The proposed Vikings stadium deal announced by state, city and team officials on Thursday has generated enthusiasm, skepticism and hostility so far and will face hurdles in both Minneapolis and the Minnesota Legislature. Here is a collection of early reactions to the proposal:
From the Star Tribune’s editorial this morning:
“The belabored and sometimes befuddling eight-year campaign for a new Minnesota Vikings stadium took a major step forward Thursday at the State Capitol, and now only political shortsightedness can stand in the way of one of the largest public-private infrastructure investments in state history. …
“If they missed its publication on these pages last month, reluctant City Council members should be sure to read an instructive commentary on stadium politics (“A plea to city leaders: Always look forward,” Feb. 15) written by Lou DeMars and John Derus, former council members who faced similarly controversial votes on the Metrodome in 1973 and again in 1978.
“DeMars and Derus and other council members ignored significant political risks and threw their support behind a downtown home for the Vikings and Twins that served this region well for three decades.
” ‘The votes we took over 30 years ago led to a massive investment by the private sector in downtown jobs and economic development,’ DeMars and Derus wrote, urging the current council to make a similar investment in the city’s future. Hennepin County stepped up as a local partner for the Twins in their pursuit of Target Field; now it’s the City Council’s turn to provide local leadership. …
“The Legislature has a similarly clear choice to make: If lawmakers want to keep the Vikings in Minnesota — and invest in the vitality of the state’s largest economic hub — they’ll back the proposed expansion of charitable gaming through electronic pulltabs to fund the state’s $398 million contribution and support the Minneapolis proposal on sales and hospitality taxes. …”
The blog Mr. Dillettante’s Neighborhood, after noting that the state will rely on electronic pull-tabs for its share of the costs, says:
“So in other words, we once again are relying on projections from our old friend Rosy Scenario. Now the Vikings are not exactly a charitable organization, except to opposing offenses in the NFC North (I keed, I keed), so it’s more than a little unseemly as well. But it’s easier to try to get in on charitable gaming action than it is to take on the tribes that run Mystic Lake, Treasure Island, etc. And the ballot box would be a pull-tab that no one associated with the deal wants to play.
“If this deal goes through, I imagine that the state will find buyers for the bonds. What I wonder about is what the state will do when the revenue streams they claim they have turn out to be ‘disappointing’ in a few years. It’s not as though they’ll be able to claw back any extra money from Zygi Wilf.
“Bottom line on this one is simple — it really doesn’t matter what R. T. Rybak, or Zygi Wilf, or Ted Mondale tell you — the taxpayers are going to be paying for this stadium. It would be better if all these eager folks would stop pretending otherwise.”
“Misspeaking as he began a press conference in the Governor’s Reception Room at the Minnesota State Capitol, Gov. Mark Dayton said he wanted to thank ‘the Minnesota Wilfs’ for their help in bringing a $1 billion Vikings stadium deal to the public. Getting a deal done, the governor declared, was “a remarkable accomplishment,” even if he said so himself.
“Ah, yes, the Minnesota Wilfs. Who have their main business in New Jersey, own a $20-million dump in New York City, and must consider Minnesota to be easy pickings: The Minnesota Wilfs, er, Vikings, are on the verge of finally getting a back-room arrangement shoved through a compliant Republican-controlled Legislature, around a hapless Minneapolis City Council that is likely to be cut out of any financing arrangements being foisted on city taxpayers, and past a placid press corps that can’t see the forest for the trees. …
“Gov. Dayton, as I have wondered before, may suffer from some kind of noblesse oblige syndrome that makes the scion of the famous merchandising family believe he must relieve the discomforts of titans of industry like Zygi Wilf. He also may suffer from an edifice complex of the kind that leads many politicians to lend their support to building schemes that promise plaques at the door: ‘This Stadium Built During the Reign of Marcus Daytonus, the Great.’ These issues were called into question last week by Dayton’s fellow traveler in progressive politics, Ralph Nader. The consumer activist and scourge of government corporatism sent Dayton a sharply worded letter calling the Vikings boondoggle “an egregious public handout” and urging Dayton to not become like a “crack cocaine addict,” sucked into a downward spiral of trying to please the billionaires by building them monuments. …”
Local 49 of the International Union of Operating Engineers said on its blog:
“Local 49 of the International Union of Operating Engineers is pleased the Minnesota Vikings have reached a deal with Governor Dayton and Minneapolis Mayor Rybak to keep the team in the state. Local 49′s Business Manager, Glen Johnson, said, ‘The Vikings stadium project will have a positive impact on the region both long-term and short term. Investing in the improvements puts Minnesotans to work and gets money circulating – stimulating demand, growth in a virtuous cycle of shared economic prosperity.’
“The Governor’s determined pursuit of a solution ensures the team remains an iconic symbol of the state Minnesota. This deal sends a message to the team and the rest of the country that Minnesota’s elected officials remain committed to forward-looking investments aimed at preserving and improving the regional business climate.”
Forum Communications’ Danielle Nordine and Don Davis collected reactions from legislators, including these:
“ ‘The purpose of e-pulltabs is to increase the amount of gambling,’ Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville, said. ‘I don’t think the state should have a huge financial stake in that.’
“Rep. Deb Kiel, R-Crookston, said she needs more details on how the e-pulltabs funding would work. Kiel … and other lawmakers said one of their prime concerns is how charities would fare under the plan, which would allow those that sponsor pulltabs and bingo in locations around the state to begin using electronic devices. Supporters of the plan say electronic devices would increase use, providing more money to both charities and the state.
“Rep. Paul Anderson, R-Starbuck, emphasized that people need to understand ‘it is not just a Vikings stadium.’ He said Minnesotans would use the facility for events like high school football playoff games, ‘something dear to my heart.’ … ‘I think it is a good plan, given the constraints given us by the governor and (legislative) leadership,’ said Anderson, a member of a working group that has met behind closed doors for weeks trying to reach the agreement.
“ ‘It looks like it will be a good multipurpose facility, which is a wise investment,’ Rep. John Persell, DFL-Bemidji, said. ‘The jobs aspect is just what the doctor ordered.’ ”
“Sen. Tom Saxhaug, DFL-Grand Rapids, said it ‘absolutely’ is possible to get a deal done this session. ‘It only takes a few days,” he said. ‘I’m glad we’re making progress,’ Saxhaug said. ‘I’m supportive of any good and realistic proposal for a stadium.’
Frederick Melo in the Pioneer Press included reactions from Minneapolis City Council members:
“ ‘We learned yesterday that downtown Minneapolis has the highest restaurant taxes in the country,’ said council member Gary Schiff, a leading critic of the proposal. ‘This plan would lock those taxes in place for the next 30 years. That’s a terrible way to approach economic development.’ …
” ‘This plan would have the city start contributing $7.5 million annually to subsidize a new facility,’ Schiff said. ‘We already have the Convention Center and the Target Center that we subsidize. Why would we pick up a third facility? We should be lowering downtown sales taxes.’
“But Schiff is just one voice on the 13-member council, and it has yet to receive a formal package to vote on. …
“In a two-page statement, council member John Quincy on Wednesday outlined what he’d want in whatever proposal emerges from the Legislature. Quincy said he likes the prospect of extending existing downtown taxes on liquor, food and hotels to fund the Vikings stadium and pay off existing debt on Target Center.
” ‘By paying off Target Center debt, which now costs Minneapolis property taxpayers $5 million a year, property tax relief would be realized — the equivalent of a nearly 2 percent reduction in property taxes,’ he wrote. …
“Council member Betsy Hodges said she always has opposed public funding for professional sports stadiums. The Dayton-Rybak plan only added to her concerns.
“Several council members have said the most attractive part of the deal is that it could include renovation money for Target Center. But Thursday’s proposal would separate new Target Center funding and Vikings stadium funding into two legislative bills, allowing lawmakers to take them up separately. That’s a red flag for Hodges and other council members.
” ‘There’s a statement that it will be pursued in separate legislation,’ she said. ‘But if it’s not in this overall bill, once this bill passes, any capacity to make provisions for the Target Center or the Convention Center would be lost.’ “
The Star Tribune’s Eric Roper collected Minneapolis officials’ thoughts as well, including these:
“Mayor R.T. Rybak said Thursday that Minneapolis can invest $338 million in a new Vikings stadium without triggering a referendum, despite a charter mandate that calls for a citywide vote on any sports subsidy of $10 million or more. …
” ‘These are state dollars,’ Rybak said. ‘And the state imposes them on the city, and the state has control over them in the city.’
“Council Member Gary Schiff called that argument ‘absurd.’ ‘We once had a governor who believed by calling something a fee that it wasn’t a tax,’ said Schiff … .
“Council Member Cam Gordon, an opponent of the mayor’s plan, said proponents of the stadium sound ‘like they’re playing kind of legalese or artfully cooking up some way to get around’ the referendum. …
“Gordon suggested pursuing that strategy will invite lawsuits and mean ‘some judge is going to have to determine it.’
“City Attorney Susan Segal offered her legal backing. Since the state would ‘retain’ the taxes for the stadium, Segal said in a statement, ‘the taxes would be outside the control of the City and our charter provisions.’
“Gov. Mark Dayton’s chief negotiator for the stadium deal, Ted Mondale, agreed: ‘The money is never touched by the city. The state in the end spends the money. So therefore the city’s not spending money.’ “