Potential Vikings’ stadium funding source disappears

by T. W. Budig
ECM Capitol Reporter
A potential major funding stream for a new Vikings’ stadium dried up Tuesday, Nov. 1 with news that legislative leaders believe the only way the Republican-controlled Legislature would approve a local sales tax increase provision for a stadium is if voters first approve the measure.
While Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and Vikings’ team officials depicted the referendum news as a clarification — “A step forward,”  said Dayton — it punches about a $350 million hole in the Arden Hills’ stadium proposal as Ramsey County officials largely looked to a county-wide sales tax increase to fund their portion of stadium costs.
Beyond this, the stadium proposals city of Minneapolis officials have floated — one calling for an extreme makeover of the Metrodome — look at to a potential city-wide sales tax increase as a local funding source.
Other than that, Minneapolis largely looks to gambling revenue from a proposed casino on Block E for stadium dollars.
“Well, none of this is easy,” said Lester Bagley, vice president of public affairs and stadium development for the Minnesota Vikings.
Bagley, speaking at a late afternoon press conference, said the Vikings remain wedded to Arden Hills.
“We have had zero conversations with Minneapolis,” Bagley said when asked about the stadium alternatives in the Minneapolis downtown.
Bagley, who heralded the Vikings’ willingness to finance about a third of the Arden Hills’ stadium cost as the third highest private offering in National Football League history, indicated that the Minneapolis stadium options do not merit such a level of private support.
Dayton styled the idea of a referendum “problematic” as it would require waiting until November of next year for a vote.
“I want a stadium,” Dayton said.
Work is moving forward, Dayton argued, but he also said that a special session, which he proposed for calling shortly before Thanksgiving, may have to wait longer.
Dayton intends to speak to Vikings’ owner Zygi Wilf  about stadium developments.
Dayton said that to him all of the stadium proposals remain viable, even with the news about the referendum. “I’m not going to take anything else off the table,” he said.
When asked whether the state’s contribution to a stadium, which Dayton has always capped at $300 million, could be increased, the governor spoke of not wanting to address hypothetical situations.
On possible state stadium funding options, Dayton said he was “not enthusiastic” about the use of Legacy Amendment dollars for stadiums. He was looking for funding that was readily available, he explained.
Dayton styled proposed electronic pull-tab funding as immediately available and “plausible.”
Advocates for electronic pull-tabs, electronic-bingo, and video lottery have been coming to the State Capitol for years, hoping to see these modern gaming devices placed in bars statewide.
Such a move could bring in an additional $230 million a year in charitable donations, advocates claim.
Younger people respond more positively to electronic versions of pull-tabs, for instance, than pull-tabs in traditional paper form, advocates argue.
Beyond this, making these electronic games available would help the tavern industry, hurt by the recent state-wide smoking ban, advocates claim.
Legalizing these electronic games could especially help Greater Minnesota taverns, they argue.
But Dayton in the past has rejected arguments by the advocates that electronic versions of pull-tabs, bingo, and video lottery did not represent a gambling expansion. “That’s a huge expansion,” Dayton said early this year. Dayton has long expressed concerns about placing gambling in areas where alcohol is served.