Gov. Mark Dayton is “greatly distressed” by recent news related to the new Vikings stadium — that the team may charge hefty seat license fees to fans attending home games, and that the team is planning overseas games that would replace home games.
The governor fired off an angry letter to Vikings owner Zygi Wilf today, put online this morning by the Star Tribune, objecting to the way the team seems to be positioning its stadium stance, after the Legislature gave it nearly a half-billion dollars in public subsidies to build the stadium.
A Star Tribune story said Vikings season ticket holders might have to pay up to $20,000 per seat, for the right to buy the tickets, if the license plan goes through.
Wrote the governor:
“The project’s strong support came from many regular Minnesotans, not just rich Minnesotans, because they believed the Vikings are also their team. If a new stadium were to betray that trust, it would be better that it not be built.”
The seat license proposal was floated to season ticket holders in a recent survey but probably shouldn’t have come as a surprise to the governor. It’s used by many pro teams, and the University of Minnesota has used similar “assured seating” and “preferred seating” plans, in addition to the actual cost of prime seats, to raise revenue at football and basketball games.
Last December, MPR ran a story headlined: “Vikings could sell seat licenses to fund new stadium.”
In that story, Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley said:
“Personal seat licenses are a vehicle that can be used to help finance a stadium. We have not made a decision as to whether or not to pursue [them].”
In his letter to Wilf, Dayton notes that the Vikings stadium agreement limits the team to playing three “home games” overseas every 15 years, like the London game planned next year. But the governor says the Vikings initially didn’t want to count the London game as one of the three exemptions, because it was negotiated before the stadium deal was signed. The team has since agreed to count the London game as one of the three, the governor said.
But it’s the possible license fees that seem to really rankle the governor. He’s even upset at the way they might be sold and said in the letter:
“Incongruously, since the revenues from the sale of the “Stadium Builder’s Licenses” go to the Vikings, the law says that only the Authority [the newly-created Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority] may sell them. Reportedly, the purpose for this arrangement is to shield revenue from taxes. If true, I deplore it.
“However, since it is the Authority which will make the decision whether or not to sell those licenses, I will urge its Board not to proceed. If necessary, I will go to the Legislature next January and urge that the authorization be rescinded.”
Dayton appointed three of the five Authority members, including its chair, Michele Kelm-Helgen, who had been his deputy chief of staff.