The selling of the stadium

Now that the Vikings stadium deal is a “done deal” at the Capitol (although the bill hasn’t even been written yet), Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak has started selling the idea to a divided city.

He sent this email today:


Dear Friend,

Yesterday, I stood with Governor Mark Dayton, legislative leaders, labor leaders, business leaders and representatives of the Minnesota Vikings to announce a two-part deal that is very good for Minneapolis.

A new stadium at the Metrodome site, with Vikings’ paying more than half of a $1-billion investment

The first part: We will build a new stadium Minneapolis at the Metrodome site — and the Vikings will pay more than half the cost.

It simply makes sense: the site that has been the home of the Minnesota Vikings for the last 30 years will be its home for the next 30 years, on the lowest-cost site that takes advantage of the infrastructure already in place. Building the new Vikings stadium at that location has been the policy of the City for many years.

And it simply makes sense that the private contribution will be greater than the public contribution.

This new stadium is a $1-billion investment that will support 13,000 much-needed, union jobs during construction, at a time when unemployment in the construction trades is at a crisis level. It will also support another 3,400 permanent jobs after construction. The vast majority of these jobs will go to Minnesotans, with a significant portion of them going to Minneapolis residents, especially those from neighborhoods with high rates of poverty and unemployment.

This stadium will be owned by the public and open for non-Vikings events 355 days a year. It will be a world-class facility that will ensure that Minneapolis remains the #1 sports and entertainment destination in the upper Midwest — and that ensures business and good jobs for bars and restaurants both downtown and across Minneapolis.

Over the 30-year life cycle of the stadium, the Vikings will contribute more than half the cost — just over 50% — of building, operating and maintaining it. The City of Minneapolis will contribute less than a quarter — just 22.7%.

Target Center, Convention Center and property-tax relief

The second part: Just as importantly, the deal provides Minneapolis with the resources and flexibility to accomplish the #1 goal of the City Council, Council President Barbara Johnson and me: securing the future of the Minneapolis Convention Center, renovating Target Center and providing property-tax relief for Minneapolis residents and businesses.

For far too long, Minneapolis property taxpayers alone have unfairly borne the burden of Target Center debt. The reason that Council President Johnson and I have been at the table has been to win property-tax relief — and we’ve said all along that we would not agree to any stadium deal that did not do that. Yesterday, we won what we’ve been fighting for.

No new taxes

We will accomplish all of this — build a new $1-billion People’s Stadium, renovate the Target Center, secure a competitive Convention Center and above all, provide much-needed property-tax relief — with no new taxes. We will do so by using only existing, State-authorized sales and user taxes that are currently collected in Minneapolis, the so-called “Convention Center taxes,” that are paid by the 18 million people who visit, work or spend a dollar in Minneapolis each year. Not one dollar of property taxes. Not one dollar of income taxes.

The economics and politics of a good deal

Like a lot of people, I’m a fan of Minnesota’s professional sports — but I’m not a fan of the economics of professional sports. Despite that context, this is a very good deal for Minneapolis. For less than one-quarter of the total project cost, we will secure a $1-billion investment that will create tens of thousands of jobs, and that will give us the flexibility and resources to accomplish our top goals of lowering property taxes and ensuring the future of the Target Center and the Convention Center.

In the political context, too, this is also a very good deal for Minneapolis. As I’ve said before, the Legislature has the power simply to take away the Convention Center taxes — and legislative leaders made it clear that they might do just that, which would put an even greater burden on Minneapolis property taxpayers. But because Council President Johnson and I were at the table fighting for Minneapolis, those revenues –paid by 18 million people a year — will come in for three more decades. And for the first time ever, we can use them for property-tax relief.

Coming together in a great city

Now that the City, State and team have come together on this very good deal for Minneapolis, the City Council and the Legislature must approve it. The question they must answer is, what kind of city and state are we going to be?

Minneapolis is a great city because we have made big investments that have made it a great place to live. This deal builds on that tradition.

But Minneapolis is also a practical city, where our residents rightly demand that we look out for their wallets. This deal builds on that tradition as well.

In a great city that has accomplished great things, we can come together to approve this deal to create another great place for people to come together for the next generation.

Council President Johnson and I strongly urge you to contact your City Council member, State Senator and State Representative and ask them to come together to support it.

Several of the City Council aren’t buying the pitch. “I could never support a plan that circumvents city law,” Gary Schiff tells MPR’s Curtis Gilbert about a law that requires a referendum. “I won’t break the law. I’ve sworn to the law as an office holder. And I’m not going to break the city charter.”

Perhaps nobody has worked harder against the subsidizing of the stadium than Ed Kohler, who writes The Deets blog. He takes Rybak’s letter apart here.


Minneapolis residents bear the burden of the Target Center debt through property taxes, the Convention Center debt through downtown entertainment taxes, the Twins field debt through Hennepin County sales taxes, the Gopher football stadium through income taxes, and are being asked to pay for a Vikings stadium through a combination of entertainment taxes and taxes from the state. Minneapolis residents are asking for their right to vote on whether it’s in their best interest to continue to pay for pro sports stadiums, as the City Charter requires.

Shifting the Convention Center tax away from a facility with a leaky roof that’s likely due for major renovations in order to remain competitive in order to meet Zygi Wilf’s corporate welfare demands doesn’t seem like the smartest decision in the world. It leaves some questions unanswered.

All of this, of course, is made possible by the subtle — sometimes not so subtle — hints that the team would leave for the bright lights of Los Angeles. Was that a realistic threat? One might think the people of Los Angeles would be interested in the possibility of an NFL team heading their way. Yesterday’s “agreement” didn’t merit a mention in today’s Los Angeles Times. Over the course of the never-ending debate on the future of the team in Minnesota, as a matter of fact, the issue has earned little but a shrug in L.A.

  • kennedy

    Judging by the lack of posts, nobody here is buying.