NFL commissioner Roger Goodell holds out possibility of league help in addressing stadium funding ‘gap’

Stadium bill co-sponsors Rep. Morrie Lanning and Sen. Julie Rosen look on as NFL commissioner Roger Goodell meets the press.

MinnPost photo by Jay Weiner
Stadium bill co-sponsors Rep. Morrie Lanning and Sen. Julie Rosen look on as NFL commissioner Roger Goodell meets the press.

Road costs remain a speed bump on the way to a new Vikings stadium. So, too, does “a gap” in a financing plan to secure a new $1 billion-plus stadium plan in Arden Hills.

How that financing gap gets filled is where the team, the county and, perhaps, the NFL will come in.

Gov. Mark Dayton began his day with a 7 a.m. meeting with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and some of his top aides to discuss stadium issues. Also in attendance at the Governor’s Residence were the chief authors of a Vikings bill, Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, and Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont.

Goodell, calling the Arden Hills land “an extraordinary site,” said upfront league financing money no longer exists. But the league’s longstanding “premium seat waiver” does help in any stadium finance plan.

Under the premium seat waiver, team owners who invest in new stadiums are allowed to keep the visitors’ share of gate revenue generated by suites and luxury seating. The normal NFL ticket breakdown is this: Home team keeps 66 percent, and visiting team gets 34 percent of revenues. But, the premium seat waiver would allow Vikings owner Zygi Wilf to keep that 34 percent but only to help finance the stadium.

For example a $5,000 club seat could be defined as $1,000 for the season ticket, but $4,000 for the annual fee to obtain the right to the seat. The Vikings would not need to share that revenue and projected revenue with visiting owners. They would retain it and use that stream as a means to borrow money to help finance the stadium.

The league views this as its contribution to a stadium.

What also came out of the morning meeting was a decision, Dayton said, “to come up with a definitive number by tomorrow [Wednesday].” That hard cost of roads to handle traffic to and from the Arden Hills site will determine how much the team and the Ramsey County Commissioners Tony Bennett and Rafael Ortega must increase their contributions.

So far, the Wilfs have said they will bring $407 million in private money to the table, including naming rights. The county commissioners have talked about a half-cent county-wide sales tax.

The contributions from the owners and county will have to increase because Dayton, Rosen and Lanning reiterated this morning what they’ve been saying for a week: The state’s limit is $300 million.

State Transportation Commissioner Tom Sorel, who was also in the meeting, said his staff would be working to get hard numbers on road needs in the next 24 hours.

The more expensive the roads, the more that expenditure will cut into the state’s $300 million cap. Undoubtedly, road costs will add “a gap” in the finance plan, Dayton said.

Another issue dogging the finalizing of a stadium deal is the uncertainty of the NFL’s labor situation. Without knowing how the owners and players will distribute revenues — especially broadcast and digital revenues — it is difficult for state negotiators to nail down just what the team is capable of investing.

All that said, with Goodell’s involvement, the momentum for a bill to be rewritten and introduced in the legislative session’s final days is picking up.

“Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” Dayton said.

But, so far, no hearings are set, no new bill has been written and just how many votes are out there for a stadium as the state budget resolution remains at an impasse remains unclear.

Plus, an Environmental Impact Study must be done on the Arden Hills site, and the Metropolitan Council can be expected to weigh in.

One thing is for sure: Any chatter about the team moving out of town if this falls apart is on the far back burner. Goodell said there is no appetite to even discuss relocating the team.

Goodell is in the Twin Cities to participate in court-ordered labor negotiations. He did not make a special trip just for the stadium issue.

Wilf and his aides were not in attendance today, and Dayton downplayed that absence.

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Comments (7)

  1. Submitted by Mick Crisler on 05/17/2011 - 11:48 am.

    Personally I don’t understand Dayton’s $300 million cap in relationship to the needed update to the area’s infrastructure. No matter how much money the State spends on this much needed arterial update, it should be a separate expenditure that doesn’t affect the $300 million. Why? Because the work needs to be done anyway and all people in the area, indeed maybe even the entire State of Minnesota benefit by using these roads. They were going to do this eventually anyway. So don’t hold up the stadium or the construction by using the typical political “funny math.” Build that stadium, fix the roads, reap the benefits, employment wise and tax revenue wise and get on with it! It will end up being a crown jewel for the Northern tier Suburbs whether they realize it or not right now.

  2. Submitted by Richard O'Neil on 05/17/2011 - 12:53 pm.

    Unbelievable. With a huge gap in the state budget against a Monday deadline, the governor and legislature will sort through the Viking stadiuum financing issues. This is does not make sense.

  3. Submitted by David Greene on 05/17/2011 - 01:56 pm.

    Mick, the upgrades being considered are not in any short- or medium-term plan by Mn/DOT or the Met Council. It is absolutely a stadium-driven project. Putting a stadium on this site is bad business all around. We would not need to build _and_maintain_ these roads if we didn’t put a stadium there. It’s all a tremendous waste.

    Keep the stadium in one of the cities where there is already the infrastructure to access it.

  4. Submitted by christopher mitchell on 05/17/2011 - 02:45 pm.

    @Mick,

    The cost of the roads increases dramatically if there is a stadium there. This is not separate from the stadium, it is intimately related. If the stadium goes there, the needed work on the roads increases dramatically to support the extra traffic going to and from the stadium.

    If it is going to be the crown jewel of the northern tier suburbs, let them pay for it. I’m not looking forward to paying higher taxes to finance a stadium that I cannot afford to go to the few times it is used over the course of the year. This is an absurd waste of public funds. If they must be spent somewhere, just about anything else would create a larger return on investment for all taxpayers.

  5. Submitted by Patrick Phenow on 05/17/2011 - 04:05 pm.

    David beat me to it. But I will add the commissioner’s words, as quoted in MinnPost:

    “The level of investment that would be required there is nothing we had planned on for some time,” said Sorel.

    http://www.minnpost.com/stories/2011/05/10/28184/first_and_ten_–_or_long_–_for_the_vikings_as_arden_hills_becomes_teams_dream_home

  6. Submitted by Clifford Morrell on 05/17/2011 - 07:56 pm.

    Read my lips, “No new stadium!”

    I don’t want one cent of my hard earned tax dollars to go towards supporting a billionaire and his multi-millionaire employees.

  7. Submitted by Lauren Maker on 05/18/2011 - 08:41 am.

    Personally, I love the image of glow in the dark Vikings fans, from tailgating at a contaminated superfund site.

    But aside from that brief chuckle, this is such a dumb idea, not to mention a waste of a prime development site.

    No one is talking about the other, pricey infrastucture cost in connection with this site–namely water, sewer and storm sewer costs.

    This huge parking lot is going to accelerate considerable runoff of still contaminated soil–what will be the impact of that on the surrounding lakes and aquafer? Likely to increase the concentration of contaminants in those lakes that are the prime source of drinking water for the City of St. Paul.

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