Politicians introduce Vikings stadium bill

The Vikings got their new stadium bill introduced to the legislature on Monday morning with a press conference that provided details of some funding sources but leaves the team searching for a local government partner as well.

Several politicians from the state introduced a bill that would support some financing sources for a new Vikings stadium on Monday morning at the State Capitol.

The financing would include taxes on room rentals for hotels and car rentals within the stadium district, jerseys, and would introduce a lottery game that would be specific to supporting sports facilities.

Sen. Tom Bakk (DFL-Cook) said taxing sports memorabilia at the wholesale level is one way to assure that the taxes impact the users of the stadium and avoids putting the bill on the general population.

"It gives people all across the state the opportunity to participate in the financing of the stadium," Bakk said during the news conference.

The bill called for two proposals, one that is site-specific to the City of Minneapolis and one that is not, with the Vikings contributing $264 million of the $791 million cost.

Under the Minneapolis plan – being dubbed the White Plan – the city would have the option to use existing downtown entertainment taxes to pay for the stadium from 2021-2050 while the team's contribution would be used to pay for the stadium from 2011-2020. The city would own and operate the stadium and a "clawback" provision would require that if the Wilf family sells the team, the profits from the sale would pay the remaining debt on the stadium.

Under the Purple Plan, the Vikings would contribute $264 million up front for construction and the remaining $527 million would be financed from taxes on area hotels (1.5 percent surtax for $8 million annually), jersey purchases (6.875 percent for $16.9 million annually), sports-themed scratch-off ($5.5 million annually) and rental cars (2.5 percent surtax for $5.5 million annually). The $4 million annually that would be generated by these taxes would be escrowed to address future stadium issues.

The Purple Plan would establish a Minnesota Stadium Authority, ensure that the NFL commits to a Super Bowl being hosted at the new stadium, attracts an NCAA Final Four tournament and would have the facility available for high school tournaments. It would also include the "clawback" provision if the team was sold.

Both plans call for a 40-year lease.

"We're going to lose one of our major assets in the state if we don't act," said Rep. Morrie Lanning (R-Moorhead). "If the Vikings were to leave, Minnesota would lose a state asset and $20 million or more in tax revenue every year. That's money we use to fund our schools, nursing homes and public safety."

Rep. Loren Solberg (DFL-Grand Rapids) explained the need for a roof, which the Vikings have said they could do without.

"This is a facility that is used by more than just the Vikings," he said.

The timing of the bill is obviously a concern, given that there are only two weeks left in the 2010 session.

"The budget had to be done first, that was our No. 1 priority, and I think we're there." Soldberg said, adding that working with the federal government was difficult.

"We have enough time, and keep in mind that we've had lots of discussions on the funding source."

The racino option, which would place slot machines at the horse-racing tracks in the state, was a non-starter.

"We want this to be a bill that the governor will sign as well," Solberg said.

While there are no general fund monies being supplied to source the financing, some portions of the bill are expected to come under fire by stadium opponents.

"There are a lot of things to like in this proposal and there are some things that can cause people heartburn," Bakk said.

The bill received the support of local unions that represent Metrodome workers, saying that the workforce of those employees could be doubled with a stadium. The trades unions also support the construction of a new stadium, as it would create thousands of new jobs during the construction phase.

The politicians standing in support of the bill emphasized the need for a new stadium and acknowledged the possibility of losing the Vikings in Minnesota if nothing is done soon.

The Vikings will still need to find a local government partner, whether that's the City of Minneapolis, Hennepin County or another municipality, to complete the funding.

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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