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November 23, 2011

Minnesota senate to rehash Vikings stadium funding ideas

The Minnesota state senate has scheduled "informational hearings" on a Vikings stadium for the next two Tuesdays, and yesterday released the agendas: In short, the first one will be about where to build a stadium, the second one about how to pay for one. (The hearings will include public testimony, but it's not clear where members of the public who don't want to build a stadium at all should testify.)

The closest thing to real news here is the list of funding schemes to be discussed at the December 6 hearing, which includes: arts and cultural funds, Minneapolis convention revenue, electronic pulltabs, racino gambling, a "Block E casino proposal," a sports memorabilia sales tax, an NFL income tax surcharge and ticket surcharges. Most of these have been discussed and rejected before, but we're clearly in the "throw stuff against the wall and see what sticks" phase of the stadium campaign, so it's always possible that some funding plan will emerge as politically workable. I wouldn't hold my breath or anything, but it's possible.


Since the question is "how and where" rather than "whether," it's pretty clear that a funding solution will be found. All the players - even the formerly anti-stadium pols - agree that the goal is to get the thing built. That means they're down to discussing how much public dough and how to extract it. For taxpayers, the options will be "crappy deal" or "really, really crappy deal."

And now that the Wilfs have won the big argument, I expect they will start upping their demands on the question of "how much."

Posted by Dave Boz on November 23, 2011 11:02 AM

@Dave, one other perspective on this is that our fearless leaders have failed to figure out a politically acceptable way to justify borrowing $650 million and making debt payments on that for 30 years on behalf of a private company owned by a guy in New Jersey. But, rather than say "no" to Wilf, they are giving the public a chance to kick around the same horrible funding ideas that are already on the table so the public can teach itself just how bad a deal this would be for the public.

Posted by Ed Kohler on November 23, 2011 11:29 AM

Yes, there will be public input at this hearing. I'm sure there will be people that object to any stadium plan. They also had their say at the Ramsey county hearings a few months ago. But the focus will be on how to fund the stadium, because an overwhelming majority of Minnesotans are for finding a reasonable solution to the issue. A majority support using gambling proceeds, and a majority want the Vikings to stay in Minnesota. At the forefront is the Racino plan, which creates enough revenue to cover the stadium costs, helps the equine industry, and pays back the "school shift" from last year's budget debacle. And it does all this without one red cent from existing taxes. Don't want to pay, don't play. The taxpayers spoke loud and clear that they didn't want to pay for the stadium, and now they won't have to, out of their existing taxes. Kudos to state leaders for working to find a reasonable solution, and keep our Vikings here. And yes, Ed Kohler, I did say OUR Vikings. To you, they may be a private company owned by a guy from Jersey, but they truly belong to the people of this state. That team is ours. That's something stadium opponents will never understand, and that's unfortunate for them.

Posted by Chuck on November 23, 2011 12:25 PM

One idea: how about the Vikings pay corporate income tax in Minnesota? I'm not positive they don't, but almost so because you know it would be front and center on any list of benefits to the state to having the Vikings in town.

Chuck, is electronic gambling truly a "reasonable solution" to funding anything? Studies show that slot machines pull casual gamblers into chronic addiction through randomizing reward and ease of use in a way that has deep social consequences for both the individual and society. I know it's a revenue source of choice throughout the nation and that many think it's fine because of the perceived choice of the individual, but it's not free of costs of various kinds.

Posted by Bob on November 23, 2011 01:15 PM

I don't object to stadium plans that involve the Vikings paying for what they are getting (a billion dollar facility that will be used for little other than football).

The Vikings are not "OUR Vikings" ay more than the Dallas Stars are "OUR Northstars".

MSP is the 14th largest market in the league, if the Vikings leave there will be a new team here within a decade.

If you are so eager to subsidize businesses on the back of ignorant poor gamblers why don't we give my business a subsidy out of the gambling proceeds as well? It has old facilities badly in need of upgrade, heck I don't even have a door on my office. And we do work that actually helps people throughout the state!

Lets say we chip in $300,000 for a new facility and the state can chip in $700,0000 out of gambling revenues? That is fair right?

Posted by Joshua Northey on November 23, 2011 02:02 PM


Leaving aside your somewhat flippant attitude towards gambling, the obvious counter to your argument is to consider what may happen if gambling receipts don't equal that what is needed/expected--i.e. folks neither pay nor play. Will "one red cent" of state or local money be needed at that point, a la the idiotic situation in Cincinnati?

I never quite understand the NFL argument that revenues collected by the state, but not from "current taxes" are somehow "extra funds" that don't belong to anyone and could easily be used for a stadium instead of on, for example, fixing highways, hospitals, or lowering the cost of tuition at the University of Minnesota.

I'll bet everyone is for a "reasonable solution". but in this case what is needed is for folks to make their preferences known that if the choice is between the Stadium and anything else, which would they prefer?

Posted by GDub on November 23, 2011 08:37 PM

A major assumption seems to be that any expansion of gambling will not take funds away from other (current) forms of gambling, or from other entertainment choices. I don't see how this can possibly be true, unless people have money stashed in tin cans in their back yards that will only come out to be spent in a new gambling venue.

I hope Ed Kohler is right, but I'm not optimistic.

Posted by Dave Boz on November 24, 2011 07:31 AM

A major assumption seems to be that any expansion of gambling will not take funds away from other (current) forms of gambling, or from other entertainment choices. I don't see how this can possibly be true, unless people have money stashed in tin cans in their back yards that will only come out to be spent in a new gambling venue.

Chuck, if they are "Our Vikings" and "truly belong to the people of this state" then why are you worried about them leaving? If they're yours, just tell them they can't go anywhere.

Ed Kohler, I hope you're right, but I'm not optimistic.

Posted by Dave Boz on November 24, 2011 07:34 AM

@Joshua Northey-Not sure what your business is, but I doubt 2 million people tune in every week to see what it's up to, or talk about it around the water cooler on Monday. Or that it's known nationally as a symbol of Minnesota. Also, are you saying the Vikings do not do any work that "helps people within the state?" You do realize they do charitable work within the community, right?

With the gambling proceeds, what it would likely take away from is the gambling dollars that go to the tribal casinos in this state, proceeds that go untaxed. So instead of $50+ million a month, they'd make $40M? How will they make it? All it's doing is saying the state wants a little piece of that pie. Why should native americans continue to have a monopoly on that? Why should they get all that money?

"Poor ignorant gamblers"? That viewpoint is just insane. It's your choice to gamble. No one forces you to. Most people, rational, accountable adults, view gambling as entertainment. I've gambled several times in my life but always did so within my means, and for entertainment only. Yes, there are problem gamblers out there, just like there are overweight people and alcoholics. Yet there are still fast food restaurants and bars. If you have a gambling problem, it's your problem. The state is not a babysitter. And if gambling is so evil, then shouldn't the whole thing be shut down? Also, all this plan does is put slot machines in horse tracks and turn cardboard pulltabs into electronic devices, so it "expands" gambling into places it already exists. I somehow doubt there will be a rash of new problem gamblers because of it, because it's not like they can't gamble now. In terms of any shortcomings of projections, the numbers that have come out from several studies show the numbers will be there. Look them up yourself. There won't be any shortfall. Those projections are solid.

It's amazing how so many people said "No tax money for the stadium" #which is perfectly fine#, but now that there won't be tax dollars, it turns to "No public funds for the stadium". And yes, the Vikings are ours. All the replies to my argument reinforce my point, which was that it's unfotunate you'll never understand that.

I know this is an anti-stadium site, so I counted on being argued against. I appreciate your viewpoints, and would expect the same treatment for mine. Thanks

Posted by Chuck on November 25, 2011 12:06 PM


I respect your views. Again, your points on sources of taxation are all perfectly fine, but you don't answer the real question, which is: in a time when most governments are scrapping for every dollar, why should any "reallocated" money go to a stadium and not to something else? What's in it for Minnesota and Minnesotans, other than the continued presence of a generally slightly above average team playing in a public facility in the state.

Your argument doesn't even attempt (refreshingly, actually) to place this in the context of economic development or any other potential political benefit.

You cannot make the claim that "no tax dollars will be used for the stadium" unless somewhere in your proposal the Minnesota Vikings or the NFL is signing the notes to provide for any unexpected shortfalls in gambling receipts in finishing the project. Strangely enough, that doesn't seem to be happening.

Readers of "this anti stadium" site know that these nonsense and completely unworkable financial plans are often cooked up with the idea that the public--not the team or the league--eventually will have to step in to the "emergency" situation with tax dollars. To save the credit rating of the state, of course.

Lots of folks in many cities and states have been lured with the "no tax money" or "just a tax on hotel rooms/rental cars/etc." Many of these places are near Minnesota. Why would you be any different in the end?

Posted by GDub on November 25, 2011 08:43 PM

@GDub - well said.

It always blows my mind when people come to this site and lament we're raining on everyone else's stadium party.

Meanwhile, there's a handful of articles front and center every day here outlining stadiums built years ago that are still finding ways to cost the city and state more money.

The Indians need upgrades to their 15 year old stadium.

A world class arena in Kansas sits empty and unpaid while the hopes of a professional team coming to the area - you know, to really put Kansas on the map! - have dwindled to the point it probably won't happen ever.

The NFL has no intention of hosting Super Bowls in Atlanta until they finally replace that old, decrepit 18 year old stadium.

The White Sox need more upgrades including a new restaurant - seems perfectly logical for the government to fund a new business that will take business away from others who would have zero chance of getting similar funds.

The Yankees haven't developed the area parks around New Yankee Stadium as promised.

There are countless articles here where cost overruns have been passed onto various cities.

And never mind the teams like the St Louis Rams wise (or shady) enough to negotiate out clauses that could see them flee to new markets after being in their once "state of the art" stadium because today it's outdated.

I for one am not opposed to cities helping their local teams secure new arenas or upgrades. And yes, if that means a bit of money being spent, I'm fine with that too. There is some benefit to keeping these teams.

Just not to the tune of $1B.

I just can't stand the hypocrisy in this day and age when the same people who vote and lobby for less social programs (pros and cons to it, I know) and reducing expenditures on anything that someone other than them will benefit from are the same people who lobby for their own free ride. All the while they have ample resources to pay their own way.

Posted by Andrew T on November 27, 2011 05:26 PM

Rumor has it that the stadium is already a "done deal". This is corroborated by the fact that an upcoming "hearing" on the stadium in which the public is only allowed to speak on stadium sites and financing. We are not going to be allowed to oppose it. Way back in May of this year, Mpls Mayor Rybak announced to the public that we would not be allowed our mandated referendum. This stadium, which will cost more than speculated (speculation really is at the heart of all of this rather than real facts and figures), will be a drain on the taxpayers of Mpls. Rybak claims it's either a stadium or higher property taxes. I'd rather have higher property taxes as it would be easier to parse financially than smoke and mirrors stadium finance. The general public does NOT support this stadium and that's why we don't get our referendum. No two ways about it. If the public is really for it, let's have that referendum!

Posted by JanN on November 27, 2011 05:33 PM

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