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How To Pay For A New Vikings Stadium, That Is The Question

March 31, 2011

A new Vikings stadium is a good thing. That’s one point that everyone can agree on. How to fund the stadium is where the debate lies.

Minnesota State Senator John Marty joined Arthur Rolnick, Director of Research at the Minneapolis Federal Reserve, to debate Vikings’ assistant director of public affairs Jeff Anderson and his tag-team partner for the evening Cory Merrifield of The University of Minnesota’s Debate Team hosted the panel of four guests on Wednesday evening to discuss the merits of a new stadium.

“The state can’t afford to fund a new Vikings stadium,” Marty told the crowd gathered at the University of Minnesota’s Willey Hall.

Jeff Anderson disagreed with Marty, pointing to the revenue stream the Vikings create in the state of Minnesota as well as the construction jobs a new stadium would bring. But Anderson still has a realistic view of the importance of a new home for the Vikings.

“Never once will you hear the Vikings say that we’re the No. 1 priority and we should be dealt with over education or health care … but we do believe it’s an important issue and we believe now is the time to resolve it,” Anderson said.

Anderson and Cory Merrifield stressed that no general fund money would be used to fund a new stadium. Rather, Merrifield presented a three-pronged approach to build a new stadium estimated to cost about $900 million dollars.

Merrifield’s proposal entails three revenue sources each footing a third of the bill: The Vikings, racino money, and user-based fan fees.

The Vikings have pledged to put up approximately a third of the cost, and the idea of a racino would raise money through gambling machines set up at various locations around the state.

KSTP’s Tom Hauser revealed the details of the “user-based” financing plan for the new stadium bill that is expected to be introduced in the legislature this week. According to Hauser, the user-based fan fees will include “a sports memorabilia tax, a Vikings lottery game, a luxury box sales tax and a surcharge on pro football player incomes.”

Arthur Rolnick chose to look at the Vikings stadium issue through a larger lens. He stressed that it is bad policy for governments to fund private businesses without a public referendum.

“You do not allow governments to pick winners and losers,” said Rolnick. “If the Vikings are so great, let the people vote.”

Rolnick went on to give his own view of how government and business should interact.

“If I was in charge of policy in Minnesota, I wouldn’t tax businesses at all. I want government to treat all businesses the same.”

Overall, the debate was spirited, yet courteous. In a conversation after the event, Marty said he wished “all his discussions at the Capital were this civil.”

Marty’s colleagues at the Capital have been working on a stadium bill that Vikings’ vice president of public affairs Lester Bagley characterized as having a “workable framework.”

“We still have time and lots of hard work to do,” Bagley said. “We have never been this far [in the stadium process].”

Will a new stadium bill pass in the legislature this session?

“There’s a chance,” said Senator Marty. “The Vikings are an important asset to Minnesota.”

The Vikings organization would agree with that assessment. In fact, the team and their fans are banking on that chance. Now all they need to do is figure out how to pay for it.

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