Mayor Rybak pitches 3 Viking stadium plans, but he’s got a big sales job ahead of him

If Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak is serious about his three-part Vikings stadium plan, he’s got a whole lot of selling to do.

His City Council, the Vikings and the state Legislature all would have to get on board if the stadium is to end up at one of three locations Rybak proposed at a news conference Thursday afternoon.

At this point, it doesn’t appear that the mayor has any of those entities on his team.

Rybak’s basic selling point is that a 0.35 percent point increase in the sales tax along with a 1 percent lodging tax in Minneapolis would not only build the Vikings a stadium but also allow Target Center to be renovated, help support the Convention Center and give the residents of Minneapolis much-needed property tax relief.

That’s a whole lot of numbers juggling.

But Rybak repeatedly said that if Minneapolis is the Vikings’ local partner, the stadium could be built for less money and provide all of these side benefits that don’t exist if the stadium is constructed on the Arden Hills site.

If he can’t sell the idea of the taxes, Rybak said he’d support a casino on Block E as the tool for getting the stadium done as well as taking care of Target Center renovation ($150 million).

“Over the decades, Minneapolis has stepped up and financed far more than our share of our state’s public facilities and we’re offering to do so again today,” Rybak said.

The Rybak proposal is headed for the desk of Gov. Mark Dayton, who wants to sift over all ideas before throwing his support to the one that he believes would be best for the state and also might have the best chance of passing in the Legislature.

Rybak continues to believe the Metrodome site is the most cost-effective for everyone. The stadium that would total about $1.2 billion in Arden Hill, could be constructed for $895 million at that site, Rybak says.

The other two sites — the Farmers’ Market location and an area near the intersection of  I-94 and I-394 — would cost slightly more than $1 billion, according to numbers put together by the mayor’s office.

But the political maneuvering for any of these proposals to succeed are daunting.

Where to begin?

You’ve got the Vikings. The mayor hadn’t even officially made his announcement when the football team said in effect, “Thanks, but we prefer Arden Hills.’’

Rybak understands that but believes the Vikings will become more interested in the city when it becomes clear that the Arden Hills location isn’t going anywhere.

You’ve got a little charter in Minneapolis, however, which requires a public vote on spending of more than $10 million for a sports facility. The Legislature would need to override the Minneapolis charter for Rybak to get his referendum-free sales tax.

And you’ve got a City Council that isn’t exactly singing, “Skol, Vikings,’’ over Rybak’s plans.

“I can’t say all votes are solid,’’ said Rybak of the City Council.

And, of course, the Minneapolis plan still calls for the state to be the third partner in the financing of the stadium.

There is little indication that state legislators are going to be able to agree on any plan to come up with $300 million.

Just how the Rybak plan would end up lowering property taxes for Minneapolis residents also is a little hazy. This part of the deal is all built around the reality that city residents currently are paying off $5 million a year in Target Center bonds.

With the sales tax or proceeds from a casino, that $5 million a year could be saved, Rybak said.

The two taxes (sales and lodging) that Rybak proposes would account for $19 million a year to fund the new stadium and bring the Target Center into the 21st Century.

Rybak admitted that at first blush, his plan probably won’t receive a great deal of support from city residents. After all, it was they who in 1997 overwhelmingly supported language in the city charter capping the amount the city could spend on pro sports facilities.

“I’m sticking my neck out,” Rybak admitted, “and other parts of my anatomy as well.”

Given the long odds, why is he bothering?

“We’re a city of big visions and big dreams that have paid off,” Rybak said.

He noted that long ago, it was city visionaries who created a parks system that have made Minneapolis unique.

This plan for a football stadium — and refurbished Target Center — is just a continuation of that sort of vision, he said.

He agreed that it’s not appealing for public entities to support venues for professional sports organizations that are filled with wealthy owners and athletes.

“Pro sports financing is broke,” Rybak said. “But what is the right decision?

Ultimately, these venues create both excitement and payback, the mayor said.

His proposal isn’t the best way to fund a stadium, Rybak acknowledged, saying, “The best way to fund a state amenity is state funding.’’

But that’s not happening.

The next best way would be for the entire metro region to participate.

But that’s not happening, either.

That leaves the city.  

“It’s going to be tough politics,” Rybak said, which is a very large understatement.

Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by Dan Hinton on 10/28/2011 - 08:02 am.

    In my 62 years, I have never seen politicians, (in this case, Democrats) ignore public opinion so blatantly. As I see it, Republicans are wrong on almost every issue, but not on this stadium issue. I am really concerned that Democrats will lose big in the next election for, of all things, forcing taxpayers to subsidize one of the most profitable businesses in the country.

  2. Submitted by Dimitri Drekonja on 10/28/2011 - 08:54 am.

    I agree with #1- I can’t recall the last time is was in agreement with the republican leadership in the legislature, but I certainly am now. As to Rybak’s rhetorical statement/question (“Pro sports financing is broke, but what is the right decision?”), that’s easy. If the system is broken (it is), refuse to participate. Profitable companies can fund their own expansions- as a half-dozen NFL franchises have done.

  3. Submitted by Dan Hinton on 10/28/2011 - 09:35 am.

    Time for Minnesotans to have a serious discussion about how to deal with extortion! Just about everyone that I know feels that is totally wrong to have struggling taxpayers subsidize such a profitable industry. Nonetheless, many of these fine folks say we have to do it or the Vikings will leave. I understand caving to extortion when it involves getting your kidnapped child back, but when it comes to keeping a football team… that is a whole different story! Simply say, No subsidy!

  4. Submitted by Jeff Thompson on 10/28/2011 - 11:51 am.

    While I agree that the public seems to be against funding a new stadium through taxes (they always are), it is also true that most folks do not want to see the Vikings move out of state.

    If you want to know where politians are truly ignoring the public, it is on the issue of funding a Vikings stadium through gambling. Time and time again, polls have shown that a majority of the public supports funding a stadium with gambling revenue. This option has been always shot down by the Legislature for various reasons, which I won’t go into here.

    Does anyone care to put this option to a public vote? Or does public opinion not matter in this case?

Leave a Reply