WDAZ: Your Home Team

Published May 09, 2012, 06:54 PM

Vikings' Contribution to Stadium at Issue

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota lawmakers working out a final Vikings stadium bill must decide how much money the team should put into the $975 million proposal.

By: Brian Bakst, Associated Press

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota lawmakers working out a final Vikings stadium bill must decide how much money the team should put into the $975 million proposal.

Both the House and Senate were standing by Wednesday for the final product of a conference committee that by late afternoon had yet to meet.

The Vikings were closer than ever to a replacement for the 30-year-old Metrodome, but big hurdles remained. Both the House and Senate this week passed bills raising the team's $427 million contribution — by $105 million in the House, $25 million in the Senate.

Throughout the franchise's latest push for a publicly subsidized football stadium, team executives insisted they wouldn't pay more. The $427 million figure was "set in stone," Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley said as recently as last week.

But in convincing votes, lawmakers went on record demanding that the Vikings and private partners foot a bigger share of construction costs. It's part of a broader skirmish over how much, if any, tax money should benefit a private enterprise owned by wealthy New Jersey developer Zygi Wilf.

"The Vikings didn't get whatever they wanted," said GOP Sen. Julie Rosen, the bill's chief sponsor. She said the team will have to come up with more to come away successful.

Whatever final product the conference committee comes up with would need to pass both the House and Senate, but would then go to Gov. Mark Dayton, a strong stadium booster who would presumably sign it. Then it would be up to the Vikings whether to accept the deal.

To be sure, Wilf won't be cutting a personal check — at least not for most of it. The team expects to tap into an NFL loan program for as much as $200 million. It could also cash in on naming rights, sell seat licenses and leverage other new revenue streams from a state-of-the art-stadium to make good on its debt.

Following Tuesday night's Senate vote, Bagley said the team is still standing by the amount it pledged earlier, but he acknowledged the final package is "to be determined."

"It has to be a package deal and a negotiation that works for all parties — the Vikings, the state, the city," he said.

The Vikings say their costs go beyond the upfront contribution. Officials note that they will pay annual rent and help defray operating costs of the building, which a public authority would also rent out for concerts, conventions, monster truck pulls and other activities.

The Senate added a new dynamic by adopting user fees on suites, parking and Vikings merchandise. The state would impose a 10 percent fee on suites and on parking within a half-mile of the stadium, and impose a 6.875 percent fee on Vikings clothing, trading cards and other memorabilia.

It's all meant to soothe concerns of lawmakers about a gambling expansion that is the main source of money pegged to retire public debt. The stadium bill contemplates tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue from new electronic pull-tab and bingo games in bars and restaurants. The robust estimates have drawn plenty of skepticism.

Another $150 million of the stadium tab will come from a redirected sales tax in the city of Minneapolis, where the new stadium would be built.

In sheer dollars, the current Vikings stadium plan would be the third priciest in football, behind recently built facilities in Dallas and New York. The public contribution by percentage could still shift, but in all likelihood a Minnesota subsidy is likely to cover between 40 and 50 percent of construction.

That would put the Vikings package somewhere in the middle of NFL projects over the past dozen years.

In Cleveland, for instance, the Browns' $290 million stadium opened in 1999 after three-quarters was financed by taxpayers. The gleaming Giants and Jets $1.6 billion stadium was built entirely with private funds.

Time has made the Vikings venture more expensive. Back in 2000, the team floated a stadium project of about $400 million.

Back then, the Vikings were staring at a lease lasting another 12 years so lawmakers felt no urgency to act. The team's lease expired after last season, though the Vikings are committed to play the 2012 season at the Metrodome.

The possibility the team could move added an element of pressure to the current deliberations. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has personally lobbied Minnesota leaders to pass a stadium plan, and chatter about efforts in Los Angeles to nab a team is rampant.


AP Sports Writer Jon Krawczynski contributed to this report from Minneapolis.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.