Lawmakers strike deal on Vikings stadiumST. PAUL — The final Minnesota Legislature votes to build a Vikings stadium are coming after a decade of discussions.
By: Don Davis, Duluth News Tribune
ST. PAUL — The final Minnesota Legislature votes to build a Vikings stadium are coming after a decade of discussions.
Private meetings throughout Wednesday yielded a compromise between plans the House and Senate approved earlier in the week.
The Vikings are to pay $477 million toward construction costs, $50 million more than they wanted. The $975 million Minneapolis stadium, on the site of the Metrodome, would have 65,000 seats, expandable to 72,000.
A House vote was expected early today, with a Senate vote following later today if the House approves the plan.
Most of the state’s portion of stadium construction costs would come from taxes collected on new charitable gambling profits after electronic devices are added to pulltab and bingo games. The state would pay
$348 million and Minneapolis $150 million.
The Vikings offered no immediate comment Wednesday night, but team Vice President Lester Bagley long has said the Vikings would not pay more than $427 million.
The public stadium authority would be responsible for any construction cost overruns as well as unexpected operating costs.
The compromise bill requires that amateur sports, community and civic events, and other public events have access to the stadium, much like the three-decade-old Metrodome.
The Vikings would have the exclusive right to own a professional soccer team for the first five years the stadium is in operation.
Using charitable gambling taxes to finance the stadium was one of the most controversial parts of the plan. While the Senate inserted some user fees to supplement the gambling, legislators rejected attempts to switch to all user-fee financing.
The compromise bill allows electronic pulltabs and bingo games, as well as tipboards, which is a gambling game based on scores but not the outcomes of sports contests.
Supporters say the gambling would provide enough money to repay the state’s construction costs, although many lawmakers oppose that part of the plan.
The bill provides back-up financing in case the gambling revenue falls short of the state’s needs. They include a tax on luxury boxes in the stadium, a sports-themed lottery game and other provisions.
“Passing is anybody’s guess,” said Sen. Roger Reinert, DFL-Duluth, a member of the House-Senate conference committee that was to approve the bill Wednesday night.
The bill is a compromise, he added. “It is in keeping substantially with the bills in the House and Senate.”
Another committee member said public reaction is very strong in favor of a stadium.
Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, said his emails run 10 to one in favor of a stadium. He gets 250 to 300 of them a day.
The conference committee was delayed Wednesday night. House bill author Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, said technical corrections needed to be made to the bill.
The final compromise was worked out in meetings that took all day Wednesday. Joining bill authors Lanning and Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, were legislative leaders, other stadium backers, Vikings officials, business leaders, Gov. Mark Dayton’s aides and others.
Most of the earlier debate centered on amendments lawmakers offered to change the bills, but once a conference committee approves a bill it cannot be amended. Only a yes or no vote is allowed.
The $975 million stadium construction proposal is the last major issue of the 2012 legislative session. If it passes, the Legislature is expected to adjourn for the year, followed by a large number of legislators giving retirement speeches.
Don Davis works for Forum Communications Co.