Ramsey Co. residents consider implications of possible Vikings stadiumby Rupa Shenoy, Minnesota Public Radio
Arden Hills, Minn. — While the Vikings and Ramsey County wait for the Legislature to act on a new stadium proposal for Arden Hills, people in Ramsey County are trying to figure out what a stadium in the neighborhood would mean to them.
James Welsch's family has owned Welsch's Big Ten Tavern for three generations.
"Fifty-one years ago [my grandfather] took over, and set it up for the arsenal across the street," Welsch said.
Welsch was referring to the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant, which was supplying soldiers in the Vietnam War when Welsch's family bought the bar. Welsch said plant workers crossed the road for lunch and dinner at their place. Things slowed down at the bar when the plant closed in the mid-1970s, but regulars kept the place going.
Several months ago, Welsch learned people were looking at the former ammunition plant as a possible site for new Minnesota Vikings stadium.
"I see it as a second generation for that site — the first generation was the ammunitions plant, now the second generation is going to be the Vikings stadium. That's great for me, and I hope that my children will take over and run the business too."
The plan, announced by the Vikings and Ramsey County this week, calls for a $1 billion stadium on the old Army ammunition site. The Vikings would pay $407 million, the state would chip in $300 million, and the county would raise its sales tax by a half-cent to finance its $350 million contribution. Like the current sales tax, the new increase would apply to things like sporting goods, not clothes or food.
For example, on a $1,000 refrigerator, the taxpayer would pay $5 more in sales tax under the proposed increase.
Welsch said people won't notice paying a higher sales tax.
"When the last time someone told you they want to go to Minneapolis and you say, 'no, no, no, their sales tax is way too high.' I just don't think that an issue for many people. To bring in something like this to the area, it's worth it."
Reaction to the proposed half-cent sales tax increase was much more mixed south of Arden Hills, outside a mall in Roseville.
Erica Revie was shopping for new shoes for work. She doesn't want to pay more in taxes.
"There's people who truly love the Vikings and have all their lives," Revie said. "Let their owners pony up some money. But, for Pete's sake, why tax me when I am not a fan of Vikings? It's just not right."
And the argument that a half-cent tax isn't that much doesn't work Michelle Butryn. She said people will feel the impact of the tax increase over time. But she concedes there may be advantages to a Vikings stadium in Arden Hills.
"If they build it out there, it will be better than having it in Minneapolis and having everything else be centralized within the Twin Cities," Butryn said. "However, I don't think that taxpayers are too happy about building and creating a whole new stadium. I think the one they had — you know it's old, but they still could have put some effort in it."
For people like Frank Meyers, the decision is simple. He said the Vikings won't stay in Minnesota if taxpayers refuse to help build a new stadium.
"Otherwise I think that they'll be leaving," Meyers said. "We've got to keep the Vikings in the state. You lose the Vikings, you probably won't have another professional team for another 10 years. And then the stadium's going to cost $2 billion to build instead of a billion."
Meyers lives about a 10-minute drive away from the proposed stadium. But he admitted he wouldn't go to Vikings games even if they were in Arden Hills. He prefers to watch games from the comfort of his own home.
- Morning Edition, 05/12/2011, 7:20 a.m.