Wednesday, Jan. 18, Governor Mark Dayton released the following analysis and conclusions on the Vikings stadium proposals:
Arden Hills/Ramsey County
It is easy to understand why the Vikings like the Arden Hills site. Ramsey County has made another excellent, detailed proposal. The Vikings are truly wanted there. It has the advantage that the property is available for the project to begin.
However, the Legislature’s unwillingness to permit Ramsey County Commissioners to increase either the general sales tax or the food and beverage tax without a voter referendum leaves the County with no apparent means to raise its local share. I have been told that neither the Senate nor the House majorities will change their opposition in the upcoming session.
That leaves the Vikings and the State of Minnesota as the project’s only two financiers. The estimated cost of a new stadium in Arden Hills is approximately $1.1 billion.
Even if the State increased its share from the previously stated $300 million to $400 million, the team’s share would have to be $700 million. If the Vikings so want to be in Arden Hills that they will increase their financial contribution to that amount, the project is potentially viable. If not, it is not.
The other missing component of Ramsey County’s proposal is the unwillingness of the Vikings owners to disclose their intentions with the property’s 170 acres, which will not be used for the stadium. If the Vikings truly want to be in Arden Hills, they have thus far missed their opportunity to inspire decision-makers and the public with their vision for the site’s entire development.
City of Minneapolis – Metrodome
Minneapolis’ proposal submitted last Thursday was meager. However, it did identify a local share of funding, which, if affirmed by the Mayor, the City Council, and the Legislature, could make a stadium project there financially viable.
The City’s stated position is that it prefers to build a new stadium at the site of the current Metrodome, because it is slightly cheaper than the alternatives. Amortized over the new stadium’s expected life, however, that difference is relatively inconsequential.
A first-rate stadium could unquestionably be built there, as it could almost anywhere for its expected cost. However, I personally believe the site lacks the potential for additional economic development and job creation, which the Arden Hills and Linden Avenue (Minneapolis) sites offer.
Key reasons for building a new stadium are the several thousand construction jobs it would provide for the next three years, and also the new commercial activity and permanent jobs it could generate once it is operational. The Metrodome has proven to be largely unsuccessful at stimulating new economic development nearby.
Additionally, while short-term considerations should not dictate the location of a stadium for the next thirty years, there would be serious problems with the Vikings playing their home games at the University of Minnesota’s TCF Stadium during the three years of new stadium construction. Traffic congestion and parking shortages nearby are among the numerous problems, which have yet to be resolved by the University and the Vikings.
City of Minneapolis – Linden Avenue
An alternative site in Minneapolis is being referred to as Linden Avenue. The City and the Vikings have said little publicly about their discussions regarding this possibility. This site offers significant advantages over the Metrodome, particularly its proximity to Target Center, Target Field, downtown hotels, restaurants, etc.
However, serious concerns have been raised by the Rector of St. Mary’s Basilica, which is adjacent to the Linden Avenue location. Those and other concerns would need to be resolved before that site is viable.
Clearly the necessary due diligence has not been completed by the proponents of the Linden Avenue location. Until those questions have been answered and it is better known what other unanswered questions remain, I could not recommend that site to either the Legislature or the people of Minnesota.
Furthermore, the Vikings’ unwillingness to state the total amount they are willing to contribute to either Minneapolis project makes it impossible to make a final assessment of them. Additionally, the Minneapolis City Council has yet to vote, or send definitive representation of the ability to deliver a positive vote, on whether they approve of the City’s proposed means of financing its local share at either site.
Shakopee, et al.
Of the additional submissions, only Shakopee’s merits serious consideration, although several others deserve credit for their imagination and creativity! Unfortunately, Shakopee’s proposal contains no local financial contribution to the project. Instead, it relies upon the expansion of gambling to one or two “Racinos,” one located nearby the proposed site, to finance the public share of the project.
Passage of Racino legislation to fund a new stadium is speculative. Even if it were to pass, several years of litigation in federal courts should be expected. Proceeds from Racinos could not provide the assured revenue stream to back state-issued bonds until that litigation was resolved.
Regrettably, there is not yet a stadium proposal with a complete and sufficient financial plan, one which assigns equitable obligations to the Vikings, the local partner, and the State of Minnesota. And no site sponsor has adequately resolved the major unanswered questions, in order to merit the approval to proceed.
Unless the Legislature is willing to change its insistence on a voter referendum before Ramsey County can impose any kind of tax increase, the only two feasible sites become the Metrodome and Linden Avenue, both in Minneapolis. While issues surrounding these sites are not all resolved, they are potentially resolvable and should be addressed immediately. Also the Vikings must reveal their financial commitment to each project.
Otherwise, the lack of firm and binding commitments by the respective parties will seriously jeopardize any chance for legislative approval in this session. It is rumored that some legislators would prefer to postpone final action until 2013, because they want to avoid taking tough votes on a controversial project before next November’s election. The inability of stadium proponents to complete their own preparations gives cover to that delay.
“We can’t vote, because we don’t have a specific proposal,” has been the consistent, and legitimate, refrain of those wishing to avoid a vote. The longer it takes to finalize a proposal with a single site, with an agreed-upon, reliable, and equitable financing plan, and with satisfactory answers to important remaining questions, the less likely it is that a stadium will be approved by the Legislature in the upcoming session and, thus, this year.
I want to pay tribute to the outstanding leadership given to this project and the herculean efforts to advance it by Senator Julie Rosen, Representative Morrie Lanning, MSFC Chair Ted Mondale, and CSL consultant Mr. Craig Skeim, who has provided public decision-makers with extremely valuable information.
Were it not for their unceasing efforts, there would be no prospect of a new “People’s Stadium” and about the same likelihood of keeping the Vikings in Minnesota.