St. Paul mayor doesn't like countywide sales tax for stadiumby Tim Nelson, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — More complications cropped up for Ramsey County's bid to host the Minnesota Vikings today, as St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman voiced doubts about the county's plan to fund the project. The state's point man on the stadium issue also weighed in.
The half-cent sales tax proposed by Ramsey County to fund a Vikings stadium is giving the mayor of the state's second largest city pause.
"Whether it has a great direct benefit to the city of St. Paul is one of the things I'm going to be asked, or asking," said St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, "because quite frankly, a huge chunk of that half-cent sales tax is going to be generated in the city of St. Paul."
Coleman spoke at a rally outside the governor's office decrying cuts to education in St. Paul and Minneapolis.
But he also said he'd prefer a different solution to funding a replacement to the Metrodome for the Vikings.
"I think there are fairer ways to distribute the burden and costs associated with the stadium," he said.
Coleman suggested he'd rather see a penny-a-bottle liquor tax or some other statewide tax fund a Vikings stadium. He didn't say he was ready to oppose the Ramsey County plan, but said he did want to study the financing more closely.
Gov. Mark Dayton, however, has insisted that public subsidies for a stadium be either tied to pro sports, related to stadium itself, or volunteered by the community that hosts a new home for the Vikings.
The Vikings say they've met those demands with the deal they struck this week with Ramsey County. It calls for the county sales tax, and includes more than $400 million from the team -- very close to the 40 percent share Dayton has repeatedly asked for.
But the plan has stalled at the starting line because state officials say there's a catch -- hundreds of millions of dollars in road work needed to serve the Vikings new home.
They weren't included in the team's deal with Ramsey County.
Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission chairman Ted Mondale, point man on the stadium deal for Dayton, says the cost of upgrading the roads is between $175 million and $240 million. And he said the Vikings have to solve the problem to get a $300 million state subsidy.
"The Vikings have selected a local partner, there's a funding gap. Nobody's quite clear how to resolve that."
But he said that, at this point, the deal will get the chance to stand on its own.
"I don't see interest on behalf of the main legislators and the governor at this point of saying you have to go here. I don't think anyone's talking about forcing the team into a deal."
Ramsey County commissioner Tony Bennett disputed Mondale's figures -- which came from a Minnesota Department of Transportation analysis.
He said county and state officials have been meeting to go over those figures and that they're trimming the number down.
"See the last number I heard was under $150 million difference, but nobody was sure of the numbers," Bennett said. "MnDOT is working with the Vikings people and our people. But as of yesterday, when I sat through four hours, three hours of meetings with them, nobody at the end of that meeting could put down the same set of numbers and have it for sure."
Bennett also insisted that traffic issues on nearby Interstate 35W, Interstate 694 and Highway 10 have been long standing, and shouldn't be counted as part of the stadium's cost.
And he said that the state chipped in with freeway access to Target Field, and the Mall of America, and that a major project like the Vikings stadium deserves the same aid.
In the meantime, legislators have 11 days left of their regular session, and the stadium bill has yet to get a formal hearing at the Capitol.