by T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol reporter
A group of bipartisan lawmakers and Ramsey County officials at a hastily called press conference Wednesday, April 18, made a late-session pitch for an Arden Hills Vikings stadium.
The pitch came short days after the Minneapolis Vikings stadium proposal crashed in the House Government Operations and Elections Committee.
“This (Arden Hills) is the rabbit,” said Rep. Tim Mahoney, DFL-St. Paul, alluding to the magician’s trick some see as necessary for getting a stadium bill passed when legislative leaders speak of winding up the session in short days.
But Mahoney and Senate bill author Sen. James Metzen, DFL-South St. Paul, insist big things can happen in the final days of a legislative session.
Indeed Mahoney, a seven-term lawmaker, said as much can get done in the final 100 hours of a session than in the previous month.
Although Mahoney and Metzen have different ideas on how the state can funds its $350 million share of the Arden Hills’ stadium deal — Mahoney looks to electronic pull-tabs, Metzen personally favors the White Earth Band of Ojibwe casino proposal — the lawmakers point out the Arden Hills stadium proposal is about $50 million cheaper for the state than the one in Minneapolis.
Ramsey County commissioners Rafael Ortega and Tony Bennett insist the Arden Hills site — land adjoining the old Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant — is primed for immediate construction.
“We can start building next week if the Legislature can figure out how to fund it,” said Bennet.
Ramsey County officials look to a suburban food and beverage sales tax, with referendum, to raise about $8 million a year to help pay for needed transportation improvements.
The proposed food and beverage sales tax would not apply to the City of St. Paul.
They also look to stadium parking revenues and admission surcharge to amass the $300 million local contribution towards the more than $1 billion Arden Hills’ stadium project.
County officials insist their proposal is solid.
Ortega, when asked about the House committee shoot-down of the Minneapolis stadium proposal, styled the proposal “convoluted.”
It was never vetted to the degree the Arden Hills’ stadium proposal was, he argued.
Mahoney mentioned speaking with House Government Operations and Elections Committee Chairwoman Joyce Peppin, R-Rogers, about securing a hearing in her committee for his stadium bill.
But Peppin explained the bill, if it would advance, would probably need to start in the House Rules Committee.
She serves on the rules committee, Peppin explained, and would be willing to consider holding a hearing in her committee for Arden Hills.
But she thought it incumbent on Mahoney to get the Democratic support on the committee for his bill that the Minneapolis Vikings’ stadium bill failed to muster.
Sen. Michael Jungbauer, R-East Bethel, appeared at the press conference and explained the Arden Hills stadium proposal contains the long-term public benefits, such as the clean up of polluted land, that he looks for in a good proposal.
“This is a perfect site,” said Jungbauer.
Dayton Administration spokeswoman Katharine Tinucci in an email indicated that Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton isn’t focusing on Arden Hills.
“We are not looking at Arden Hills at this point in the session,” she said.
An email to a Vikings’ official was not immediately returned.
In a related stadium matter, Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, on TPT’s “Almanac at the Capitol” today said that Democrats would put up the votes to move Sen. Julie Rosen’s stalled Minneapolis Vikings stadium proposal out of the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee.
Rosen’s bill has been stuck in the committee for weeks.