Gov. Mark Dayton blew a gaping hole in the financing plan for a new Minnesota Vikings stadium Tuesday, saying plans to put local taxpayers on the hook for a share of stadium costs are not politically feasible.While I suspect that Dayton didn't "decide" anything other than to face reality, this is a significant change, since it removes the funding mechanism that Ramsey County officials had planned to use to fund their portion of the cost of a new stadium.
With just days remaining before the governor presents his own stadium plan, Dayton's decision shifts a sizable share of the cost of the $1.1 billion stadium to the state or the Vikings while also stoking deeper interest in expanded gambling -- including electronic pull-tabs -- as a possible solution.
A number of people assume that, since this money is no longer available, that the Arden Hills site is now a dead letter. The Vikings aren't among those people, however:
Vikings spokesman Lester Bagley held a rare Capitol news conference afterward to tamp down speculation that the new twist had killed Ramsey County's site. "Arden Hills is [still] the ideal site," Bagley said.
The Vikings have an agreement with Ramsey County officials to build a stadium in Arden Hills. Under that plan, the state would have chipped in $300 million, the team would have paid $420 million and the county would have kicked in $350 million through a half-cent countywide sales tax.
But now that the money is no longer available?
Bagley was vague on what happens next.
"We'll put our heads together with Ramsey County [and] try to sit down and regroup," he said. Bagley deflected questions on whether the Vikings would pay a greater share of the project. He said the team is already providing the third-largest private contribution to a new National Football League stadium.
So what does it mean? A few things:
- The report from the Star Tribune says that Bagley "deflected questions" about increased funding from the team. In other words, the team isn't going to pay.
- You'll note that Bagley hasn't offered to put his head together with Minneapolis. I have believed from the outset that the Vikings have no interest in building a new stadium in Minneapolis. They have not changed this stance since the initial site announcement earlier this year. I take the Vikings at their word on this.
- If you think about the economics involved, it's not surprising that the Vikings reject the Minneapolis proposals. Zygi Wilf and his ownership group want a new stadium, but they aren't willing to give up the revenue streams they would get from building a stadium in a suburban location. There's a reason for this -- Wilf paid top dollar for the Vikings when he bought the team and he has no intention of losing money on this deal. If he accepted a stadium at any of the Minneapolis sites, he'd have to give up a number of revenue streams he can get elsewhere. He won't do it.
- Since the Vikings have no interest in a Minneapolis stadium, the notion of a casino on Block E is a nonstarter. It was a longshot in any event, because far too many politicians in this state depend on campaign contributions from the tribes who have successful casinos and don't want any more competition. You don't tug on Superman's cape and you don't mess around with the Mdewakanton Sioux.
- In the end, the most likely source of funding is going to be electronic pulltabs. There's certainly an app for that, as they say. Whether there are votes for it are another matter.