Ramsey County's agreement on a Vikings stadium is a win for Minnesota

Tony Bennett
Tony Bennett, of Shoreview, is a Ramsey County commissioner.
Submitted photo

The agreement between the Minnesota Vikings and Ramsey County makes sense on a number of levels for the people of Ramsey County, the metro region and the state of Minnesota. The project will dramatically accelerate the redevelopment and revitalization of the largest Superfund site in the state. It will also transform a grossly underutilized property in the heart of the metro region into a productive site that will create jobs and economic activity, now and for decades to come.

Ramsey County is leveraging a billion-dollar redevelopment of an environmental eyesore and more than $100 million in sorely needed north metro highway improvements for a $350 million investment. We make this investment at a time when our skilled workforce is suffering record high unemployment and our state's economy is struggling to shake off a persistent recession.

The stadium will be publicly owned and available for high school and amateur sports and other community events. A multipurpose, year-round facility will allow the Twin Cities to continue to host events — such as the Super Bowl — and visitors from across Minnesota and beyond.

This project will support 13,000 full- and part-time jobs, including 7,500 construction jobs, over a three-year construction period. The stadium project will put $286 million in construction wages in the pockets of working men and women over the next three years. In return, they will pump $10 million in income taxes into the state's coffers. Skilled trades in Minnesota are currently experiencing unemployment rates ranging from 20 percent to 50 percent.

Once the stadium is completed in 2015, it will support 3,400 full- and part-time jobs with more than $100 million in personal earnings, according to a study by Conventions, Sports & Leisure International. Private development of nearby properties, both on the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant (TCAAP) site and across the northern suburbs, will generate new jobs and continuing positive economic impacts for the region.

Once the adjacent TCAAP property is fully developed, according to the Ramsey County Assessor's Office (assuming taxable value of the developed property of $232 million), it will generate approximately $6.6 million in total property taxes annually. This includes $1.4 million in state general tax and $2.3 million in county property tax.

Arden Hills rendering
In an image provided by the Minnesota Vikings NFL football team, an aerial view shows a proposed $1.1 billion retractable-roof stadium to be built on the site of the old Army ammunitions plant in Arden Hills, Minn., about 10 miles from downtown Minneapolis.
AP Photo/Minnesota Vikings

Off-site transportation-related infrastructure improvements will create a substantial number of additional jobs. A lot has been written about the cost of transportation improvements near the stadium site. Some politicians have called the need for infrastructure improvements a "deal-breaker." But I would point out that many of those improvements have been on the drawing board for years and postponed by the Department of Transportation. These projects are needed to ease congestion in the northern suburbs whether a stadium is built or not. In addition, we have identified a way to fund these long-delayed, much-needed improvements at a cost to the state of just $7 million a year, a small fraction of the metro highway construction budget.

And let's not forget the monetary value in keeping the Vikings in Minnesota. The team currently pays nearly $20 million in sales, liquor and income taxes annually. Visiting NFL players also contribute $1 million in income taxes to the state each year. The Conventions, Sports & Leisure International study also estimated the new stadium would be responsible for $145 million in direct annual spending by fans, the Vikings, the team's employees and players, by visiting teams and the NFL in connection with games and the operation of the facility.

Let me note for the record that the public is well protected by our agreement. The Vikings will cover all cost overruns on stadium construction and a portion of any cost overruns on land acquisition and remediation. And there is a profit-sharing agreement if the team is sold within 10 years. The Vikings will commit to a 30-year lease and pay for all municipal services, including police, traffic, fire, trash removal, etc. The lease will have no early termination provisions and will not allow the Vikings to relocate.

The Vikings will operate and maintain the facility under the direction of a five-member stadium authority and pay approximately 90 percent of operating and maintenance expenses.

The governor asked the Vikings to identify a stadium site and a willing local partner. Our agreement with the team answers both requests and provides the best opportunity for building the "people's stadium" that Gov. Mark Dayton envisioned. This project will pay enormous dividends to Ramsey County and the state of Minnesota for decades to come.

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Tony Bennett, of Shoreview, is a Ramsey County commissioner.

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