Agreement on a Vikings stadium bill must be reached by the end of next week to have a chance of being considered in a special legislative session later this month, two key stadium backers said Wednesday.
"Time is very short right now," said Rep. Morrie Lanning, the Moorhead Republican and bill sponsor in the House. "I would say by sometime later next week we're going to have to have things pretty well pinned down to have sufficient time to prepare."
Ted Mondale, chair of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, said legislators will want to hold special hearings and analyze the bill before they feel comfortable voting for it.
"We need to have a proposal ready that everyone agrees on, two weeks before a special session would be," he said. "We need something put together by the middle of next week to vet it out so that we're ready to go."
The big hurdle, he said, remains how to finance $131 million the Minnesota Department of Transportation insists is needed to improve and build nearby freeways and roads to handle increased stadium traffic.
That money hasn't been accounted for in the bill, a $1.1 billion project to build a retractable-roof stadium on the site of a former munitions plant in Arden Hills.
The Vikings want to plug the $131 million gap with a new transportation funding plan they've been shopping among state leaders and hope to have ready by next week.
"We've had decent feedback from legislators, but it's not ready yet to be drafted or amended into the bill," said Lester Bagley, the team's vice president in charge of stadium development.
Mondale and Lanning assume a special session will be held before the end of the state's fiscal year on June 30 so legislators and Gov. Mark Dayton can close the state's budget deficit before having to shut down government services.
Vikings: a new road game
The Vikings have pledged $407 million toward the Arden Hills stadium. Ramsey County would contribute $350 million financed by a half-percent sales tax. The state would kick in $300 million raised through a variety of fees and taxes paid by those benefiting from the stadium.
Dayton says the state's contribution won't grow. Ramsey County Commissioner Tony Bennett said the county also reached its limit.
That leaves the Vikings, who are circulating a "user-based finance model" including parking surcharges for special stadium events and sales tax revenue that wouldn't occur but for the stadium.
Bagley said it doesn't touch general fund or MnDOT dollars.
"It captures incremental increases in revenue at and near the stadium, and through transportation-related revenues," he said. Other possible funding sources being explored, he said, are federal Technical Assistance to Brownfields (TAB) grants and the state interchange fund that targets economic development.
Bagley said the money would be used to pay off Ramsey County-issued revenue bonds. County Finance Director Lee Mehrkens said officials are looking at site-specific revenue streams to pay back the bonds, "additional sales taxes [that] could be generated at that site above and beyond what is raised at the Metrodome site."
Items that would be subject to the sales tax include tickets, merchandise, concessions and parking, he said.
The Vikings and negotiators also are looking at possible stadium-related surcharges to pay for the roads. But Lanning questioned whether MnDOT wasn't overestimating what was needed.
"I find it hard to believe that it's really necessary for another $131 million beyond what's programmed up there" already, Lanning said, referring to contracted projects already slated for the Arden Hills area.
Rep. Michael Beard, R-Shakopee, chair of the House Transportation Policy and Finance Committee, also is skeptical of the MnDOT figures.
"Given the history of the site and the fact that it moves about 100,000 cars a day, Monday through Friday, how is a Sunday afternoon going to be any different?" he asked. "We want to have [MnDOT] in front of us and explain themselves."
Sen. Joe Gimse, R-Willmar, who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee, said he met with Bagley Tuesday and reviewed the Vikings' road plan. "They're working on it and they're keeping in touch," he said. "What they really need is something complete. There's a lot of pieces there but nothing firm."
Charter commission action
Meanwhile Wednesday night, the Ramsey County Charter Commission approved a resolution opposing a countywide sales tax without an opportunity for voters to reject it.
The commission's action was mostly symbolic. The Legislature could approve such a sales tax on its own, without a County Board vote. The board also could approve a sales tax by resolution.
Mondale, a former state senator, said Dayton wants a stadium deal now because "if you wait a year, the costs will go up about $50 million and the opportunity to do this lessens in an election year."