Patrick Reusse: Chances for stadium funding roll right past Vikings

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 8, 2008 - 3:37 PM

Arts gets $50 million in a 2008 election that passed the team by.

Stadiumland is a dank, frightening place filled with carcasses and much debris. Transportation doesn't come along frequently. If you're on the side of the road and a Ford Focus stops, you better climb in and not wait for a Bentley.

The cheaper ride stopped in May 2006 and representatives of the Minnesota Twins jammed themselves in the back seat. Their counterparts with the Vikings hemmed and hawed and decided to wait for a classier ride.

The Twins took the less-expensive alternative, and now they will be moving into a new stadium for 2010. It will be lacking several items the Twins would've preferred -- particularly a convertible top -- but they have pimped it out nicely and visitors will be impressed.

The Vikings passed on their ride in the Ford compact because it was headed to Anoka County. They still were standing out there in Stadiumland on Tuesday night when the Bentley finally showed and blew right past them.

This came in the form of the Clean Water, Wildlife, Cultural Heritage and Natural Areas Amendment. Minnesotans approved a hefty increase of .375 percent in the sales tax.

Two-thirds (almost $200 million annually) of the money will be earmarked for habitat and clean water -- clearly noble pursuits. There's another $100 million for the boondoggle of nature areas and funding for the arts.

You can't turn around in this state without stumbling onto a park or nature trail. And 19.75 percent -- more than $50 million -- for the arts should cause all underemployed Minnesotans to start working on their drawings of stick men.

Actually, Mrs. Reusse can paint a nice landscape and has long expressed the desire for a small art studio. The State Arts Board can go ahead and send the check to me here at the office. Ten grand ought to cover it.

Why did the Vikings not latch onto this sweet ride? Why does maintaining the presence of the Vikings with a new stadium not qualify for a nice hunk of the "cultural heritage" set-aside?

"The people behind the amendment did not want sports included," said Bill Lester, the executive director of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission. "They didn't think sports could help bring the votes."

What we're going to have here in a couple of years will be the only urban area in the world without a starving artist.

Fifty million bucks! Get a camera, a paintbrush, a mound of wet clay. Find an empty storefront, a makeshift stage, a few folding chairs and get some friends to learn to properly use "forsook."

Do any of these things and then wait for the checks to start arriving in 2010.

As for the Vikings:

"I think Tuesday was a very bad day for them," said a prominent Twin Cities politician requesting anonymity. "This amendment raised the state sales tax to 6.875 percent.

"In Hennepin County, there's another .25 percent for transportation and .15 percent for the ballpark. There's also an extra half-percent in Minneapolis and St. Paul. There are no options left to get a billion-dollar stadium with the metro area alone.

"It's going to take statewide funding. And I don't see Minnesotans voting to raise their taxes again, not after just hitting themselves with .375 percent."

The sports commission gave a contract to HKS -- the architectural firm that designed the new stadium in Indianapolis -- in late September to study the possibilities of saving part of the Metrodome structure and cutting costs.

"We have to try to cut costs, but we're also not going to be part of a project that gives Minnesota no option for a climate-controlled stadium," Lester said.

"There have been no hints to us that the Vikings are looking for other options for after the lease expires in 2011. I see the Vikings as fully committed to Minnesota and to this site." 

So, let's say HKS can cut the cost -- say to $850 million. That still leaves a minimum of $600 million in public financing -- and from what source?

"There's nothing out there right now," Lester said. "There's no magic bullet."

A possible solution for funding went past the Vikings like a speeding bullet on Tuesday night, again leaving them standing on the side of that lonely road in Stadiumland.

 Patrick Reusse can be heard weekdays on AM-1500 KSTP at 6:45 and 7:45 a.m. and 4:40 p.m. • preusse@startribune.com

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