If the story of the Minnesota Vikings’ pursuit of a new stadium were a mystery novel, it would be an interesting one. Rather than a whodunit, it is more of a “whowilldoit,” as new characters keep joining the roster and throwing readers (the fans) off track of the final resolution.
The main characters of this story are Zygi Wilf and his team, the Minnesota Vikings, Ramsey Country, who have pledged to contribute to building a new stadium in Arden Hills and the state of Minnesota, represented by Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton, who has supported the stadium and capped the state’s contribution at $300 million, but is busy trying to finalize a budget for the entire state. Ultimately, these are the main players and the ones everyone is thinking will do the deed and build a stadium, but that hasn’t stopped new characters from entering the fray.
One of the latest characters to enter the saga is the St. Paul City Council. Wednesday they voted unanimously on a resolution that opposed a Ramsey County half-cent sales tax increase that would help pay for the stadium. The action announces the council’s concerns but does not compel the Legislature or the County Board to do anything. According to the Star Tribune, city council member Pat Harris said of the Vikings-Ramsey County plan, “There’s no return back to our community. … It doesn’t make sense for St. Paul.”
Vikings vice president Lester Bagley, who has been the team spokesman on stadium issues said the Vikings appreciated St. Paul’s concern, but “Ramsey County is our local partner. … They stepped up. What’s difficult in a stadium issue is providing leadership.”
Then there is the addition of New Brighton mayor Dave Jacobsen, who told Minnesota Momentum, a Vikings website, that he likes the stadium in his county: “If you look at the economic gain and what it will do for improvement to the north metro area,” he said, “it far outweighs the cost of a … tax,”
In the recent past, the city of Minneapolis has been involved in the story, attempting to lure the team downtown to either the Metrodome site or to an area on the west side in the Farmer’s Market near Target Field and Target Center. Of late, Minneapolis has been quiet, but there are rumors they are still working behind the scenes to get something done there.
St. Paul mayor Chris Coleman recently demonstrated that he doesn’t like the financing structure of the Arden Hills project. He offered the idea of raising revenue by taxing alcoholic beverages, and some have come out for and others against that idea. While he had appeared to have retreated into the background of the story for a time, he popped up again on Thursday by emailing a letter to more than 30 city officials in communities all over Ramsey County in an attempt to convince them to reject the County’s planned tax increase for the stadium.
“While the Vikings may be a statewide asset, the residents and businesses of just one county should not solely bear the burden of financing their new facility,” Coleman’s letter states. “The City of [CITY] continues to face many challenges similar to that of the State of Minnesota. Revenue continues to decrease as costs continue to rise. The mortgage foreclosure crisis is not over, and unemployment remains high. Adding a half-cent sales tax to businesses and residents to fund a statewide asset is unfair and inequitable.”
Coleman is appearing to take on the role of bad guy for Vikings fans in favor of the Arden Hills plan, but who knows where his actions will lead. Certainly Coleman and St. Paul (the county’s largest city) will be heard from again as the citizens of his city would pay the bulk of any tax levied against the people of Ramsey County.
In this saga it is important to follow the money–particularly important since that is what is holding it up. The Vikings are willing to contribute $437 million to a stadium in Arden Hills, while Ramsey County promised $350 million and they both await word on approval of the state’s $300 million. The current deal on the table is a better one than the Vikings have been offered in Minneapolis (where the team would not be able to get any parking revenue).
The Vikings clearly like the Ramsey County proposal, and fans shouldn’t be distracted by the late-arriving players in this mystery. There was word last week that an agreement has been reached on a bill for the state’s portion, but it is not being announced until the legislature finishes its work on the budget–and that is not going so well right now.
We don’t know yet “whowilldoit” when it comes to the financing of the Vikings stadium, but we are closer to a resolution than we’ve ever been. Too bad we can’t page ahead to the end and see how it turns out.