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‘Now the real work begins’ on Vikings stadium plan

ALSO: Reaction to St. Croix bridge bill passing in U.S. House; testimony of co-worker in Dinkytown hit-and-run murder trial; and more.

As understatements go, Gov. Dayton saying, “Now the real work begins” counts as a classic. On today’s announcement of stadium deal, or at least how it would structured — voting and actual revenue flow to follow — Patrick Condon’s AP story says, “The plan would put the new building nearly on top of the current Metrodome site. It calls for $398 million from the state, $150 million from the city and $427 million from the Vikings for upfront construction costs. The state’s share would come from an expansion of pulltab gambling games to add an electronic version, while Minneapolis’ share would come from redirecting existing convention center and hospitality taxes. ‘Now the real work begins,’ Dayton said. … Dayton and political leaders have touted the project as a ‘people’s stadium,’ to be used by colleges and high schools and for special events. Dayton said it would create jobs, too: as many as 8,000 construction jobs, 5,000 related jobs for suppliers and others, and 2,000 permanent jobs after that. Supporters said the Vikings’ share of the stadium costs would amount to just over half because the team would commit to paying some operational costs over time. But much of the money for those costs would likely come from stadium revenues earmarked for the team, and the proposal outlined Thursday gave no details on revenue distributions. … If the deal can survive Minneapolis politics, that still leaves a heavy lift to get majority support in the state House and Senate. A stadium bill would likely be vetted by multiple committees, some of which are chaired by tax and spending skeptics. GOP leaders, particularly House Speaker Kurt Zellers, have refused to assign the same urgency to a stadium vote this year as the project’s supporters would like. … Commissioner Roger Goodell recently stressed the league’s desire to put an expansion team in Los Angeles rather than one in an existing market.”

The Bloomberg story, by Aaron Kuriloff and Tim Jones, says, “ … Republicans, who control the Minnesota legislature, published a platform two years ago that opposes using tax money for ‘programs, such as public broadcasting, sports stadiums, and the arts’ It said such projects should be paid for by the users and voluntary donors. Legislative opposition to the stadium has mounted in recent months from Tea Party Republicans and Democrats unhappy with budget cuts to education and other services. [GOP Rep. Morrie] Lanning, the bill’s chief sponsor, said approval will ‘not happen without bipartisan support.’ ‘Keeping the Vikings in Minnesota is in the best interests of the state,’ [GOP Sen. Julie] Rosen said in the release. ‘This will be done without using any General Fund dollars that could go to our schools or nursing homes.’ ” I think we may need a very precise definition of “could go,” Senator.

At MPR, Tim Nelson writes, “Minneapolis would fund just under 27 percent of the costs through a hospitality tax, and the state would cover about 23 percent of the costs, or $398 million, paid for in part through electronic pull tab gambling revenue. The deal guarantees that the State of Minnesota will raise no new taxes to finance the deal. The agreement also protects the City of Minneapolis from paying for cost overruns during construction, operations and capital improvements. To pay its share of $150 million, Minneapolis would redirect a portion of its existing convention center sales and hospitality taxes. In exchange, the state Legislature would give Minneapolis control of a portion of the city’s sales taxes that Mayor R.T. Rybak said would likely be used to pay costs of the Target Center and Minneapolis Convention Center. The city is also expected to contribute $6 million in operating expenses and $1.5 million for capital improvements to the new stadium annually. The deal also locks the team into a 30-year lease on the property, commits the team to sharing any profits in the event the team is sold, and requires the team to play only one season at the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium during construction.”

At the PiPress, Doug Belden and Dennis Lien report, “It is unclear, though, if Minneapolis leaders have the support to get a plan passed by the City Council. Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak explained the sales tax structure and urged approval of the package. ‘We shouldn’t do mediocrity in the state of Minnesota,’ Rybak said. Rybak said he plans to continue working with Minneapolis City Council members to get their support. ‘We have a compelling case and we’re going to make it,’ Rybak said. City leaders are also watching as the plan is considered at the state Capitol. ‘The chicken and the egg must come at the same time in this case,’ Rybak said, referring to the need for state and city action occurring over the same time period.”

Belden also offers a comparison of public/private contributions on other stadiums. “ … costs [here] are divided 56 percent public, 44 percent private to put the facility up. The Vikings would put in the lion’s share of operating and capital expenses, which means over 30 years the team shoulders just more than half the total cost of $1.49 billion. Since 1995, according to the Wall Street Journal, citing data from Convention Sports & Leisure International, taxpayers have paid about 80 percent of the cost of NFL stadiums in the 8 smallest media markets with new stadiums. Taxpayers have paid less than 20 percent in the 8 biggest markets with new stadiums. The Twin Cities is the 15th-largest media market.”

A profound lack of team spirit is heard on the blogosphere. Says one crank, “Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak recently assured the public that he was going to be a ‘tough negotiator’ when it gets down to the nitty-gritty of who pays how much and for what on the (inevitable downtown) stadium. Were that the Mayor, the Governor, or the Sports Facilities Commission played ‘tough negotiator’ with the NFL. I ask you, other than Palm Beach and Beverly Hills is there a municipality or state in the country with a better credit rating than the NFL? In late December the NFL let it be known that as much as $200 million ‘might be available’ to this Minnesota project … as a loan. This money is believed to form a substantial portion of the Wilf family’s $400-plus million contribution to the project … leaving us rubes in our Helga hats to fuss as we will over the remaining $700 million. Point being: The NFL could write a check tomorrow for every nickel of the construction costs of a new Vikings stadium. (And that’d be, ‘Straight cash, homey’ if Randy Moss was explaining it.) … The idea of calling the NFL’s bluff and telling them, ‘The public subsidy-for-stadiums concept has worn out its welcome in Minnesota,’ is of course naïve in the extreme. The reason being, as we are reminded every day, is because no public official with career viability dares risk pushback from the NFL. Like LBJ in Vietnam, no one is going to lose football on their watch, no matter what the cost.” Dude, get on the bus.

Coincidentally and ironically, another mega project, the $700 million St. Croix bridge has taken another giant leap toward reality. Says Kevin Diaz in the Strib, “Decades of debate over the proposed St. Croix River crossing ended Thursday with a five-minute vote in the U.S. House, which approved the plan overwhelmingly and sent it to President Obama for his signature. The 339-80 House vote easily surpassed the two-thirds needed to clear the project on an expedited basis, which became necessary after Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton set a March 15 deadline for final action by Congress. … The long-delayed bridge plan was before Congress because it needed a federal exemption from the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, a landmark piece of 1960s legislation sponsored by former U.S. Senator and Vice President Walter Mondale. Mondale lobbied against the bridge, calling it ‘a brutal assault on one of the most magnificent rivers in America.’ The bridge standoff divided environmentalists, who remain opposed, and labor-backed Democrats who joined with Minnesota Republican Michele Bachmann, the main House backer of the project, which stands in her current district. ‘This is it!’ she enthused in a statement after the vote. ‘After decades of bureaucratic holdups and frivolous lawsuits from radical environmentalists, the people of the St. Croix River Valley will finally have their bridge. I represent the most patient people in the nation and I could not be more thrilled about the outcome’ ”

The AP story says, “Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker also praised the efforts of both parties to pass the bill. ‘This legislation was a top federal priority for my administration and is a great example of bipartisanship teamwork that will create thousands of jobs’, Walker said. ‘The construction of this safer, better bridge will bring a welcome economic boost to the region’. … Environmental groups also bashed Thursday’s vote. ‘This bill sets a dangerous precedent for over 200 Wild and Scenic Rivers across the nation — to push through the most expensive bridge in state history’, said Margaret Levin, State Director of the Sierra Club North Star Chapter.” It’ll be quite a cast photo at the ribbon-cutting.

From the Dinkytown hit-and-run murder trail, Dave Hanners of the PiPress reports, “When Kenneth Nelson got to work one Friday morning in April, co-worker Timothy Bakdash had something to get off his chest. ‘He told me he had made a mistake and was done drinking’, Nelson said of Bakdash, who a month earlier finished a two-year probated sentence for a 2009 conviction for driving while impaired. But, as Nelson soon learned, the thing Bakdash was concerned about went far beyond drinking and driving. He had hit somebody. And he had intended to kill the guy. Nelson, 36, a field technician for Professional Wireless Communications of Burnsville, told jurors in Bakdash’s first-degree murder trial Wednesday about conversations he said he had with his co-worker over the next several days. At first, Bakdash said he was the driver in the hit-and-run, but Nelson said after he told him he had to turn himself in, Bakdash claimed it was all a delusion brought on by not taking his medicine.”