Three-fourth of new Vikings stadium seats to carry one-time fees

  • Article by: RICHARD MERYHEW , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 4, 2013 - 8:28 PM

Season-ticket holders will pay an extra $500 to $10,000 licensing fee.

The Minnesota Vikings’ most loyal fans will pay an average of $2,500 above the cost of a season ticket just to secure choice seats in the team’s new stadium, under an agreement approved Thursday by the public board overseeing the project.

Personal seat license fees, which are often used to help build or restore NFL stadiums, were part of lease and development agreements OK’d by the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, which is supervising construction of the $975 million multipurpose venue.

The team and authority agreed to attach a one-time fee to 75 percent of the seats in the 65,000-seat stadium, charging season-ticket holders anywhere from $500 to $10,000, depending on the seat. The remainder of the seats, including some held by season-ticket holders, would not carry such fees.

The agreements, which took months to complete, commit the Vikings to downtown Minneapolis for the next 30 years while spelling out details of how the team and the authority will split stadium operating costs and revenues.

The seat-license fees, however, were the most controversial piece of the contracts. They have drawn sharp criticism in the past from Gov. Mark Dayton, who boisterously campaigned for the venue he has called the “People’s Stadium.”

In a letter last month to Michele Kelm-Helgen, the authority chairwoman, Dayton urged the authority to keep fees to an “absolute minimum.”

“As far as I’m concerned, personally, $1 for a personal seat license is $1 too much,” he said Thursday.

About 80 percent of the seats where fees will apply will be charged $3,000 or less. Owners of the seats have up to three years to pay the fee without interest.

“There’s a lot more at the bottom end than the top end,” Kelm-Helgen said. She said Thursday that the team initially sought as much as $200 million in license fees.

The fees are projected to generate $100 million of the $477 million the Vikings are expected to pay for construction. The state and the city of Minneapolis are picking up the rest.

The team’s portion also includes a $150 million loan and a $50 million grant from the NFL. The rest will come from team cash and loans, Kelm-Helgen said.

“For most Minnesotans, this will look like a questionable deal because the economics of professional sports are questionable all over this country,” Dayton said, addressing the issue before the board meeting. “But we had to make a deal and we had to get the owners of the team to agree to a deal.

“I think this is a good deal,” he added. “And I think it’ll look a lot better in a year when thousands of Minnesotans are working on it.”

Such fees have been used by 17 of the NFL’s 32 franchises. Fees vary based on seat location and the team’s market.

They have generated more than $400 million at new stadiums in San Francisco and New York and more than $500 million in Dallas.

Groundbreaking ahead

The authority’s approval of the agreements paves the way for construction to begin this fall.

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  • Gov. Mark Dayton was opposed to seat fees, but he acknowledged Thursday that “that’s the business of professional football.”

  • Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority chair Michele Kelm-Helgen talked about the final agreements for the Vikings stadium during a press conference in Minneapolis, Minn., on Thursday, October 3, 2013. At her left is Ted Mondale, executive director of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority.

  • Governor Mark Dayton spoke about the stadium during a press conference in Minneapolis, Minn., on Thursday, October 3, 2013. ] (RENEE JONES SCHNEIDER • reneejones@startribune.com)

  • Ted Mondale, executive director of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority talked about the final agreements for the Vikings stadium during a press conference in Minneapolis, Minn., on Thursday, October 3, 2013. At right is Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority chair Michele Kelm-Helgen . ] (RENEE JONES SCHNEIDER • reneejones@startribune.com)

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