The best plan for Vikings, at the fairest cost

  • Article by: R.T. RYBAK and BARBARA JOHNSON
  • Updated: February 13, 2012 - 6:06 PM

Minneapolis can do this using only taxes that are already collected.

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Proposed Vikings stadium site

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'No new taxes." That's the position of many at the Legislature, and of many our Minneapolis constituents who have been unfairly burdened by property taxes.

We agree. That's why we've put forward a proposal to keep the Vikings in Minnesota that is not only is the lowest-cost alternative, but requires no new state or local taxes. No other local partner can say that.

And the Minneapolis proposal doesn't only build a new Vikings stadium, it ensures the future of another important statewide asset -- Target Center -- that generates good jobs and revenue for Minnesotans.

In the last 20 years, Target Center has proven to be one of Minnesota's hardest-working economic engines: Every year, it draws more than a million visitors and creates more than $100 million in economic impact. Around 2,000 jobs depend directly or indirectly on Target Center.

It's also been a great deal for Minnesota taxpayers: It's generated more than $120 million in taxes directly to the state, for an amazing 16-to-1 return on the state's initial investment.

Now after 20 years, we have the opportunity to renovate Target Center and ensure that it keeps creating jobs and revenue for the next couple generations.

Some cities -- such as Orlando -- with arenas as old as the Target Center already have torn them down and built new ones. That's unnecessary and wasteful. Instead, we want to renovate our existing facility and make it as good as new for just one-third of the cost of a new facility.

Just as sensibly, we can revitalize what we already have by using the resources we already have, simply by repurposing sales and user taxes that are already collected in Minneapolis. No subsidy. No new state taxes. No new local taxes. No property taxes.

Like Target Center, St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center is a valuable statewide economic-development engine that is worth preserving. Before Xcel opened its doors, about 12 years after Target Center did, we questioned whether there was enough demand in our region to keep two similar facilities busy. But those questions have been answered over the past decade; we've seen that we can attract enough customers to support both facilities.

A renovated Target Center need not compete with Xcel, but we must manage these two facilities much more efficiently than we have in the past. We have proposed joint management and coordination of the two facilities, which would maximize negotiating leverage with booking agents and eliminate senseless bidding wars. Now is the time to make that change.

We need to keep Target Center and the Xcel Center vibrant and keep the economic benefits flowing from both. Joint management is an important step forward to ensuring the economic health of our region as a whole.

Remember: In proposing the renovation of the Target Center as part of our Vikings stadium package, we are asking only to use sales and user taxes that are already collected in Minneapolis. We would support a similar request by St. Paul to use its existing sales taxes to upgrade the Xcel Center.

Our Vikings stadium/Target Center solution is a terrific opportunity for Minnesota taxpayers. It not only keeps the Vikings and the jobs they create in Minnesota at the lowest cost, it revitalizes another important statewide asset that has generated an astounding 16-to-1 return on investment. It does both with no new taxes.

Our solution is also a fair deal for Minneapolis taxpayers. It takes the burden of paying Target Center's debt off the backs of Minneapolis property owners, who alone have been responsible for it, and shares it with every one of the 18 million people from around the world who visit and spend in Minneapolis every year -- again, with no new taxes.

It's a win for our city, our region and our state. It's time to get it done.

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R.T. Rybak is mayor of Minneapolis. Barbara Johnson is president of the Minneapolis City Council.

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