Lawmakers propose giving Metrodome to Vikings
by T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol Reporter
Republicans and Democrats can reach agreement — two of them to want to give away the Metrodome.
Rep. Linda Runbeck, R-Circle Pines, and Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, are proposing to give all ownership rights away to the 30-year-old Metrodome to the Minnesota Vikings in exchange for a 25-year contract.
“I would be willing to say the votes are not here for the current (Arden Hills’ stadium) proposal,” said Runbeck at a Capitol press conference on Friday, Oct. 21.
The Metrodome giveaway, something proposed in the past, is a means of injecting “sanity” into the Vikings’ stadium debate, argued Marty.
He charged the Ramsey County/Vikings’ Arden Hills’ stadium proposal is being presented as a run-of-the-mill proposal when it actually calls for the biggest public subsidy in U.S. sports’ history.
“What are they smoking?” quipped Marty, a longtime stadium subsidy opponent, of the advocates.
According to the Minnesota Vikings, Lucas Oil Stadium built in 2008 for the Indianapolis Colts for $720 million included $620 million in public subsidies — or about 86 percent of total cost.
The current Ramsey County/Vikings’ Arden Hills’ proposal calls for about $665 million in public subsides, but the Vikings would be on the hook for about a third of total construction costs.
Drawing distinctions between sources of public funding for stadium subsidies — whether bonding or outdoor legacy dollars are used, for instance — is a sham distinction, argued Marty.
“A dollar is a dollar,” he said.
Under the proposed legislation, the Vikings would have the right to sell the Metrodome and associated lands after 25 years.
Recent estimates have put the value of the Metrodome land at between $40 million and $50 million.
The Vikings could leave the Metrodome under the proposal, but only to move to another Minnesota stadium constructed without public subsidies.
“We believe it’s a very serious offer,” Runbeck said.
But the Vikings don’t.
“Regarding the Metrodome proposal, giving the Metrodome to the Vikings is a non-starter,” said Jeff Anderson, director of corporate communications for the Minnesota Vikings.
“These unrealistic ideas prevent serious discussion about the only viable stadium plan in Arden Hills,” he said in a statement.
Gov. Mark Dayton could call a special legislative session sometime before Thanksgiving entirely devoted to the Vikings’ stadium.
But lawmakers don’t want to return to the State Capitol so soon, Runbeck argued. “I think I speak for 90 percent of the Legislature,” she said.
Rep. Mindy Greiling, DFL-Roseville, indicated lawmakers may have more reasons to want to stay away than the nearness of the holidays.
“I think legislators are sweating it,” Greiling said.
For Democrats, some of the heat comes from their labor constituency, many of whom are eager for the jobs a big construction project could bring, she explained.
And for Republicans, part of their constituency, business people, would like the chance to woo perspective business clients by taking them to a shiny, spanking new stadium, Greiling said.
“So not to have to vote on it (a stadium), is probably everybody’s choice,” she said.
Greiling, former K-12 finance committee chairwoman, noted the state owes the schools billions of dollars as the result of budget shifts. “It just kind of makes me sad,” she said of money going to stadiums.
Greiling believes Vikings’ owner Zygi Wilf is less interested in a new stadium than the development opportunities afforded him in Arden Hills.
“This is kind of something that smokes him out,” she said of the Metrodome giveaway offer.
The Vikings’ 30-year lease expires after the 2011 season, and this would leave the team the only team in the National Football League without one, the Vikings point out.
Vikings officials argue the primary reason the team ranks at the bottom of the NFL in terms of revenue is primarily because it’s hard to wring money out of the Metrodome.
It’s past prime, they argue.