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The National Football League's owners adopted a revised stadium loan program Wednesday that could provide up to $200 million toward a Minnesota Vikings stadium, welcome news for the team although the project's overall financing remains uncertain.
The vote, at an owners' meeting in Texas, brought additional clarity to where the Vikings would get the team's $425 million contribution for a proposed $1.1 billion stadium. That plan is awaiting state and local approval amid heavy political infighting.
The new loan program was the latest effort by Vikings owner Zygi Wilf's fellow NFL owners to push a new stadium forward.
"We're not guaranteed to get all $200 million," said Lester Bagley, Vikings vice president for stadium development and public affairs. The loan amount, according to NFL documents released Wednesday, would depend on the total cost of a new stadium and the team owner's personal contribution.
Wilf has pledged the team would contribute $425 million, but has not specified how much would come from his personal fortune, team operations or league financing.
The team wants to build a new stadium in Ramsey County's Arden Hills and have taxpayers subsidize $650 million of the project. The stadium needs legislative approval in Minnesota and state and local officials have yet to decide on a site or a public funding plan.
But the new loan program, coupled with the NFL's announcement Wednesday that it had extended its major network television contract through 2022 at a hefty increase, was welcome news for the team. Team and state officials had been closely monitoring the NFL as it restructured a long-time loan program for stadium construction. The league's new TV deal calls for CBS, NBC and Fox to pay an average of about $3 billion a year for the right to carry games, starting in 2014 -- about 50 percent over current rates.
Earlier, state officials said they privately estimated Wilf might bring $225 million or less of his own to the project, depending on the size of an NFL loan that would be repaid by stadium revenue from visiting teams, sale of personal seat licenses, parking revenue and stadium naming rights money.
League officials, while visiting the State Capitol in October, said the new program could provide up to $150 million towards a Vikings stadium.
After Wednesday's owner's meeting, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told reporters the new loan program, known as G-4, was "much improved" over the league's previous loan program and would provide "additional money that will be available based on the private contribution to these projects."
Goodell added that state and local officials in Minnesota were "focusing on solutions" to a new stadium. "They know [the team's] lease [at the Metrodome] is expiring, but they want to make sure the Vikings have a suitable stadium going forward," he said.
The NFL commissioner also said a decision on locating an NFL team in Los Angeles -- a possible new home for the Vikings should a stadium not be built in Minnesota -- would likely not be settled in 2012. "I don't think we'll be in a position to make that decision by 2012," he said.
Ted Mondale, Gov. Mark Dayton's lead stadium negotiator, said state officials would study the results of the NFL's owner meeting and huddle with Vikings officials soon. He said the league's new loan program and its new television contract should produce more revenue for both a new Vikings stadium and the state.
"This helps bring a certainty to the deal," Mondale said.
He said the NFL's new labor agreement and television contract would likely mean higher player salaries. Since those salaries are taxed, that would mean more money for the state's treasury.
"If the television revenue is big, that is good. It's good for the state," Mondale said.
In an October preview of the league's new loan program, Neil Glat, the NFL's senior vice president for corporate development, said the Vikings may not have to repay the loan out of the team's own new stadium revenue as long as the team sold enough club seats. "Their main focus is selling those club seats," Glat said of the Vikings.
At a Minnesota Senate hearing last week on public funding for the stadium, Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen, pressed Vikings officials on where the team planned to get its $425 million contribution to the stadium. Even after a Vikings official explained the team's stadium strategy, Ortman said she was frustrated.
"What are the main elements for [your] $425 million dollars for contribution?" Ortman asked.
After a Vikings officials spoke again, the state senator asked again.
"I don't know what the owner's contribution is going to be," she said. "It leaves more questions, rather than answers."
Mike Kaszuba • 651-222-1673