The Big Story Blog

The Big Story Blog: October 24, 2011 Archive

Stadiums, fans, taxpayers and football frustration

Posted at 6:20 AM on October 24, 2011 by Paul Tosto
Filed under: Sport

(AP Photo/Andy King)

The big sports question Friday wasn't whether the Gophers and Vikings would win over the weekend. The question was whether the teams could somehow hold their opponents to fewer than 100 points.

Yeah, the Gophers and Vikings gave up only 74 total points Saturday and Sunday in losses to the University of Nebraska and Green Bay Packers. But the frustration continued for the region's two favorite football teams.

There's more at stake than bragging rights and school spirit. These are big money operations that need taxpayer support in some form. With some deadlines looming, we're going to look today at the state of University of Minnesota and Vikings football teams.

Here are some things we know this morning.

End game coming for Vikings? The Vikings have a deal with Ramsey County to partially fund a $1.1 billion stadium in Arden Hills. The team expects to put up more than $400 million and is seeking about $300 million from the state. Given the economy, though, the timing couldn't be worse.

Gov. Mark Dayton supports a Vikings stadium but won't call a special session of the Legislature without a plan to pay the public portion. He's planning to unveil his own plan in early November with the hope of getting a deal through the Legislature before Thanksgiving. This week, he's hoping for a general agreement this week among the parties involved on the basics of a stadium plan.

Tough battle coming over the state's portion. With the stadium issue hurtling toward a special session before Thanksgiving, there's still no political consensus on how to pay for it. Ticket taxes? Sports memorabilia taxes? A casino in downtown Minneapolis?

There's no plan right now that obviously has the votes. Some Republicans are even looking at the state's Legacy funds, intended for environmental and cultural heritage projects in Minnesota, as a source of funds. Each carries its own political problems for lawmakers.

Tough sells in a lousy time. Getting public money for stadiums has always difficult in Minnesota. The financing packages for the new Minnesota Twins Target Field and for the Gophers' TCF Bank Stadium were a struggle even in good economic times.

The state put up nearly half the cost to build the Gophers' stadium a few years ago, about $137 million.

But in the worst economy in decades, much of the goodwill is gone.

Given the Gophers' dismal performance and calls for the athletic director to go, it wouldn't be surprising to hear the public wonder if a new stadium was worth the cost.

The Vikings are in similar straits. They can make arguments about jobs and economic development that will accompany a new stadium and its construction. At the taxpayer level, however, you're asking people to invest in a mediocre team that seems unable to escape off-field problems.

Got a story or insight to share on Gophers or Vikings football? Is it easier to accept the financing of a Gophers' stadium because of its connection to the University of Minnesota? Is there a best way to finance a Vikings stadium?

Post your perspective below or drop us a line directly.

Monday 10/24/2011
Minnesota football in a sorry state

Posted at 6:20 AM on October 24, 2011 by Paul Tosto
Filed under: Hed

Need-to-read stories on Vikings, stadium

Posted at 8:42 AM on October 24, 2011 by Paul Tosto
Filed under: Politics, Sport

AP Photo/Jim Mone

We're running on a dual track today, digging into stories about the sorry state of Vikings and Gophers football but also focusing again on any movements involving a new Vikings football stadium.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Ryback is expected to meet today with Gov. Mark Dayton to talk about the Vikings stadium process. The Vikings have said repeatedly they're committed to a site at Arden Hills and are not looking at Minneapolis. And yet, the idea never seems to die with the denials.

We'll be watching that meeting today. Meanwhile, here are some of the stories we're reading this morning.

Chris Cook court appearance canceled. Vikings defensive back Chris Cook, arrested Saturday on suspicion of domestic violence, was supposed to be in court today but the appearance was canceled, the Star Tribune reports this morning. No reason was immediately available for the cancellation.

Legacy money the answer? The MPR News political blog Capitol View notes notes GOP Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch's desire for a public vote on a sales tax for the Vikings stadium plan in Ramsey County. Capitol View adds:

Tidbit: Notice how Koch said the Vikings are "a part of our history and our heritage for 50 years" several times during the q and a? Republicans are talking about using Legacy money for the stadium.

Legacy funds come from part of the state sales tax. Voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2008 setting aside the money for Minnesota cultural and environmental projects. Might be a stretch to put a Vikings stadium in that mix, but there you go.

Over at our Minnesota Today page, editor Michael Olson has pulled together a feed of the most current Vikings stories from around Minnesota. Check it out.

Any other stories or links on the Vikings we should care about? Post them below or contact us directly.

Vikings plan would be biggest sports subsidy ever?

Posted at 9:56 AM on October 24, 2011 by Paul Tosto
Filed under: Politics, Sport

State Sen. John Marty of Roseville is a long-time opponent of public financing for sports stadiums. But he made an intriguing argument in a Friday essay that's re-run today on MinnPost.

Zygi Wilf and the Vikings are attempting to make their Ramsey County stadium deal sound like a run-of-the-mill, routine proposal. It is not. The Vikings are asking for the #1, all-time, biggest taxpayer subsidy of any sports franchise anywhere in American history!
That's saying a lot. We've seen baseball and football stadiums built across the country the past two decades in pretty much every major market, most got some public aid. Is the Vikings plan on the table now for Arden Hills ready the biggest public subsidy?

We'll scrounge up some data today. Feel free to send us links to stories or data you've seen.

Marty and GOP Sen. Linda Runbeck offered a plan last week to sell the Metrodome to the Vikings for $1 as a way to keep the Vikings in Minnesota with no public subsidy. The Vikings dismissed the idea.

Meanwhile, GOP Senate leader Amy Koch may be hurting the Vikings chances at an Arden Hills stadium if she presses for a public vote on a Vikings-related tax increase in Ramsey County, but that doesn't mean she can't tailgate.

From MPR News reporter Tim Nelson:


With the Vikings stadium debate still unresolved at the Capitol, it looks like fans of the team took the opportunity to do a little tailgate lobbying this weekend in Minneapolis.

That's 'Save the Vikes' founder Cory Merrifield at bottom right, with GOP Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch sporting a natty Vikings scarf.

No word on whether they won any points with Koch on behalf of the team.

It looks like the meeting today between Koch, her legislative colleagues and Gov. Mark Dayton, floated by the governor last week isn't happening. it may happen Friday.

Vikes plan most subsidized? A look at NFL stadiums

Posted at 11:50 AM on October 24, 2011 by Paul Tosto
Filed under: Environment, Sport

State Sen. John Marty began a debate Friday with an essay arguing the proposal to fund a new Vikings stadium in Arden Hills amounted to the "#1, all-time, biggest taxpayer subsidy of any sports franchise anywhere in American history! "

It's pretty intriguing. But it depends on how you look at it:

The National Sports Law Institute of Marquette University Law School collects really good data on stadiums, costs and public financing. We looked at the institute's data on NFL teams.

Marty's right when it comes to public dollars spent. The Arden Hills financing plan calls for $350 million in revenue from Ramsey County generated by a sales tax increase and $300 million in state payments (still not decided on where that money would come from). Right now the Vikings would kick in more than $400 million.

So the plan comes down to about $650 million in public financing. None of the NFL stadiums on the Marquette list top that.

But is that the best way to examine the data? If you look at the data and ask have other cities subsidized more of the total cost for and NFL stadium, the answer is yes. In fact, the 60 percent public subsidy on the Vikings stadium looks relatively reasonable.

Some examples from the Marquette data:

University of Phoenix Stadium built for the Arizona Cardinals, opened in 2006, 76 percent publicly financed

Georgia Dome, home to the Atlanta Falcons, built in 1992, 100 percent publicly financed.

Century Link (formerly Qwest) Field, home to the Seattle Seahawks, built in 2002, 83 percent publicly financed.

There are also a bunch of examples where owners built stadiums with minimal or no public subsidies.

Cowboys Stadium cost $1.15 billion -- the closest to the estimated cost of the new Vikings Stadium. It opened in 2009 with about 30 percent of it publicly financed.

Take a look at the Marquette data and tell us what you see. Post some thoughts below.

One other note: Here's the data Marquette collected on the Metrodome.

Stadium: Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome
Date Built: 1982
Facility Cost ($/Mil): $68
Percentage of Stadium Publicly Financed: 81%
Facility Financing: Financed through the sale of $55 million in revenue bonds, a hotel and
liquor tax that raised $15.8 million, and a Metro liquor tax that raised $8 million. The City of
Minneapolis spent $4 million on the infrastructure costs. The remaining costs were financed with
$13 million in interest earned on the bonds and $7 million from the Vikings and Twins (MLB)
for auxiliary facilities.

Votes, support for Mpls casino to fund Vikes stadium?

Posted at 12:18 PM on October 24, 2011 by Paul Tosto
Filed under: Politics, Sport

It's worth repeating that publicly the Minnesota Vikings say they are completely focused on trying to win approval for a new football stadium in Arden Hills and are not trying to revisit plans to build in Minneapolis.

But that hasn't stopped Minneapolis officials who today expressed support for a stadium in Minneapolis -- and a casino at the Block E development that would help finance the stadium.

Rybak says city will be more aggressive with stadium ideas in the next week.
Oct 24 via EchofonFavoriteRetweetReply

MPR News reporters Tim Nelson and Tom Scheck are following the meetings today between Gov. Mark Dayton, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and other officials.


Rybak told reporters he could support a Block E casino to fund a Vikings stadium and Minneapolis city council member Barbara Johnson said the council votes are there to back a casino, Nelson reports.

Rybak said he presented Dayton with a plan to reuse the Metrodome site, although the Vikings have called that a non-starter.

Still, it's a discussion that seems to be picking up steam, at least with folks outside the Vikings and Ramsey County offices.

UPDATE: Here's a link to the updated story by Scheck and Nelson.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak says he thinks a new Vikings stadium could be built in Minneapolis for less money than a proposed stadium in Arden Hills.

Rybak and Minneapolis City Council President Barb Johnson met privately with Gov. Mark Dayton Monday morning to discuss their plan for the stadium. The hour-long meeting covered potential sites including the Metrodome, the Farmer's Market, and a parcel of land near the Basilica of St. Mary.

But his support of any stadium plan for Minneapolis would only move forward if the deal includes a $150 million remodel of Target Center -- home to the NBA's Timberwolves.

Read the whole story here.

Vikes plan most subsidized ever? Maybe not.

Posted at 2:04 PM on October 24, 2011 by Paul Tosto
Filed under: Politics, Sport

We took a look earlier today at state Sen. John Marty's claim that the proposal to fund a new Vikings stadium in Arden Hills amounted to the "#1, all-time, biggest taxpayer subsidy of any sports franchise anywhere in American history! "

Our first thought was that it depends. In outright dollars, not adjusted for inflation, he's right. But we also pointed out there are several stadiums where the percentage paid by the public was greater than the 60 percent proposed in the Vikings Arden Hills plan.

Catharine Richert of the MPR News fact checking blog PoliGraph has taken the analysis a step further --calculating public subsidies for sports stadiums adjusted for inflation.


Her final verdict won't be out until Wednesday. But so far she's found one sports arena that cost more in public dollars than the proposed Vikings Stadium: Madison Square Garden in New York City, home to the New York Knicks basketball team and the New York Rangers hockey team. She writes:

As a reminder, the state would put in $300 million and Ramsey County would chip-in $350 million, for a total of $650 million in public dollars. That figure goes up when additional tax perks are accounted for. The Vikings would shell out the remaining $407 million for a total stadium cost of $1.057 billion.

According to research by Marquette University's National Sports Law Institute, Madison Square Garden cost $123 million in 1968 and was 100 percent publicly financed. In 2010 inflation adjusted dollars, that comes out to $762 million in taxpayer funding.

Be sure to check out Richert's detailed analysis on Wednesday.

3 things to know about stadiums and football frustration

Posted at 4:37 PM on October 24, 2011 by Paul Tosto
Filed under: Politics, Sport

AP Photo/Andy King

We couldn't bring ourselves to snarkiness.

We planned today to talk about the pathetic circumstance of having lousy football teams at the University of Minnesota and in the NFL with the Vikings. We were prepared to come out swinging with all the "Kill this" and "Ponder that" you could handle. We were ready to make a big deal about crotch kicks and the Vikings being the most arrested team in the NFL.

But then we turned all wonkish -- which is OK. Plus, we also learned a few things today.

1.) Minneapolis goes all in. With a deal for a Vikings stadium in Arden Hills looking increasingly shaky, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and other city officials worked today to swing the discussion of a Vikings stadium back to Minneapolis after meeting with Gov. Mark Dayton.

MPR News reporter Tom Scheck writes that Rybak:

...thinks a new Vikings stadium could be built in Minneapolis for less money than a proposed stadium in Arden Hills. Rybak and Minneapolis City Council President Barb Johnson met privately with Dayton this morning to discuss their plan for the stadium.

Rybak says he prefers a plan he announced several months ago that would have the Vikings build a new stadium on the site of the Metrodome. But he said he is also open to other ideas.

He said he would prefer to see a citywide sales tax increase to pay for the construction but said he's also open to expanded gambling. Rybak said he'll support the plan only if it includes a renovation of the Target Center - home to the NBA's Timberwolves.

There are lots of hurdles with this idea. If it requires a casino at Block E in Minneapolis, expect a huge fight with Minnesota's Indian gaming lobby. Still, you can feel the momentum start to shift.

2.) Biggest stadium public subsidy ever? Maybe not. State Sen. John Marty, a long time opponent of public funding for sports stadiums, sent us scrambling for data when he proclaimed, "The Vikings are asking for the #1, all-time, biggest taxpayer subsidy of any sports franchise anywhere in American history!"

Depends on how your read it, though. In just dollar amounts not adjusted for inflation, he's right. But if your concern is how much of the burden the public would shoulder in the Arden Hills plan, it turns out there are a bunch of examples of cities taking on 70 percent or more of the total cost of an NFL stadium, far more than the 60 percent in the Vikings plan.

And if you account for inflation, it appears New York provided a bigger subsidy in the construction of Madison Square Garden.

3.) On the clock. Dayton again said today he was site neutral for the Vikings stadium and wanted only to keep them in the state. But he also acknowledged "very real, unanswered questions about the viability of the Arden Hills site," especially if legislators force Ramsey County to hold a public vote over raising the sales tax.

Anyone with a different plan should get it to him quickly, "preferably early next we can be ready to go with a special session on Nov. 21," Dayton said, adding, "It's incumbent on Minneapolis to put together a proposal that's more attractive, for whatever reasons, than Arden Hills..."

So hold on tight. The Vikings stadium roller coaster is just cranking up to the top. Expect a big, twisting speedy ride the next few weeks.

OK, we'll end the day with a little bit of snark from Twitter, where someone took the question of Minnesota possibly spending the state's cultural "legacy funds" on the Vikings.

Will the new Vikings Stadium be used as free rehearsal space for theater artists when they aren't playing games? Just wondering.
Oct 24 via webFavoriteRetweetReply

No vuvuzelas, please.

About Paul Tosto

Paul Tosto

Paul Tosto writes the Big Story Blog for MPR News. He joined the newsroom in 2008 after more than 20 years reporting on education, politics and the economy for news wires and newspapers across the country.

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