Stadium plan gives public less in Vikings’ sale compared to Twins’

  • Article by: MIKE KASZUBA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 21, 2012 - 8:51 AM

As part of its push for a new stadium, the Vikings want the public's share of any team sale to be based on the profit, not the overall sale price.

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This artist's rendering provided Thursday, March 1, 2012, by the Minnesota Vikings football team shows an interior view of the proposed $975 million stadium for the team nearly on top of the current Metrodome site.

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If the Minnesota Vikings get a new stadium, team owner Zygi Wilf may enjoy one benefit the late Carl Pohlad did not get when Target Field was built for his Minnesota Twins.

It all has to do with the public's share of any sale of the team after the stadium is built, a clause that was inserted initially for Target Field to give taxpayers a sense they could partially recoup the hundreds of millions they were pouring into the project.

For the Twins, the public would get as much as 18 percent of the team's overall sale price. For the Vikings, the public would get up to 18 percent of Wilf's profit from a sale -- a big difference.

The slight wording change, buried deep in the Vikings' 70-page public subsidy stadium proposal, could mean $100 million or more for Wilf. The Vikings owner paid $625 million for the team in 2005. A Forbes Magazine analysis late last year put the team's value at $796 million. That figure ranks the Vikings at the bottom of team values in the National Football League, but is almost certain to rise if a new stadium is built.

Based on that valuation, the proposed stadium deal would give the public roughly $31 million if Wilf were to sell the team shortly after the stadium was built. If, however, Wilf had to share 18 percent of the overall sale price rather than just the profit, the public would get $143 million.

Ted Mondale, Gov. Mark Dayton's chief stadium negotiator, downplayed the difference when a legislator asked about it last week at the stadium's first hearing at the State Capitol.

"Could you briefly just summarize the buyback portion if the team is sold, how what works?" asked Sen. Ray Vandeveer, R-Forest Lake, chair of the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee, which took no action on the Vikings legislation.

Mondale said the Vikings' clause regarding the public's share in a sale was "pretty close to the same language, you know, that the Pohlads struck." He told lawmakers that the clause was "a recognition that we put state investment here [and] that the state would get a buyback if there was a windfall" from the sale of the team.

Mondale said afterward that the change, which the Vikings requested, was made in part to recognize that Wilf had paid substantially more for the Vikings than Pohlad paid for the Twins. Pohlad and his partners paid $36 million for the Twins in 1984. Taxpayers contributed $350 million of the initial $480 million price tag for Target Field, which opened in 2010.

Vikings stadium proponents say the clause may be more symbolic, since it is unlikely Wilf would immediately sell the team once he got a new stadium.

"I think the chances of this being activated are very slim. So, in a way, it's really a non-issue," said Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, chief House author of the Vikings legislation. But, he said, "I think it's important that we have a provision in there where we get to claim some of the profits."

Lanning said the Vikings "argued that they should not be treated the same as the Twins because they invested $600 million." The issue, he said, was "talked about a lot."

Other uses of Vikings stadium

Mondale said another consideration was that the new $975 million Vikings stadium, unlike Target Field, would be a multi-use facility that the Vikings would pay $427 million toward but use as little as 10 days a year. Hundreds of other events would be held at the new stadium, he added. "How many public events a year are the Pohlads subsidizing at Target Field? Zero, right?" said Mondale. "Here, we got 325. So [it's] completely different."

There are other differences in the clauses for the Vikings and Twins.

In the case of Target Field, the public would get 18 percent of the overall sale price initially. But that amount drops by increments of 1.8 percent annually and reaches zero in 10 years.

For the Vikings, the public would get 18 percent of the sale profit initially, but the amount would fall by 1.2 percent annually and reach zero in 15 years.

Mike Opat, the Hennepin County Board chair who helped negotiate the Target Field legislation, said county officials felt any sale should focus "on the gross price because our position was that the public was making a significant investment here, and the appreciation [in the team's value] was going to be considerable" after a new stadium was built.

He said much of the negotiating focused on how long the public could claim a share of the team's sale -- and not necessarily whether the percentage was based on overall sale price or profit. "The county wanted a longer time," he said. "The Twins wanted something considerably shorter, and we negotiated and ended up at 10 [years]."

Twins spokesman Kevin Smith said the team would not comment on the differences between the Target Field and Vikings stadium proposals but said the Twins support a new Vikings stadium.

"Our organization realizes firsthand," he said, "that every stadium or ballpark-related public-private partnership is different."

Mike Kaszuba • 651-222-1673

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