Minn. stadium foes suggest giving Dome to Vikings

By Patrick Condon

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Oct. 21 2011 1:49 p.m. MDT

ST. PAUL, Minn. — A bipartisan group of Minnesota state lawmakers opposed to taxpayer subsidies for a new Minnesota Vikings stadium proposed a plan Friday to simply give the team the Metrodome.

The Vikings, however, aren't interested.

"Even stadium opponents understand the facility no longer works for the team, our fans of the state," team spokesman Jeff Anderson said.

The plan from Democratic Sen. John Marty of Roseville and Republican Rep. Linda Runbeck of Circle Pines would transfer ownership of Metrodome in downtown Minneapolis to the team, contingent on the owners signing a 25-year contract and assuming its operating costs.

Marty and Runbeck said that would let the team refurbish the Metrodome to whatever level they want; the plan would also add the facility to the property tax rolls in Minneapolis.

"We're trying to inject a little fiscal sanity into the debate," Marty said, adding that "everyone from the tea party to Occupy Wall Street are angry about corporate subsidies."

Vikings officials have said the team's profit potential at the Metrodome doesn't keep pace with other NFL teams. The team's lease there runs out at the end of the season, which has raised fears for team supporters that lack of an alternative could leave an opening for another city seeking an NFL franchise.

Gov. Mark Dayton has backed the team's wish for a new, $1.1 billion stadium in the suburb of Arden Hills, or at another site. Dayton, a Democrat, went all in on the stadium push this week, convening multiple meetings with stakeholders and expressing a desire to call a special session for a stadium plan vote before the end of November.

Dayton said he takes seriously the prospect that the team could leave Minnesota, and plans by Nov. 7 to introduce his own stadium proposal for lawmakers to consider.

Dayton's spokeswoman, Katie Tinucci, said Friday that the governor welcomes "thoughtful proposals" from all corners but she said the plan floated Friday didn't appear likely to draw Dayton's support.

Marty and Runbeck said if Dayton calls a special session, they would introduce their proposal as an option. Both said they hoped Dayton would not call a special session, expressing skepticism the Vikings will actually leave and saying the state has more serious problems.

The idea to hand the Metrodome over to a pro sports team is not a new one; it was suggested several years ago when the Minnesota Twins were seeking state help to build what became Target Field, but never went anywhere.

Runbeck said she believes the latest proposal would actually stand a better chance than a stadium subsidy plan of being approved by the 201 members of the Legislature.

"Why should taxpayers be asked to pay for a shrine to professional sports?" Runbeck said. "We want the Vikings to stay here, but really a much more modest approach is going to be better all the way around."

Both Marty and Runbeck represent portions of Ramsey County, the proposed host of the Arden Hills stadium. The proposal between the Vikings and county leaders calls for a half-cent county sales tax increase to help build the stadium, and both lawmakers — joined by other colleagues from the Ramsey County delegation — said sentiment among their constituents runs strongly against the tax increase for the stadium.

Supporters of the plan "want to subsidize a billionaire," Marty said, referring to Vikings owner Zygi Wilf. "Let's face it — that's what they want to do."

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