MN sports teams hate idea of taxing sports gear to pay for stadium, duh

Predictably, the Minnesota Vikings aren’t too happy with state representative Ann Lenczewski’s proposal to pay for the shortfall in stadium funds by taxing sports memorabilia sales, since that would mean they’d be paying the bills, not taxpayers. And that’s not what they agreed to at all:

“This legislation fundamentally changes the agreement the Vikings negotiated with the state of Minnesota,” said Lester Bagley, the Vikings vice president of public affairs and stadium development, after a hearing on the bill in the House Taxes Committee.

The team put in an additional $50 million in the final stages of negotiation on the bill for the National Football League stadium, Bagley said, and “that commitment was in exchange for an assurance that there would be no further impacts on stadium revenues, including taxes on stadium revenues.”

And other Minnesota sports teams are even less happy with the plan, if possible:

Representatives of the Timberwolves, the Wild and the Twins testified against the bill, which one said essentially would require the teams to subsidize a competitor. A spokeswoman for state retailers spoke against the bill as well.

Still, it seems at least possible that some kind of memorabilia tax will be seriously considered by the legislature — the head of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority says it’s a good idea, and really, the state doesn’t have a lot of other options. And even if the Vikings are upset, would they really walk away from $1.1 billion worth of subsidies just for fear of losing a bit of money on memorabilia taxes?

Which is both the strength and the weakness of the proposal, by the way: It’s not actually expected to raise much money. Estimates are that the memorabilia tax would generate $6.8 million in its first year, while the funding gap from e-pulltabs is more like $50 million a year. So while this could help, it wouldn’t be a solution by any means. But at least it’s nice to see the legislature considering trying to make this deal better for the public, rather than just promoting compulsive gambling.

Wild owner: Without new practice rink, we can’t sign free agen — oh, hi, guys!

Apparently still peeved at being left out of the Vikings stadium subsidy deal, Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold interrupted his announcement of the signings of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter on Monday to call on St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman to build his team a new $50 million practice rink. And why should it do that?

“[Paris and Suter's] agents came to us,” Leipold said. “They had heard that sometimes we’ve got to go downstairs, the players put their equipment on, they take their skates and sticks, they get on the bus, they drive over to St. Thomas [Arena] to practice. They wanted to know, how often did that happen because they’re concerned about. We went through the whole list, and it looked like it would happen maybe 14 times. So we told them. And we also told them we’re working very hard with Mayor Coleman to get a practice facility. We gave them that commitment we’d work on it.”

Catch what just happened there? A sports team owner, in the middle of announcing that he’s spending $196 million on two top free agents, called on the city to pay for his new practice facility because it’s hurting his ability to sign free agents. Where’s the picture of Leipold here?

Xcel Energy Center public affairs director Bill Huepenbecker, at least, took the more traditional route of stumping for public money, worrying that now that the Target Center in Minneapolis is getting public renovation funds, his arena will be at a disadvantage of luring major concerts. Which is still the old “Everybody else has a new toy, why don’t I?” argument — and doesn’t actually explain how a new hockey practice rink would appeal to concert promoters — but at least he wasn’t announcing a new concert series when he said it.

St. Paul mayor: Everybody gets a new stadium!

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman entered the Minnesota Vikings stadium debate with a bang yesterday, issuing a complex plan to use local sales tax hikes and a statewide liquor tax to: build a Vikings stadium in Minneapolis, move the Timberwolves and Lynx to St. Paul’s XCel Center (which would receive $75 million in upgrades for the current tenants, the Wild), redevelop the Target Center, and build a new stadium for the minor-league baseball St. Paul Saints

…and the Vikings and the Wolves owners already hate the idea, and that’s before even getting into the problems getting approval for all those tax hikes. But at least Coleman got his name in the paper.