Editorial: Stadium deal works for fans

Published 10:05 am Thursday, May 17, 2012

The biggest win for Minnesota in the Vikings stadium deal is that it finally got done.

Minnesota will have a professional football team for the next 30 years playing in a first-class stadium. And as one legislator said, if you don’t gamble in bars or go to a game, the new stadium will cost you nothing.

Whether you believe the jobs brought by the stadium will amount to significant economic development or not, one cannot ignore the impact of a construction project that will be one of the biggest in state history.

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The final Vikings stadium bill came out to be even a little more than fans and taxpayers could have hoped for.

There was a local partner in the city of Minneapolis. There were no general tax increases. There is no general fund money being diverted from other programs and there is a roof on the stadium so it can be used for other events that will serve Minnesotans.

The legislators were able to get the team to up the ante by contributing $50 million more than they had planned. The Vikings are still certainly not a charitable organization and will get help from the NFL for its share. Naming rights will bring a hefty sum for the team as well. Ultimately, the private owners of the Vikings will be paying about 49 percent of the project, the state will pay about 36 percent and Minneapolis will pay about 15 percent. People often forget it will be owned by the state. It will be a people’s stadium.

If the Wilfs sell the team, the state gets anywhere from 10 percent to 25 percent of the selling price. The team will be locked in for 30 years, and it will be required to keep the team name, the team colors and team logos and trademarks.

The deal is good for outstate Minnesota. Many Republicans in outstate and southern Minnesota voted for the stadium, even though Republicans as a whole were in the minority supporting the stadium.

The Vikings and Viking fans have to give a lot of credit to the minority Democrats, who came up with the decisive votes. Without those votes, plain and simple, the stadium wouldn’t have happened.

Encouraging more gambling was probably close to the worst way to finance the stadium. Critics are skeptical that revenues from the expansion of charitable gambling will be sufficient to pay off the state’s share of the deal. The bill allows for a blinking on of backup revenues that would include $2 million from a sports-themed lottery game and a 10 percent surcharge on stadium suites should gambling revenues not be sufficient.

The bonds issued will be appropriation bonds, not general revenue bonds, so the financing is not automatically backed up by general fund tax revenues.

In the end, legislators bought the idea that the Vikings and their fans needed a new stadium to remain competitive. They bought the idea that a reasonable argument could be made that this would be a shot in the arm for Minnesota’s economy.

Overall, Minnesotans are winners with this Vikings stadium deal.

— Mankato Free Press, May 12

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