The Big Story Blog

The Big Story Blog: October 28, 2011 Archive

Need-to-read stories on casinos, Vikings and stadiums

Posted at 9:22 AM on October 28, 2011 by Paul Tosto
Filed under: Sport

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We'll be digging today for stories and insight into funding a new stadium for the Vikings with an eye on the newest plans to pay for a stadium in Minneapolis using money from a new casino, money from Minnesota's cultural heritage funds and State Fair bake sales.

Just kidding on that last one, although it could come to Vikings cupcakes without a casino or a sales tax.

Here are the stories we're reading this morning.

MPR News reporter Tim Nelson gives us a quick view on the plan by Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak that includes casino funds. He writes:

Rybak talked like a reluctant convert to gambling expansion, but a convert he appears to be, if this account of a 2009 legislative fundraiser during his erstwhile gubernatorial campaign is accurate.
While seeking the DFL 2010 gubernatorial nomination, Rybak said at a Bemidji fundraiser, "I've always opposed the expansion of gambling."

Nelson and MPR News reporter Tom Scheck this morning are covering an expected meeting between Gov. Mark Dayton and legislative leaders about the next steps in the stadium discussion.

Scheck has a curtain-raiser story on today's meetings. Click on the play button below to hear it.


MPR's Minnesota Today page has 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.

Can gambling deliver Vikings stadium money? Should it?

Posted at 6:20 AM on October 28, 2011 by Paul Tosto
Filed under: Sport

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(MPR Photo/Tim Nelson)

It's an odd situation. The Vikings say they want a deal for a football stadium in Arden Hills, not Minneapolis. Yet local Minneapolis officials are pushing ahead with plans for a stadium in town, paid for in part by revenues from a new casino that no one really thinks is necessary, other than to fund a new Vikings stadium and pay for other improvements.

But with questions continuing to dog the Arden Hills site, the discussion's turned again to Minneapolis.

A casino seems like the least painful way to raise money to help fund a stadium there.
But it won't come without a fight. From lawmakers philosophically opposed to more state involvement in gambling to Indian gaming operations seeking to protect their interests, it'll be a fight.

We'll spend today drilling into the hopes and worries over expanding gambling in Minnesota to pay for stadiums and other public amenities. We'll also look at other ways of financing a Vikings stadium. Is there any plan out there that can win a majority of needed votes at the local level and at the Minnesota State House?

Jump in during the day with questions and insights. Post below or contact us directly.

Friday 10/28/2011
Rolling the dice on a Vikings stadium

Posted at 6:20 AM on October 28, 2011 by Paul Tosto
Filed under: Hed, Sport

As the wrangling continues over building a new NFL football stadium for the Minnesota Vikings, some say a new casino could deliver the funds to pay the public's share. But casinos aren't easy money. We'll look at the arguments, pro and con, over gambling as a way to pay for sports stadiums and public services.

Are Vikings part of our cultural heritage?

Posted at 9:55 AM on October 28, 2011 by Paul Tosto
Filed under: Sport

We're still waiting to hear word from meetings this morning between Gov. Mark Dayton and legislative leaders over the next steps to a possible Minnesota Vikings stadium deal.

It gives us a chance to step back and look at one of the more interesting proposals to fund what would be the public portion of a stadium agreement. Some state lawmakers have broached the idea of using money from the state's Legacy funds.

This is sales tax money made part of the state constitution by voters in 2008. It flows into several funds and goes to lots of organizations, including MPR News.

The amendment reads:
19.75 percent shall be deposited in the arts and cultural heritage fund and may be spent only for arts, arts education, and arts access and to preserve Minnesota's history and cultural heritage.

Do the Vikings feel like a fit for "Arts and Cultural Heritage?"

Here's a look at the "guiding principles" for spending the Arts and Cultural Heritage money over the next 25 years.

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So are the Vikings Legacy-money-worthy? It's hard to see it. But it's also politics and pretty much any language can be finessed. Recall the cigarette tax in 2005 that lawmakers referred to as a "health impact fee."

Readers are having a robust debate over this at the MPR News Today's Question page. Share your thoughts there or post something below.

Vikings officials aren't taking a position on whether the team should qualify for Legacy money, but they made it clear this morning that the team is a big deal to a huge portion of the state, particularly the Twin Cities.

Vikings-Packers game brings HUGE television ratings: 71 share (#1 in all markets) and 711,000 Twin Cities households.
Oct 28 via TweetDeckFavoriteRetweetReply

That's about two-thirds of all Twin Cities metro households that watched the Vikings-Packers game Sunday.

Dayton: No breakthroughs in Vikings stadium talks

Posted at 11:46 AM on October 28, 2011 by Paul Tosto
Filed under: Sport

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Gov. Mark Dayton and legislative leaders left a long morning meeting saying there were no breakthroughs on how the public might help pay for a new Vikings stadium or where it would go.

Lawmakers sounded surprisingly uncertain about a special legislative session to vote on a Vikings bill this fall. Dayton has proposed voting by Thanksgiving on a Vikings bill and plans to make his own recommendation to lawmakers.

MPR News reporter Tom Scheck is tweeting from outside the governor's office where the meeting just broke up.

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UPDATE: Here's Scheck's full report:

Gov. Dayton says there was no "breakthrough moment" in his behind closed door meetings with legislative leaders. Dayton, who briefed reporters along side of House Speaker Kurt Zellers and Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, said they talked a variety of financing options but declined to identify them. He also didn't specify whether the stadium should be build in Minneapolis of Arden Hills.

"We're looking at the various options, and discussing the tradeoffs that are involved, and also identifying the additional pieces of information that we need before we can make a decision, Dayton said. "You can't ask people to make a decision when they don't have all the facts. We've definitely clarified some of the remaining pieces of information, and and tasked members of our staffs to develop that information. There's no breakthrough moment to discuss, because we haven't reached that point."

Dayton says he'll release a stadium plan the week of Nov. 7 and hopes to call a special session for the week of Nov. 21. GOP Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch said the decision on a special session is left to Dayton.

"I wouldn't say that we're ready for that at this point," Koch said. "But that's the governor's call and we're going to continue discussions and keep working."

The Minnesota Vikings say they want to build the stadium in Arden Hills - that plan includes a half cent sales tax increase in Ramsey County. Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak is pushing to build the stadium in downtown Minneapolis.

Dayton and GOP House Speaker Kurt Zellers were also careful to note that they are neutral on whether to use Legacy Amendment money to finance the stadium. GOP Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch told MPR News on Thursday that she's open to using Legacy funds to pay for the stadium.

Zellers declined to say whether the talks got them any closer to a final deal. Instead, he said there were plenty of things to discuss like the three new proposed sites in Minneapolis.

This is a complicated process that is going to take a creative solution," Zellers said. "That takes time."

Dayton said he'll meet again with legislative leaders next week.

3 things to know about gambling, Vikings and stadiums

Posted at 4:35 PM on October 28, 2011 by Paul Tosto
Filed under: Sport

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We were hoping for guidance today from lawmakers, Gov. Mark Dayton or anyone else on the next steps in the Vikings stadium quest. Didn't happen.

We ended the week with things even more fuzzy.Besides the proposal for a new stadium in Arden Hills that the Vikings say they really want, we now have three proposals from Minneapolis, casino proposals to pay for it but no consensus, yet, on the next step. Even the one thing that sounded certain -- a special legislative session to vote on a stadium by Thanksgiving -- didn't sound all that certain by this afternoon.

Given the ambiguity, here are some of the things we learned today.

1.) Nothing's decided. Two-plus hours of meetings between Dayton and key lawmakers yielded lots of discussion but nothing certain on how to pay for the state's portion of a Viikings stadium, about $300 million at the Arden Hills site. Dayton expects to meet with legislators next week and said he'll make a proposal by Nov. 7.

2.) A gambling fight won't be pretty. A casino seems like the least painful way to raise money to help fund a stadium there. But there's no easy money in this debate. From lawmakers philosophically opposed to more state involvement in gambling to Indian gaming operations seeking to protect their interests, it'll be a fight.

3.) Cultural heritage will be a stretch. Political contortions will be required to somehow define the Vikings as a cultural asset eligible for money from the state's constitutionally supported Legacy Funds. There's plenty of official guidance on the kinds of things the money is supposed to be spent on and none of it resembles a professional football team's need for $300 million. Going this route would require some policy nose holding equivalent to the 2005 decision to call a cigarette tax a health impact fee.

Learn anything today about gambling, heritage money or any other way to pay for a Vikings stadium that we missed? Post something below.

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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