By Dean Urdahl
District 18B, State Representative
Since the end of the legislative session I have received many comments about stadiums. There are now three plans receiving strong consideration. If we have a special session we will likely take up all, or some of the proposals. The only plan that would require general tax dollars, in the way of bonding, would be the Gopher facility. The Viking proposal seeks general tax dollars for improving transportation. The stadium would be built by the Vikings, the NFL, and Anoka County. The Twins plan calls for the Twins and Hennepin County to build the ballpark.
In other words, citizens of 18B would not pay for the Twins and Vikings stadiums unless they shopped in Anoka and Hennepin Counties. Also, it is important to note that these parks would be owned by Anoka and Hennepin Counties and not by the Vikings or Twins. Here’s a brief look at the specifics of the three plans.
On-campus Gopher football stadium
In retrospect, moving Golden Gopher football into the Metrodome and tearing down old Memorial Stadium was a mistake. Now, the University would like to bring outdoor football back to campus by building a $235 million, football-only stadium.
The University is asking for 40 percent of the cost – about $94 million – to come from the state. It will raise the rest itself and has already secured $50 million in sponsorships and private donations. One of the biggest deals is with TCF banks for naming rights and it expires at the end of this year, putting a bit of urgency into the issue.
The Legislature has grappled with the Twins stadium issue for nearly a decade now. Governor Carlson called a special fall session in 1997 to debate the issue, but Legislators voted it down. The year before I arrived, the Legislature passed a Twins funding plan but the team deemed it unacceptable and it went nowhere.
Now the Twins are back with what might be their last proposal. Their plan for a $444 million stadium would use $125 million from the team and raise the rest through a 0.15 percent Hennepin County sales tax. But, the County needs our approval to raise the tax without a referendum, which has caused some to oppose the plan.
If approved, the stadium would be built on the western edge of downtown Minneapolis and be surrounded by housing and transit access, making it a “Twinsville” reminiscent of Wrigleyville in Chicago. As proposed, the stadium would have no roof, but the state could decide to fund one if it deems a roof necessary.
New Vikings owner Zigy Wilf would like to see his own development around a new Vikings stadium he proposed for the City of Blaine. Along with a $675 million stadium, Wilf would like to build two hotels, a medical center, a mall, offices and housing just off Interstate 35W.
Like the Twins stadium plan, the Vikings want the Legislature to give them authority to raise the local sales tax without a referendum. The tax would raise most of the cost, with Wilf contributing $280 million and using $115 million from the state general fund. Another controversial part of the Vikings’ plan is to give transportation projects in the stadium area construction priority. I suspect a lot of legislators will be hesitant to delay a transportation project in their home district in favor of building a Vikings stadium.
Will there be a special session to deal with these stadiums? I don't know. Governor Pawlenty has said that the chances are about fifty-fifty. If we do go back I think that the Gophers would be first in the pecking order followed by the Twins and then the Vikings. I would also suspect that doing all three at the same time might be more than many legislators would support. Even though most of the cost would be borne by Anoka and Hennepin it still adds up to about 1.2 billion.
The stadium debate has gone on a long time. We must consider the economic and social impact of sports and stadiums to Minnesota and reach a conclusion soon.