Stadium critics make noise on groundbreaking day

Today’s groundbreaking ceremony in Minneapolis for the new Vikings stadium was a celebration for supporters of the $1 billion project, but it was also a chance for critics to take one more shot at what they view as a risky deal.

Vikings owner Zygi Wilf was among those celebrating outside the Metrodome. He also used a shovel to turn some dirt. Wilf said the day was a long time coming.

“Since the first day we were owners, we always dreamt that we would get a new stadium and a championship,” Wilf said. “So we’re finally on the way to building a new stadium. It’s an exciting day.

Gov. Mark Dayton, who signed the stadium measure into law last year, was also on hand. Dayton said he’d do it again, even if voters show their disagreement at the polls next fall.

“That’s the point at which Minnesotans will have the right to decide whether they want to keep me on the job or not,” Dayton said. “But either way, I’ll know I did what I think is right for Minnesota. Economic recovery and putting thousands of people to work, that’s as good as it gets in my line of work.”

Stadium opponents used the occasion to warn about potential financing issues with the project.

As Dayton and Wilf were posing for pictures the Taxpayers League of Minnesota and other conservative groups held a St. Paul news conference, where they claimed that state lawmakers will need to find new funding options to cover the public share of the cost.The president of the league, former Republican state Sen. Ted Lillie, said taxpayers deserved a better deal.

“The public is paying for half of this stadium, and we’re not treated like partners,” Lillie said. “We’re treated more like pawns in this process. We’re not allowed a process to pay for this stadium the way it should be.”

Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville predicted that funding for the public share of the stadium will eventually fall short, and taxpayers will get hit harder. Thompson, who is a GOP candidate for governor, blamed Dayton.

“Who’s going to get stuck with it? Probably the taxpayer, and not the hated 1 percent,” Thompson said. “The regular folks in Minnesota that are getting up every Monday through Friday, going to work, working hard and earning an average living will pay for this stadium. It’s wrong. It shouldn’t have been done, and this governor should be held accountable.”

Republicans controlled the Legislature when the stadium measure was passed, and the bill had two Republican sponsors. Public money makes up about half of the $1 billion project.

(MPR Reporter Tim Nelson contributed to this post)