There is a lot of pessimism about the possibility of getting a Vikings stadium bill passed in the current Legislature. But Gov. Mark Dayton made it clear he still believes there is a chance of something happening when I talked 1-on-1 with him a few days ago.
The governor believes the stadium bill introduced in the Legislature is "a good start, a necessary beginning."
He added: "It leaves a lot to find out, if we're going to go the same as we did with the Metrodome, set up a commission to decide where to locate it, or is one of the proposals going to emerge as the most cost-effective one of them?
"I think once they crunch the numbers, you know the cost of the different possible stadiums and locations, we'll have a better idea of which ones fit the economic picture or not. I think it's possible; I haven't crunched the numbers. But to put together a deal where, basically, in addition to the Vikings contribution, you have the bonds that are issued that are paid off by the users of the stadium, a surcharge on the tickets, on the luxury suites, on the beverages and then souvenirs; then you have the naming rights; then you add in what they did in Phoenix, where they had a surcharge on the hotels and on the rental cars."
Dayton points out most of the cars rented in Minnesota are done so by out-of-state visitors and most of the people renting from within the state are on some kind of corporate account.
"There's a way we could have people outside the state of Minnesota pay off a portion of the bonds for the stadium," he said. "I think we can structure a deal in such a way that there's little or no cost in terms of any kind of sales tax or whatever. That ought to be our goal: no general fund money. Paid off by the users of the stadium, people who benefit from the stadium."
Dayton also has an idea involving a lottery for seats.
"We ought to add about 10,000 seats and make those available to people throughout Minnesota at reduced prices," he said. "Put them in a lottery for Vikings tickets and a certain number of seats every game are sold in packages of four that are affordable for people in Alexandria or Thief River Falls or Wadena, to bring their families for four seats. It'd be a thrill of a lifetime for a lot of people who follow the Vikings and never get to go to the games."
While the Wilf family, owners of the Vikings, favors an open-air stadium on the Metrodome site because of cost, Dayton -- like he has said before -- sees no chance of passing a bill without a roof. As for the sites, the downtown businessmen and Hennepin County Commissioner Mike Opat favor the Minneapolis Farmers Market.
"I think you have to have a roof so you can use it year-round. I think that's the only project that really makes sense, and the broader economic benefits," Dayton said.
Move would be travesty
Dayton obviously doesn't want to see the Vikings leave, for Southern California or anywhere else.
"I certainly would hate to see the Los Angeles Vikings along with the Los Angeles Lakers. It would just be a travesty," he said. "It's also what makes us a big-league city. You and I can go back to when the Metrodome was built, that was controversial. [But] here you have had, for that public investment ... two World Series; one Super Bowl; all the athletics, college, high school and amateur; and rollerblading, Rolling Stone concerts and monster truck matches; and all the other uses of that major downtown facility. [It's] been a phenomenal economic return.
"... Like you said, there's a lot more use to this stadium than the Vikings. There's a lot of jobs involved, all the benefits. It just would be very short-sighted to turn the other way. Now we have a budget. Yes I agree, that's the No. 1 priority, but the Legislature is able to do more than one thing at a time, and to their credit, they do."
As for what happens from here, Dayton said: "I'm optimistic. Where there's a will, there's a way. They talk about quality of life ... there's studies that show that people decide where they're going to locate and start their businesses based on more than just taxes. They're based on some of the amenities that we have like the Guthrie or the Walker and like the Vikings and the Twins. So to give up one of those and have a headline be that you lose a team would be a terrible blight for our cities and our state and just a real disappointment to so many thousands of fans all over Minnesota."
• With more metro public transportation plans in the works, there are plans to build a big train station on the 5th Street side of Target Field and tear down the building across from the Ford Building, a move that would also give the Twins some more room.
• Bill Lester, head of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, which runs the Metrodome, said it was good news that the Vikings don't play their first exhibition game until Aug. 26, "which means there is no doubt the roof will be all set by that time." No doubt the Vikings requested to the NFL to play their first two exhibition games on the road. Lester said 20 of the 106 panels on the roof have already been replaced. "We've had requests from people in 10 states who are anxious to get pieces of the roof," he said. Lester also noted a person who had somehow acquired a piece of the roof is trying to sell it on eBay. The starting bid is for $450, but as of Thursday no one had made an offer.
• Twins outfield prospect Joe Benson is off to a good start at Class AA New Britain with a .393 average, a home run and six RBI in seven games. He had two hits Wednesday night, as did Rock Cats teammate Chris Parmelee, who is hitting .333. ... Kyle Gibson, considered the top Twins pitching prospect, gave up three runs and seven hits in three inning in his opening start for Class AAA Rochester. ... According to Baseball America, the Kansas City Royals, who split the two games here, have more good future major league prospects than any team in baseball and they also have the lowest payroll in baseball at $36 million.
• Former Gophers standout Tom Lehman is having a great year of golf. The 1996 British Open champion is first on the Champions Tour money list, having made the cut in all four tournaments he has appeared in, including victories at the Allianz Championship in Boca Raton, Fla., in February and the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic in Biloxi earlier this month. He has earned just over $718,000 on the Champions Tour this year. On the PGA Tour, Lehman has made the cut in both his events this year, with a high finish of a tie for 13th at the Mayakoba Golf Classic in February in Mexico.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. • firstname.lastname@example.org