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Anoka County is seeking $2 million in compensation for a package it created to try to land a Vikings stadium in Blaine five years ago — a playbook the County Board’s chairwoman says Ramsey County used to lure the team to Arden Hills.
The proposal by Rhonda Sivarajah drew a response of “huh?” in Ramsey County.
Sivarajah at first suggested that Ramsey County pay the $2 million — which she called a “conservative estimate” — for using an Anoka County plan the Vikings publicly sacked in 2006. After a vigorous discussion, she said the money should instead come from the state and only if racino proceeds help to fund a stadium in Arden Hills.
“If the state decides their priority is to use proceeds from racino to fund a Vikings stadium in Ramsey County, then Anoka County should be reimbursed $2 million, which was utilized to develop the financial package that Ramsey County is essentially using,” Sivarajah said later.
When Anoka County devised its plan five years ago, racino wasn’t part of the picture. It was that plan, again without racino , that Sivarajah said Ramsey County used.
“I know Ramsey County has requested information from us,” she said. “It’s only appropriate that the citizens of Anoka County be reimbursed.”
Heated discussion concerning racino was expected at Tuesday’s Anoka County Board meeting. The shocker was Sivarajah’s demand for $2 million for a plan many thought had sunk in Blaine’s wetlands years ago.
Sivarajah’s motion came in an amendment to a board resolution to support a racino bill at the Legislature.
A similar resolution, without mention of payment for a stadium plan, was defeated by one vote earlier this month. This time, it passed 4-3, with Commissioner Jim Kordiak reversing course from two weeks ago, when he had said the proposal needed further study.
The racino debate has heated up at the State Capitol, where politicians eye slot machines as one way to fund a new Vikings stadium. In Anoka County, racino could also mean as many as 500 new jobs at Running Aces Harness Park in Columbus, with an additional 500 temporary construction jobs.
'It sounds kind of crazy to me’
“Huh?” responded Ramsey County Commissioner Tony Bennett, an architect of that county’s stadium plan.
He said the resolution sounds like gamesmanship. Bennett wasn’t told of the resolution through official channels.
“It sounds kind of crazy to me,” he said. “I’m not aware of anything I would pay $2 million for.”
Bennett also said any information provided by Anoka County is widely available to the public.
“How have they been so helpful?” he asked. “I would like to know what their logic is. I am sure I will find out.”
Five years ago, the Vikings and Anoka County formed a partnership in which the team and county each pledged $280 million toward a stadium in Blaine. But they fell short in trying to persuade the state to contribute an equal share. During that session, the Legislature approved new stadiums for the Twins and the University of Minnesota football team.
Anoka County debate
On Tuesday, other Anoka County commissioners were at first reluctant to include a demand for a stadium-plan payment as part of the racino resolution.
“That was long ago; I’m not stepping backwards,” said Kordiak, a member of the 2006 board that voted, 6-1, in support of a stadium in Blaine. Sivarajah was the lone dissenter then.
“If I could get money out of Ramsey County, I’d love to do that,” said Commissioner Dan Erhart, who said he has enjoyed working with the Ramsey County Board. But Erhart said that the positive publicity Anoka County got during its stadium push as “the county that gets things done” was worth the money it spent trying to lure the Vikings.
“Two million dollars’ worth of advertising?” Sivarajah responded.
“Ramsey County has taken Anoka County’s package,” Sivarajah said. “We paid for it as Anoka County taxpayers.”
Erhart, a member of the Minnesota Racing Commission, said the additional income from slot machines would help Canterbury Park in Shakopee and the Running Aces attract top horses. But some of the county commissioners balked, saying that an old agreement between the tracks could give Canterbury as much as 90 percent of any racino earning targeted for the two tracks. The board asked that Running Aces be given a more proportionate share.
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