There may not be an agreement this spring to build a new Minnesota Vikings stadium, but legislators may be preparing a Plan B.
A proposal to authorize electronic bingo and pull tabs, along with sports-themed tip boards, will go before the House Taxes Committee on Thursday night amid speculation that the money could be put into a reserve fund to begin preliminary design work on a stadium.
With the plan to build the nearly $1 billion Vikings stadium stalled, the alternative plan would take a minimalist approach to the stadium dilemma – creating a funding source and setting it aside for a future stadium.
The idea was first discussed publicly two weeks ago by Rep. Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights, and Rep. John Kriesel, R-Cottage Grove, who proposed going ahead with the charitable gaming expansion while the actual stadium puzzle was still being debated.
“Is it your understanding that your bill will become a Plan B?” Atkins asked Kriesel at a House panel hearing.
“If there’s issues with the stadium bill, whatever those are, we still could pass tax relief for the charities and also a funding source for the stadium,” replied Kriesel.
Atkins added “there very well could be [a provision] that would set aside money that is gathered” and use it “towards a fund for either pre-design or design of the stadium.” The money, Atkins added, would be used “not necessarily to construct the stadium but at least to keep the process moving forward.”
Replied Kriesel: “That’s a great idea.”
Gov. Mark Dayton has proposed authorizing electronic bingo and pull tabs in Minnesota’s bars and restaurants as a way to fund the state’s $398 million contribution to the Vikings stadium, which would be built at the Metrodome in downtown Minneapolis.
With some legislators expressing doubts over the revenue estimates from the expanded charitable gambling, said Atkins, the alternative plan would allow lawmakers to first see what the new gambling revenue actually was.
“It’s another way to bring and build forward that has something to do with a stadium,” Atkins said Wednesday of Kriesel’s proposed legislation.
But Rep. Michael Nelson, DFL-Brooklyn Park, a strong Vikings stadium supporter, was not as impressed. “I don’t think it moves us closer to getting a stadium,” he said Wednesday. “The pre-design and design work? That just puts if off for another Legislature” to consider.