Stadium idea draws heat in Shakopee

  • Article by: DAVID PETERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 21, 2012 - 11:22 PM

The city's new mayor wanted a bit less stuffiness, and he got his way.

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A drawing of a proposed site in Shakopee, Minn., for a new Minnesota Vikings NFL football stadium was displayed at a news conference at the State Office Building, Thursday, Jan. 11, 2012, in St. Paul, Minn.

Photo: Jim Gehrz, Star Tribune

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Brad Tabke was elected mayor on a promise to bulldoze the brick walls separating the masses in Shakopee from the old boys club and launch a new era of wide-open debate.

If it was debate he wanted, his first major idea -- bringing a Vikings stadium to the edge of town -- proved an effective way to get it.

Reaction on social media, both pro and con, was immediate and intense. One City Council colleague accused him of acting like he was the city of Shakopee, brandishing city logos before seeking a formal expression of support. And when the council considered a resolution of support for the idea last week, it barely got the votes to pass, and not before a scathing critique from critics.

The pushback was energetic enough that one of Tabke's key allies pulled out the age card, describing himself and the 30-something mayor as "two young guys who are new to this."

Tabke seemed to enjoy it all. He cheerfully retweeted -- meaning zapped out to all his Twitter followers -- a sports columnist's dismissal of the whole enterprise as "grandstanding."

"Someone put together a 'no Shakopee stadium' Twitter and I retweeted that, too," he said late Friday. "I represent all the citizens, and I don't see myself as just promoting my things. It's important to make sure all the voices are out there."

By the end of last week, Gov. Mark Dayton had thrown ice water over the whole idea. A local government's refusal to put any of its own money into the deal but instead rely on winnings from a racino that might or might not ever be approved, he said, is not much of a promise.

"Even if it were to pass, several years of litigation in federal courts should be expected. Proceeds from racinos could not provide the assured revenue stream to back state-issued bonds until that litigation was resolved."

Tabke also learned that the flair he had shown in campaigning, in colorfully volleying lob after lob at a stodgy status quo, was not a talent he alone possessed.

Council Member Steve Clay seemed to relish the chance, on cable television and with a television news team present, to describe the whole business as little more than "Magic Markers on an aerial photo," as "guesstimates on the back of a Perkins napkin" and as "political pixie dust."

Even newly elected council ally Jay Whiting, who did provide a supporting vote on a 3-2 decision to go along with the idea, expressed concern that the mayor ran with the idea before running it past the council.

"The process was a little backwards, I guess. That it had to go down the way it did was unfortunate."

Tabke and Shakopee resident Cory Merrifield, founder of Savethevikes.org, countered that a deadline was looming and that there's no harm in becoming an option, at least, in a process that has bounced around from site to site for years without settling on anything that's free from issues.

"The Vikings haven't agreed to come to the site yet," Merrifield said, "but five weeks ago they wouldn't return [Minneapolis] Mayor Rybak's calls" -- yet by last week a site in that city seemed the leading bet.

Tabke called it "a beginning point."

"There's nothing committed to by the city," he said. "There's nothing the city must do. It's a starting point. Really big plans and ideas get done every day throughout the country. This is something that I believe we are up to. It's not perfect all the time or easy, but we as a city have the wherewithal to get this done and move it forward."

Think of the fix at Hwy. 169 and Interstate 494, he said: how huge that loomed and how it did get done. Without that fix, "we wouldn't be in the game in the slightest, it wouldn't make sense, but that's one hurdle crossed for us."

By the end of the week, he was upbeat, saying people are stopping him on the street to express support.

"Everything everyone said [at the council meeting] was extremely valid," he said. "I wish we'd had more time, but there was nothing I could control in the slightest: Everything was moving way too fast. But it's been an exciting process and I've met a lot of great people."

David Peterson • 952-746-3285

  • A NEW WAY TO SEE THE MEETINGS

    • Shakopee is now posting videos of its meetings on YouTube.

    • The Web address is www.youtube.com/user/CityofShakopeeMN

    • Going to Shakopee's own site, www.ci.shakopee.mn.us, offers the advantage of clicking to any agenda item. But YouTube users can scroll through the meeting fairly easily, and there's less concern about computer server space at City Hall.

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