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It’s Stadium Deadline Day, but don’t expect any of today’s ‘final proposals’ to go far

One Minneapolis stadium proposal
Ellerbe Becket
One Minneapolis stadium proposal

The “proposals” for a Vikings stadium are to land on the desk of Gov. Mark “Deadline” Dayton this afternoon.

Minneapolis, Ramsey County and Shakopee, the newcomer to the stadium game, all say they will meet the 5 p.m. “deadline” established by Dayton a few days ago.

But what does Dayton’s latest deadline really mean?

A meaningless deadline?
Not much, guesses Hennepin County Commissioner Mark Stenglein, a veteran of stadium politics.

“This whole thing has to crash and burn, and then a stadium will rise up from the ashes,” Stenglein predicts.

How flimsy are these so-called final proposals?

Look at it this way: Brad Tabke has been mayor of Shakopee for only one week, and the proposal his community has put together may be a little stronger than proposals that Ramsey County and Minneapolis officials have worked on for months.

The Arden Hills site
The Arden Hills site

At least Tabke has the support of other elected officials in Scott County and surrounding areas.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak appears to have little support among his own City Council members, the Minneapolis legislative delegation, downtown boosters or Hennepin County commissioners in his desire to build the stadium on the Metrodome site. He’s also got a little problem with the city charter, which pretty much says he can’t spend the money he wants to spend without voter approval.

Ramsey County commissioners have similar problems. They have virtually no support in St. Paul City Hall and not much support among Ramsey County legislators, either.

This is not to say that the Shakopee deal doesn’t have some gaping holes in the proposal it threw together in a matter of hours.

Start with the fact that Vikings officials haven’t even driven past the 130-acre parcel Shakopee says would be perfect for the stadium.

“In my conversations with them,” said Cory Merrifield, who heads something called, “they’ve thanked us for our effort. We’ve excited to talk to them about our proposal.”

The other fundamental problem with the Shakopee proposal is that it puts virtually no local money into the effort.

Instead, this proposal is based on most of the public funding coming from proceeds from racinos, as well as some user fees.

Passage of a racino bill in the Legislature could just as easily pay for a stadium in Minneapolis or Arden Hills, which Shakopee officials acknowledge.

Shakopees surprise proposal
Still, after months of meetings, proposals, public meetings, Vikings tears, architectural drawings and Dayton deadlines, there’s something delightfully refreshing about the Shakopee approach to the stadium.

Apparently, late last week, Merrifield contacted the new mayor on Twitter. And apparently, the tweet suggested that they should meet about the stadium. So, on Saturday, Merrifield, the mayor, Sen. Claire Robling, an assistant majority leader now, Rep. Michael Beard of Shakopee, business and community leaders and others got together.

“Is this a dumb idea?” they asked each other.

They decided it wasn’t.

This is an unusual combination of people.

Tabke is just 32 years old. He came to the unveiling of the big plan wearing bluejeans. The Shakopee regional legislators — Robling, Beard, Reps. Mark Buesgen, Tom Hackbarth and Kelby Woodard, who are all on board with this plan — tend to be anti-tax, fundamentally conservative Republicans. Except when the issue is racinos. All of them favor racinos mightily.

Racinos are the magic bullet, they say, that would pay for the public share of the stadium with tons of money left over to do such things as pay down the school shift.

And they all are big boosters of the Shakopee area, which they refer to as “the entertainment capital of Minnesota.” They seem to be sincere when they say that.

The area, they all point out, features Valleyfair, Canterbury Park racetrack and card room, Mystic Lake casino and other places and events that attract 6 million visitors a year. And they note that the infrastructure is all ready for a Vikings stadium, there’s no site clean-up needed (as the Arden Hills site requires), and there’s plenty of parking for the stadium, which the Vikings desire.

The Shakopee proposal calls for building between highways 101 and 169.
Map Source: Google Maps
The Shakopee proposal calls for building between highways 101 and 169.

The stadium would replace a dream from another era. About a decade ago, ADC Communications started to build a monster of a building on the site near Highways 101 and 169. This was going to be the international headquarters of a big high-tech player. Then the tech world changed, and the building turned out only to be a shell.

“It just sits there, empty,” said Robling. “You shake your head every time you go past it.”

But for all their boosters’ excitement and unity, the Shakopee plan has likely just joined Minneapolis and Arden Hills in the race to nowhere — at least in this session.

Quick legislative action unlikely
Few believe legislators in the coming session will have the will to attempt to resolve the controversial stadium issue in what is supposed to be a short session in an election year.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk said he believes the chances are “slim” that the stadium work can be done this session.

Bakk would support most stadium efforts but, he said, it is the Republican majority that would have to do the heavy lifting on the stadium. After talking about the necessity of budget cuts across the board, Republicans would suddenly be in position of saying “but we were able to build a stadium for millionaires.”

Watching all of this from a few miles away is Hennepin County Commissioner Mike Opat, who generally is credited as the politician who came forward with the plan that ended up creating Target Field.

Opat credits Dayton for trying “to create movement”on the stadium, but he believes there’s little meaning to any of the “final” proposals that Dayton will receive.

Minneapolis and Ramsey County share the problem of having no money. On top of that, Rybak has a nearly impossible task of rallying the City Council behind a big project.

“The tragedy of Minneapolis,” said Opat of what he considers the limited vision of many city pols.

But none of this means he doesn’t think a deal ultimately will get done.

“The time doesn’t feel right yet,” Opat said.

When it does, will Hennepin County — with by far the most powerful economy in the state — take action.

“I think that’s a possibility,” Opat said. “I have some ideas. But it’s not the right time.”

Doug Grow writes about public affairs, state politics and other topics. He can be reached at dgrow [at] minnpost [dot] com.

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Comments (6)

  1. Submitted by James Hamilton on 01/12/2012 - 10:18 am.

    “The moral argument against gambling has been around since the first wager. But there are also economic arguments against states expanding the practice and using it as a revenue source. A Rockefeller Institute study last year found that, over time, gambling revenues grow more slowly than the expenditures of the programs (such as education) that they fund. That means reliance on gambling revenues can worsen deficits.

    There are more immediate drawbacks to gambling, which critics say disproportionately hurts the less-well-off. The vast sums spent on legalized gambling – more than $90 billion a year, or about nine times Hollywood’s annual box office receipts – would galvanize the flagging economy if used more efficiently, says John Kindt, a business professor at the University of Illinois.

    “That’s lost consumer activity that’s not buying food, clothing, cars, refrigerators, and so on,” Mr. Kindt says. Because of economic multipliers – the effects of consumer spending flowing through the economy – every $100,000 spent in slot machines results in $300,000 in economic losses, Kindt claims.”

    It’s been a long time since I worked in an environment in which boards were used to place bets on sporting events (usually football). Are they still around?

    It’s always seemed to me that if we were going to legalize gambling, we should have started with the forms that were already common in Minnesota. Instead, we started a numbers game, operated by the state, and agreed to the operation of Las Vegas style casinos on reservations in Minnesota. We’ve been salivating over tribal profits ever since, although we’ve simultaneously tended to ignore the fact that casinos have not been a magical cure-all for unemployment, poverty and the other ills endemic in every Minnesota reservation.

    If we feel we must continue to legitimize and expand gambling opportunities in Minnesota, then let’s at least consider legalizing book-making on sports and other events. Some money is already being spent in that area and we might as well capture some tax revenue on it. We sure as hell are never going to eliminate it, particularly when we’re busy betting on the ponies and feeding nickels into machines.

  2. Submitted by John Ferman on 01/12/2012 - 12:34 pm.

    Doug criticises Mayor Tebke for appearing in blue jeans. Remember Steve Jobs, the guy who brought Apple to greatness, always wore blue jeans. The only thing missing from Mayor Tabke’s costume was the black turleneck sweater. I think Shakopee is a great option. In fact, in our metropolitan atmosphere, why should so many venues be in one place. It is time to remember that Scott County deserves a venue. And might the Timberwolves be moved to Dakota County – their building is way out of date.

  3. Submitted by David Greene on 01/12/2012 - 12:45 pm.

    Here’s the problem with this stinker of a Shakopee proposal. Mike Beard, chain of the House Transportation Committee, specifically OPPOSED funding for the Southwest LRT line which could be expanded to serve the proposed stadium.

    So no, Rep. Beard, the infrastructure is NOT there because you cut it.

    This along with the fact that this is just another exurban proposal which will further fragment and sprawl our region should scuttle this proposal quickly.

    But with our current leadership, including the governor, I don’t have much hope that will happen. It will just serve as more leverage for Wilf to extract as much as he can from Minneapolis which is really the only sane place to put this thing, if there is any sanity in any of this.

  4. Submitted by Jim Camery on 01/12/2012 - 01:31 pm.

    I don’t know for the life of me why a a potential bond buyer would purchase an instrument backed by the future income from a racino. For the racino to throw off enough cash to support the $50 million/year in bond payments, it would have to have an enormous house advantage. There’s 8 million Minnesotans and probably 5 million who could legally gamble. If the racino’s take was 20% (the Indian casinos are about 15%), every eligible gambler would have to gamble $50 a year for all 30 years of the bond. For every non-gambler, someone would have to gamble $100. And this is with the casinos and lottery and KofC bingo not going away. I don’t think the market is there, and the bond purchasers will want guarantees (look out, general fund).

  5. Submitted by Susan McNerney on 01/12/2012 - 02:18 pm.

    Do you mean to tell me I’ve been driving by “The Entertainment Capitol of Minnesota” for years and never even knew it was there?

  6. Submitted by Douglas Hedin on 01/13/2012 - 09:38 am.

    Re: Gambling. Lori Sturdevant was interviewed on the public access channel last week and was asked about the possiibility of gambling proceeds being used to finance a new stadium. She replied that she questioned whether having “losers” pay for a such facility was good public policy. By “losers” she meant slot-machine losers. In fact it’s terrible public policy. There is ZERO probability that enough revenue from such a source would be enough to fund a stadium, used a few times a year.

    Let’s be blunt here: The Wilf Family is bluffing. This whole drama—to some, a “crisis”—- is a GIGANTIC BLUFF. The team are not moving because the owners don’t have the votes to move. Anyone who has done any negotiating in their job (or even at home) can see this posturing to be a negotiating ploy.

    The Wilf family is in a pickle of its own making. This is a self-created “crisis.” It let a lease expire without having a new place to relocate and now want a public bail-out (actually, to phrase it more properly, the Wilf Family believes it is ENTITLED to our money). The question is whether our elected officials will call their bluff. Or, will it end like the Twins’ stadium drama did—with the public getting its pockets picked by a another family in the top .000001%.

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