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Continued: If public helps fund new stadium, gambling is top choice

  • Article by: JIM RAGSDALE , Star Tribune
  • Last update: November 8, 2011 - 5:49 AM

Minnesotans much prefer using new forms of gambling revenue to pay for a new Vikings stadium instead of higher taxes, a Star Tribune Minnesota Poll has found.

The poll showed widespread public support for everything from a state lottery scratch-off game to slots at horse-racing tracks and electronic pulltabs in bars and restaurants.

Meanwhile, the Vikings' choice for a stadium site -- the old Army ammunition plant in Arden Hills -- appears to be less popular. A location in Minneapolis was preferred by a 45 percent of poll respondents; 37 percent preferred Arden Hills, with the rest undecided or not answering. Nearly 40 percent of those polled said any of the proposed sites in Minneapolis are acceptable, although the Metrodome site is the first choice among the three.

One clear finding: Minnesotans don't want to see the Vikings leave. About 67 percent said that keeping the team in the state is important.

The poll of 807 adults statewide was conducted Nov. 2-3 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

The poll also showed growing support for the use of public funds for a new stadium, although a majority still opposes any public subsidy. Fifty-six percent of those polled opposed using public money while 37 percent favored it. Last May, a Minnesota Poll showed 74 percent opposed to public subsidies and 22 percent in favor.

"It's encouraging to see growing public support for keeping the Vikings in Minnesota, and the support for the funding options is encouraging,'' Gov. Mark Dayton said in response to the poll findings.

Donna Herdsman counts herself among the opponents. "Football is a rich man's sport, way too costly for the people in Parkers Prairie to attend a Vikings game,'' said Herdsman, who lives in the small community near Alexandria.

But Brad Carlson of south Minneapolis said the team is an important part of the state's fabric. "When you talk about the Minnesota Vikings, it's like, our state bird is the loon, or 10,000 lakes,'' he said.

And many residents say using gambling money is the best way to help build a stadium. In order of popularity (respondents were allowed to say "yes" or "no" to each option), 81 percent supported a Minnesota Lottery Vikings scratch-off game to help pay for the stadium, followed by 72 percent who liked the idea of "racino" video gambling at horse-racing tracks. Electronic pulltabs in bars and restaurants were favored by 70 percent, while 60 percent said they could support a casino in downtown Minneapolis.

A statewide 2-cent-per-drink tax on alcohol, proposed by St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, was favored more narrowly at 53 to 46 percent.

Arden Hills vs. Minneapolis

Of the Minneapolis stadium sites, 38 percent said any one of the three is fine. The next largest group, 31 percent, want the stadium built on the site of the Metrodome, where the team has played since 1982. The Farmers Market site near Target Field came in second at 13 percent.

The newest proposed site, land near the Basilica of St. Mary, garnered only 2 percent support. (The Star Tribune owns land near the Metrodome site and its value could be affected by the stadium decision.)

Ramsey County Commissioner Tony Bennett, who has teamed with the Vikings to promote the Arden Hills site, said "most people haven't seen the site,'' and yet it is favored by season ticket-holders. Dayton said he doesn't think citizens or legislators have enough information yet to make a site decision.

While Dayton and leading legislators only recently dropped their insistence that local governments provide any public share of stadium funding, the public leans toward statewide funding, with 47 percent saying the money should come from statewide revenues. Another 40 percent said the host city or county should pay any public share.

The idea floated recently of using Legacy funds, which are dedicated to projects benefitting the environment, arts and cultural heritage, was shot down by the poll respondents -- 77 percent opposed using Legacy funds for a stadium, compared to 21 percent in favor.

Men are far more accepting of public funding for a stadium than women, the poll showed -- 46 percent of men in favor, versus only 27 percent of women.

Support for public funding also grows with income: Among those making more than $75,000, more people support public funding (47 percent) than oppose it (43 percent). Among age groups, those over 65 were most likely to oppose public funding for a stadium, while those between 35 and 44 were most likely to be supportive.

"I've always been a fan, my family also," said Christine Thompson of Farmington, who favors a public subsidy. The Vikings, she said, are "part of growing up here. They're a source of revenue and a symbol of our state.''

The percentage of those who believe the host city or county should pay the public share of stadium funding is lower in Hennepin and Ramsey counties, where such taxes would be most likely to be assessed, than elsewhere. In those two counties, only 33 percent said the local host should pay, compared to 38 percent among residents of other metro counties and 46 percent among respondents from the rest of the state.

Views on the stadium location also varied depending on where the respondents live and by gender. Among those in the suburbs outside of Hennepin and Ramsey counties, 54 percent favor Arden Hills. Men between ages 45 and 64 slightly preferred Arden Hills to Minneapolis, while women and adults under 35 preferred Minneapolis.

The issue continues to excite strong feelings.

James Richert of Mora feels the team is a resource "for everybody to enjoy. ... They've been part of our state for a very long time." He said using some tax or gambling revenues would be appropriate and he prefers Arden Hills to downtown Minneapolis.

"It's easier to get to,'' he said. "Downtown is just so cluttered, you go to a game, there's no place to park.''

Jill Crosby of Shakopee once was a Vikings fan but says the team now seems less connected to the community. "The millionaires that play the games, and the uber-millionaires that make money on concession and television rights and advertising ... they should be able to pay their own way,'' she said.

Jim Ragsdale • 651-925-5042

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