for the city. The council's approval was considered a formality for weeks after Rybak had gained the necessary votes once council member Sandy Colvin Roy changed her vote in favor of the plan.
The biggest argument from the council was bypassing an existing charter that said the plan should have gone to a city referendum with the public voting for final approval. The charter, which was approved in 1997, requires voter approval for public funding of more than $10 million. But the legislation allowed the charter to be bypassed, much to the dismay of the council minority.
"What's important is there can be no doubt that the citizens of Minneapolis clearly intended this level of subsidy to be put to a vote," council member Gary Schiff said. "The outcome today is clear based on yesterday's vote. The biggest act of corporate welfare in the history of the state of Minnesota will be decided by this body on a one-vote margin, aided by careful legislating and lawyering around the Minneapolis charter."
In the $975 million plan, the Vikings will contribute $477 million in construction costs as well as $13 million annually for operations. The team will try to secure a loan from the NFL and also sell stadium naming rights. The state's portion of $348 million is projected to come from expanded gambling initiatives, including the sales of electronic pull-tabs.
Minneapolis' share will be collected from an existing sales tax, which includes a citywide general sales tax, as well as a hospitality tax on hotel, restaurant and liquor. That tax is currently diverted to pay the debt on the city's convention center. When the convention center is paid off in 2020, the tax will be used to pay down the Vikings stadium debt.
The city will also have $150 million from those sales taxes to upgrade the Target Center, home of the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves.
"The reason that we are able to fund an investment in the Target Center and a Vikings stadium is because the bonds will be paid off," council president Barb Johnson said. "If we don't spend $23 million, I think it is, for debt service; that frees up money. That is the plan. The plan is that the state will front end those dollars because the bonds aren't paid off until 2020. I guess if people have missed that through the whole discussion then we've done a really bad job of explaining the package."
The project is estimated to add about 7,500 construction jobs. The next step will be for Dayton and Rybak to appoint a five-member committee to the "stadium authority," which will oversee the operation of the stadium. Rybak will appoint two members to the committee.
And now the Vikings, who will sign a 30-year lease, will be in Minnesota for at least another generation.
"It's just an absolute moment of relief," Anderson said. "This is a big moment, an exciting moment, but now we turn our attention to building it. We've got four years. We want this thing to open on time in 2016. The hard work just starts now."
Brian Hall writes about the Vikings for Fox Sports North.
Vikings stadium: ‘Absolute moment of relief'
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