Rep. Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, introduced legislation to build a new Vikings stadium in Arden Hills in Ramsey County. Money from authorizing electronic bingo and pulltabs would help the state pay for it. The stadium, according to the legislation, would open no later than June 2016, feature a roof, have parking for 21,000 cars and have at least 65,000 seats.
The Vikings would contribute at least $425 million toward the project, according to Hamilton's proposal. Ramsey County would contribute $10 million yearly "as funds are available," and the state would contribute $549 million for construction and $101 million for any needed surrounding public infrastructure.
Now, we've all been told that Arden Hills is out and that Minneapolis is going to be the site. That may turn out to be the case, but this proposal, even though it is likely to go nowhere, is actually very important. Why is that? It matters because it is the first plan that acknowledges the truth: no matter where a stadium might be built, there is no reliable local funding portion available.
The Arden Hills site got sandbagged because Ramsey County wouldn't be able to come up with the hundreds of millions of dollars that the state seems to demand, mostly because raising the revenue would require a referendum that would likely fail. Somehow, despite all evidence to the contrary, we have been led to believe that Minneapolis would be able to come up with more money. That's an assumption that doesn't have a lot of evidence to back it up. In fact, the maximum that Minneapolis would be able to raise, absent a referendun on the matter that would likely fail, is about $10 million.
By writing the legislation in the way he did, Hamilton points out the fundamental issue. He calls on Ramsey County to pony up $10 million a year "as funds are available." He's the first person to acknowledge the truth -- funds may not be available. And by doing so, he focuses attention on the entity that will have to pony up the money, which is the state government itself.
So how does the state come up with the $650 million? Or will it? And most of all, should it, since it requires writing big checks that the taxpayers have to make good? That is the real debate concerning this stadium and it's long since past time we had it.
Meanwhile, another bill clarifies matters further:
Bagley however took a dim view of another stadium plan that is scheduled to be unveiled Thursday by three Republican state senators -- two of them freshmen.
Bagley said the team had been briefed on the plan, and said an early version included having the state pay for stadium infrastructure costs and offer a 5.9 percent, low-interest loan to the team and others to build the project. The plan, according to Bagley, would have the team and its business partners pay more than 80 percent of the stadium's cost and is not site-specific.
As a reminder, Bagley is Lester Bagley, the Vikings executive who has been on point for the stadium debate. And of course he doesn't like this second plan, because if the Vikings had to take on additional business partners to get the stadium built, those business partners would expect a return on investment, which would not be forthcoming. It's also why unnamed business partners would not be forthcoming, either. The cynical assumption that the Vikings have made, and that the various politicians involved in this charade have made, is that even though they know there won't be a real return on investment for the stadium, they can get by with it by diffusing the outrage in the out years. The plan has always been the same: get a bill passed, get it built and put the costs on the state's tab. Kinda like they do with light rail and all the other boondoggle projects that politicians love.
Sen. Roger Chamberlain of Lino Lakes, Sen. David Hann of Eden Prairie and Sen. Pam Wolf of Spring Lake Park scheduled a news conference to outline the plan Thursday.You wouldn't want to play poker with any of these senators. They are pretty adept at calling bluffs.