Top officials in Minneapolis and Hennepin County expressed skepticism Friday about the details of a long-awaited stadium bill emerging at the Legislature.
Viewed as two important potential local partners on a new Vikings stadium, officials in both the city and county said the bill wasn't structured in a way that would allow them to participate.
Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin called the bill "badly timed, badly designed and I hope it comes to a bad end. I wouldn't even start talking to the Vikings until they bring half a billion dollars to the table."
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said the draft bill was "a positive development" because it lists several statewide funding sources.
But, he cautioned, "it is unlikely that Minneapolis could lead a bid, especially when we're facing massive state cuts [in local government aid]. There will be some ways we can be a partner, and we've already been a massive investor in infrastructure that makes the [Metrodome] site cheaper to build."
Minneapolis is home to the aging Dome, where the Vikings' contract is running out.
Even Ramsey County, which has launched an aggressive bid to host a new stadium, balked at some elements of the bill.
Ramsey County Commissioner Tony Bennett, who's leading the charge to build the stadium on a former munitions site in Arden Hills, said the $250 million to $300 million listed as the state's share was feasible for the county, too.
But, he said, Ramsey County has no interest in a bidding war against Minneapolis or Hennepin County. If it comes to that, he said, "the heck with it. We know what we can provide -- a 260-acre site with tailgating and all the amenities that go with [NFL] football."
The draft bill, details of which leaked out Thursday night, leaves the site for a stadium open to bid solicitations. It lists various funding sources for the state's share, including a sports memorabilia tax, sale of stadium naming rights, a surcharge on the income of pro-football players and a sales tax on luxury boxes.
Local governments are invited to propose stadium sites along with plans on how to cover their share of the costs. The bill would allow them to levy a half-cent sales tax on entertainment, lodging, food, beverages and tickets.
Jurisdictions that don't land the stadium could levy taxes to support their own facilities "of regional or state significance," as long as 40 percent goes to the Vikings stadium.
The Vikings would be required to pay a dollar for every $2 of public money spent on the stadium, and would have to cover cost overruns.
The stadium bill, sponsored by Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, and Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, is expected to be introduced next week. Both have been under pressure to delay the bill until the state's projected $5 billion deficit is addressed.
Rosen said Friday the time had come.
"The reality is that people need to know that this can't wait until next year," she said. "Everyone knows this is a job creator. The time to discuss the stadium is now that we're close to finishing the budget."
Lester Bagley, the Vikings' stadium czar, said he took issue with provisions that gave naming rights to the state and created a player-income surcharge and a luxury-box tax. The team would be open to paying cost overruns, he said, as long as the bill is properly balanced.
Vikings say there's still time
"It's not the final bill, and there are some issues that would impact the team's competitiveness that we think need to find a better solution, but there's time to do that," Bagley said.
Ted Mondale, chair of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, said the recent trend is for government to take more of the naming rights revenues. He called the structure of the bill sound.
"There are some things the Vikings won't like," he said, "but I think if they were too happy we wouldn't be doing our job."
Elements of the bill worry other stadium supporters.
Minnesota Chamber of Commerce President David Olson said he'd be more comfortable with a revenue stream similar to that of Target Field, for which Hennepin County raised its sales tax to provide the local share.
But Hennepin County commissioners were unmoved by a provision that would allow the county to apply excess revenues from the Target Field tax to a new stadium. Much of that money now goes to youth sports facilities and libraries.
County Board Chair Mike Opat, who spearheaded the drive for a new Twins baseball stadium six years ago, pronounced himself indifferent to this latest effort.
"I don't know if their funding sources are real, and any notion that the state would select the site is not practical," he said.
Like Bennett, Opat said Hennepin County won't compete for a site. "If we get into this, it will be with a plan and to seek approval for a plan, or we're not going to get into it at all," he said.
Minneapolis officials said they opposed another provision, to use excess convention center revenues. "That would be a nonstarter," City Council President Barb Johnson said.
At the Capitol Friday, the stadium bill landed with a thud. In a rare display of bipartisan unity, both sides said that any talk of public subsidies for a new stadium would have to take a back seat to solving the state's budget woes.
"Until they have a site, until they have a plan, until they have a partner, it's awfully hard for us and the Vikings to get to that point," said House Speaker Kurt Zellers, a Republican.
His DFL counterpart, Minority Leader Paul Thissen, said that "if we're not willing to raise taxes for our schools and police and firefighters, it's very hard to see raising taxes to build a Vikings stadium," he said.
Gov. Mark Dayton called the bill "a good start," and said it included elements he considered essential, such as no reliance on the state's general fund.
"It's up to the Legislature to move this forward," he said, "but I am ready to work with them to create a 'people's stadium.'"
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