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A new stadium would be built on the eastern edge of downtown Minneapolis, next to the Metrodome. But time is short to pass such a bill.

Jim Gehrz, Star Tribune

Senator says Target Center is in Vikings stadium bill, 'but it isn’t’

  • Article by: MIKE KASZUBA
  • Star Tribune
  • March 7, 2012 - 6:32 AM

The Minnesota Vikings stadium bill that was promised for Monday is being delayed in part by a politically tricky move to find a way to include financial relief for the Minneapolis-owned Target Center.

Negotiators are looking at a package of two legislative proposals -- both of which would need to be adopted -- in order to gain the votes needed for the $975 million project.

Ted Mondale, Gov. Mark Dayton's point man on the stadium, said on Tuesday that one plan would adopt the details of last week's agreement but would give Minneapolis express authority to use existing taxes to overhaul Target Center. The other proposal would give the city an exemption from its charter provision capping spending on sports facilities at $10 million. That exemption would allow the city to actually undertake a $135 million remodeling of the aging Target Center.

Chuck Lutz, the city's top development director, said Minneapolis needs both provisions before it would agree to divert $150 million of existing taxes toward building a new stadium.

A week after Dayton and Vikings owner Zygi Wilf triumphantly announced a stadium agreement, the maneuvering is emblematic of the complexities surrounding the controversial project and, in this case, a sign of the hand-wringing over how to satisfy two important but competing interests. Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak says he cannot win a City Council vote for a Vikings stadium without financial help for Target Center. But some legislators have made it clear they will not back a Vikings stadium that includes anything for Target Center.

For stadium negotiators, the trick has become linking the new stadium and the 22-year-old Target Center to satisfy city officials -- while making them appear unlinked for skeptical lawmakers.

The strategy has become so intricate that Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, the chief Senate author of stadium legislation, said on Tuesday that she is still unsure whether she would sponsor two proposals or have another legislator lead one of the efforts to make them appear separate.

"There's some [legislation] drafting challenges right now -- and that's one of them -- whether we can just go ahead and roll that into the original bill." But, she said, the two complicated issues may require "a whole different set of authors and votes."

Asked whether Target Center was part of the Viking stadium proposal, Rosen said: "It is, but it isn't."

Rosen acknowledged that ultimately, both issues need to be linked. "It's an understanding that this is part of the end deal," she said.

As construction industry workers rallied Tuesday at the State Capitol wearing Vikings purple and gold buttons that read "Build It," stadium negotiators continued to fine-tune the bill language, with a new goal of introducing legislation later this week or early next week.

There were indications as well that officials are wrestling with whether the state needs a backup funding plan. Last week's agreement calls for the state to fund its $398 million contribution through electronic pulltabs in bars and restaurants, but some have raised questions about whether pulltabs will generate that level of revenue.

Drama will intensify

With the GOP-led Legislature still squishy on the stadium and aiming for a possible mid-April adjournment, the political drama could consume the coming weeks.

Mondale said the main stadium legislation will make clear that no state money would go to remodeling Target Center. The same proposal would, he said, give the city clear authority to divert taxes from the Minneapolis Convention Center to Target Center.

But stadium negotiators will attempt to walk a fine line regarding the city charter's $10 million cap on sports facility spending.

Mondale said the cap, while perhaps applying to a Target Center remodeling and requiring specific legislation to circumvent, does not apply to the city's $150 million contribution to building a Vikings stadium. That money is collected and spent by the state, he said, and would be funneled through the state and its newly created stadium authority.

Betsy Hodges, a Minneapolis City Council member opposed to public subsidies for stadiums, said the two-bill strategy amounts to a smoke-and-mirrors attempt to get enough votes for a controversial project.

"Why is it any different to have one bill, or two bills, that are ostensibly tied together?" she asked. "That's a distinction without a difference."

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Mike Kaszuba • 651-222-1673

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