The Big Story Blog

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.

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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