Vikings say no to new Ramsey County plan

  • Article by: ROCHELLE OLSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 11, 2012 - 1:08 AM

Team called the earlier proposals for Arden Hills site "more viable."

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Minnesota Vikings owners Zygi, center, and Mark Wilf, right,with Ramsey County Commissioner Tony Bennett in May in Arden Hills.

Photo: Jim Mone, Associated Press

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The Minnesota Vikings rejected Ramsey County's revamped stadium financing plan on Friday, making that three strikes for the county's attempts regarding the prospective Arden Hills site.

"Our view is the earlier proposals were more viable," Vikings vice president Lester Bagley said after Ramsey County officials presented their new plan to Gov. Mark Dayton.

Previous plans relied on countywide sales, food and beverage tax increases to fund the local share of the $1.1 billion stadium in Arden Hills. Legislators disliked the tax increases, so Ramsey County officials drew up a "user-fee" concept in their third effort.

As the Vikings swatted away Ramsey County's proposal, Dayton knocked the intransigence of the Minneapolis City Council majority. The one-two blows left major players staggering in the fight to approve the massive project during this legislative session.

Bagley praised Ramsey County's persistence, but quickly pivoted to say he is focused on trying to get a workable plan for the site near the Metrodome. Until now, Vikings officials have maintained that Arden Hills was their preferred site.

Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead and a big stadium supporter, warned the Vikings Friday about getting too fixated on who gets what.

"The Vikings have been trying to capture every bit of revenue they can, but we've made it clear they might have to accept less than they had hoped for, so in my mind that's not a deal-breaker," Lanning said of the Ramsey County plan. He added that the state is likely to have to put up more than the $300 million that Dayton has said is the ceiling.

Dayton took no position on the substance of the Ramsey County plan. He gave the county policymakers credit for being "straightforward" and for teaming with the Vikings on a "solid financial plan" from the beginning.

That, he said, was "in marked contrast to Minneapolis," where he and Mayor R.T. Rybak have struggled to build momentum for a Metrodome site against resistance from much of the City Council.

"You can't even get a letter from the City Council saying they support a stadium," Dayton said Friday. "They just sit on the sidelines carping."

Seven of the 13 Minneapolis council members have said they oppose a public subsidy for a stadium. Council President Barbara Johnson and Rybak are working with Dayton and the team.

Dayton said he could understand why the Vikings wanted to head to Ramsey County rather than Minneapolis. The governor said the plan for a site near the Metrodome can't go forward without council support, including a letter from City Hall that he called "essential for assurance Minneapolis is behind" a stadium.

Schiff tells Dayton to wait

Minneapolis Council Member Gary Schiff said his constituents "don't support subsidies for a professional sports stadium. And they certainly don't support the financing plan that's been presented to date."

Schiff said that rather than criticize, Dayton should wait for Minneapolis to revise its plan and close a financing gap. "I believe the governor has set up the dynamic of pitting local communities against each other by requiring a local match," Schiff said. "And the Legislature has yet to find financing for their share. So I put this back on the governor to reset the terms."

Ramsey County's new plan would raise $5.4 million in parking fees from non-game events and $2 million in naming rights to parking lots. A 3 percent admissions surcharge would be included.

Bagley said the team needs the parking fees for operational costs and he said the ticket surcharge specifically was ruled out in the initial county deal. "We'll continue to work with them on it," he said, adding that the team likes some of the possibilities in the plan, such as property tax collections.

The new plan is presumed to raise $20.6 million a year beginning with $16.3 million in 2016 and growing to $25.5 million in 2045, when the county will have paid off its portion of the project. The total costs are $1.1 billion. The plan would have the Vikings contributing $425 million, with $350 million from the state.

The plan would collect hospitality taxes from not just the stadium but the entire 430-acre site. Those taxes include food, beverage, sales and lodging in whatever development occurs. The Vikings' initial deal with the county included not just the stadium, but hotel, retail and entertainment growth on the rest of the site. New revenue from sales and business property taxes at the site would be used to upgrade surrounding roads. The county would assume the cost of land acquisition and remediation.

Ramsey County Commissioner Tony Bennett said he envisioned selling businesses the rights to parking sectors so fans could park their cars in perhaps the 3M, Medtronic or Red Bull lot. "It's a game-changer, it's very different from the first two proposals," Bennett said.

The stadium would sit on 260 acres of the site. Vikings owner Zygi Wilf would have an option to develop 170 surrounding acres.

"There's going to have to be a give and take and willingness to compromise," Lanning said.

Staff Writer Eric Roper contributed to this report.

Rochelle Olson • 651-925-5035 Twitter: @rochelleolson

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