Minneapolis should demand a better, fairer sharing of the costs.
The Vikings stadium debate is often framed as people who are pro-stadium vs. people who are anti-stadium.
In reality, there are people who support a new stadium and the jobs it would create but think the current financing plan unfairly relies on regressive taxation from just one city. Minneapolis looks forward to being the home of the Vikings for generations, but we need to make sure the terms of the deal are equitable.
This week the Minneapolis City Council should send the bill back to the Legislature to ask for a financing plan that spreads the cost fairly to all who value the Minnesota Vikings.
Gov. Dayton and the Vikings negotiated a stadium financing package that was good enough to pass at the Legislature, but perhaps one of the reasons they were able to come to an agreement is because they've offloaded the largest share of stadium costs onto Minneapolis.
Minneapolis' share of the stadium costs is not limited to the $150 million construction costs often mentioned. In the financing bill, the city is also responsible for interest on the construction debt, plus ongoing operating, maintenance and upgrade costs over the next 30 years.
The minimum cumulative cost to Minneapolis sales taxpayers will be $675 million, while another clause in the deal allows the subsidy to swell to $890 million. Minneapolis is being given a white elephant -- with horns.
In fact, the Vikings stadium bill has a provision to override a voter-approved amendment to the Minneapolis City Charter, which I co-authored in 1997, which requires a citywide vote if more than $10 million is spent to finance a professional sports stadium. If the state had passed a bill that was favorable to the city, there would be no need for that.
From a national perspective, this financing package is unique. Stadium deals rarely rely upon a large percentage of money from a single city. It's far more common to see NFL stadiums financed at the county level (in states with more than one NFL team) or the state level.
The current plan is often sold as a plan to reduce property taxes. But Target Center's ongoing costs will simply shift from property to sales taxes. A family with a home valued at $175,000 will see a $14.28 reduction in property taxes, while continuing to pay the highest sales taxes in the country for the next 30 years every time they eat at a local restaurant.
Target Center's debt didn't go away. In fact, the city's debt obligations for Target Center increase under the plan due to scheduled renovations. The city is contractually obligated to upgrade the arena to today's NBA standards.
The Vikings bill sets similar contractual obligations for maintenance of the Vikings stadium. We're setting ourselves up to be financial participants in two professional sports league arms races.
The tapping of citywide and downtown hospitality sales taxes for the Vikings creates another liability for the city: future upgrades to the Convention Center. Convention Center Executive Director Jeff Johnson told the City Council that the plan does not provide money for the Convention Center to remain competitive with other venues around the country.
Events at our convention center generate more hotel night stays and fill more restaurant seats than any other building in downtown Minneapolis -- so maintaining our competitiveness is critical to our city core's health.
What would a better Vikings stadium bill look like? Based on the outpouring of support from Vikings fans at the state Capitol, it's clear that fans are willing to help pay to support their team. A variety of user fee amendments got traction in the Legislature and deserve another look.
The clock isn't running out. The team won't move between now and January when the new Legislature convenes.
And the state's risky plan to use gaming revenue and sell appropriation bonds faces a huge hurdle -- approval from the Minnesota Supreme Court -- which could take an extended period of time. If the court determines that appropriation bonds are unconstitutional, the state will have to come up with a new financing plan.
Sending the bill back to the Legislature is the most responsible act the Minneapolis City Council can take to defend Minneapolis taxpayers. There are more progressive ways to fund a stadium. We deserve better.
Gary Schiff is a member of the Minneapolis City Council.
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