As if the Minnesota Vikings stadium plan weren’t complicated enough, now it appears that the state legislature will be voting on two bills as part of the proposal: One to help fund the stadium with electronic pulltab gambling revenues, which would also include a provision authorizing the city of Minneapolis to use existing taxes to renovate the Timberwolves‘ Target Center; the other to exempt Target Center spending from the $10 million cap on city sports stadium spending without a referendum that Minneapolis voters approved back in 1998.
Asked whether renovation of the Target Center is part of the stadium bill, lead author Sen. Julie Rosen helpfully explained, “It is, but it isn’t.”
While the Minneapolis Star Tribune seems fixated on this two-bills thing, the real news here is that the state plans to override the Minneapolis sports spending cap, at least for the Target Center portion. (State officials have already said that they don’t consider the city’s $339 million in Vikings spending to violate the cap, because it’ll be laundered through the state before the Vikings end up with it.) The Twins got a similar exemption from public referendum as part of their own stadium deal, but Gov. Mark Dayton had earlier indicated that the legislature wouldn’t do the same for the Vikings. For the T-Wolves, though, apparently that’s okay.
The big battleground here is shaping up to be the Minneapolis city council, where a majority of members say they won’t approve any of this mess without a public vote, which would almost certainly be overwhelmingly opposed to the deal. Expect major, major arm-twisting in the days ahead — this will be the test of whether the city councilmembers are actually taking a stand for the principle of allowing voters to vote on what the city charter says they get to vote on, or are just holding out for a better payoff.