Push for new Vikings stadium advances quietly

Lobbyists say several big companies pledged money for the effort. But the issue is touchy for businesses.

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Mall of America Field at the Metrodome

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Executives of several major Twin Cities companies are expected to announce as soon as this week their support for a new Vikings stadium.

Business lobbyists and others said this week that several companies have pledged $25,000 or more apiece toward the advocacy effort. However, it's not believed that the business executives will endorse a specific site or financing proposal.

U.S. Bancorp CEO Richard Davis and Ecolab CEO Doug Baker, who emerged in December as stadium proponents, declined to comment on a business initiative this week. Jon Campbell, a regional Wells Fargo executive who has been involved, also declined to comment. They represent the Minnesota Business Partnership, the lobby for the state's 100 largest businesses.

Ted Mondale, Gov. Mark Dayton's stadium czar, last month challenged the business community to get more engaged in the process. But the issue is touchy for businesses. There is no consensus on a new Vikings stadium in the business community, and residents remain deeply divided over how much financing should come from local and state governments.

Several Twin Cities sports stadiums including the Metrodome, Target Field and the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul are owned by the public and financed largely by local sales taxes, ticket taxes and team contributions.

Dayton has yet to weigh in on a solution, although he has said any Vikings stadium can't tap the state's annual operating budget; must require a significant contribution from the team; serve multiple purposes, similar to the Metrodome, and that the public benefit must be linked to public expenditure.

This week, Republicans, who control the Minnesota Legislature, proposed a site-less stadium bill that would permit the stadium host community to increase sales taxes to help pay for the stadium.

That bill would require the Vikings to pay at least one-third of the capital costs. The state's contribution, up to $300 million, would come from naming rights revenue; user taxes; a pro football player income tax surcharge, and a Vikings lottery game. Local governments could levy a sales tax of up to a half cent, as well as separate entertainment, lodging, liquor, food and beverage taxes.

In an interview with the Star Tribune Editorial Board last winter, Davis and Baker emphasized that having an NFL franchise is important to the economic health of Minnesota, and that losing the Vikings is a legitimate possibility without a stadium solution.

"You only miss something when it's gone," Davis said. "You can theorize all you want. To have a first-class NFL franchise is very important to the economic viability and growth of this region."

Neal St. Anthony • 612-673-7144

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