A key House GOP committee chair said Friday that legislators may turn to the Minnesota Vikings and Hennepin County as part of a plan to back up charitable gaming money being used to finance the team's new stadium.
Rep. Joe Hoppe, R-Chaska, chairman of the House Commerce and Regulatory Reform Committee, said lawmakers hope to piece together three to five funding sources in case money from electronic bingo and pulltabs does not produce enough revenue to cover the state's $398 million share of the $975 million stadium.
While he stressed that no decisions have been made, Hoppe said options include excess Hennepin County sales tax money being collected to pay for the Twins' Target Field, which opened in 2010. He said other options include asking the Vikings -- who would contribute $427 million toward the stadium -- for more money, and possibly adding more Minneapolis Convention Center tax money and even State Lottery funds.
The plan to build a new Vikings stadium in downtown Minneapolis has been stalled in part by doubts that allowing electronic bingo and pulltabs in bars and restaurants would produce enough money to fund the state's stadium share. Legislators have resisted using the state's general fund as a backup.
Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, chief House author of the stadium legislation, declined to confirm or deny that any of the funding sources are being considered, but said that almost all of the suggested backup funding plans have critics.
Both the Vikings and Hennepin County Board Chairman Mike Opat objected Friday to having the team or the county serve as a backup to the state's stadium contribution.
Hennepin County approved a 0.15 percent sales tax increase to help fund the Twins ballpark, and revenues from the tax also are used to fund youth sports programs and expand library hours. Excess money from the county sales tax is used to pay down the ballpark's debt.
Minneapolis already has pledged to contribute $150 million toward building the stadium and another $189 million for operating costs, with the money coming from diverting local sales tax money now paying for the city's Convention Center.
Vikings spokesman Lester Bagley declined to comment on whether the team might be tapped to back up the state contribution, but said the Vikings would oppose such a tactic.
Staff writer Kevin Duchschere contributed to this report. Mike Kaszuba • 651-925-5045