Ramsey Co. Vikings stadium sales tax on docket for meeting tonight

Gayle Bonneville
Gayle Bonneville, of Minneapolis, opposes raising taxes to help pay for a new Vikings stadium.
MPR File Photo/Tim Nelson

The Ramsey County charter commission is meeting Wednesday night to discuss a potential deal that includes a sales tax to help pay for a new Vikings stadium.

Opponents on the 17-member commission say that sales taxes in Minnesota usually require voter approval, and that they'd like a referendum on the idea.

"I believe the bill will try to circumvent both the provisions in state law that mandate a vote on a sales tax increase, and I think they're going to try and circumvent the charter," said Rod Halvorson, a commission member and its former chairman. "That's why I wanted us to get together for a meeting tonight and pass a resolution urging the governor and the legislature and the rest of the Ramsey County commissioners to not subvert the charter rights and the people's right to vote."

The commission is only discussing a non-binding advisory resolution Wednesday. An actual referendum would require 28,000 signatures on a petition before the tax was put to voters.

The meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Vadnais Heights Commons, 655 E. County Rd F.

It comes as Ramsey County officials and the Vikings are trying to work out details for a final, best offer on a stadium deal to put before the state.

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They've already reached a tentative deal, calling for a $1 billion, 1.6 million square foot stadium in Arden Hills, to be paid for with state sportswear taxes, lottery proceeds, and a Ramsey County half-cent sales tax, among other things.

Ramsey County commissioner Rafael Ortega says the county still wants to "value engineer" the plan, short for cutting corners on the project. He suggested changing the design from a retractable to a fixed roof to save costs.

Other officials have suggested recalculating labor costs and asking the federal government for a discount on purchase of a former Army arsenal as a stadium site.

"The question's going to be, again, what are all the possibilities we could do in terms of obtaining the site, at least the public use site, for less money," Ortega said.

For their part, the Vikings are reacting coolly to some of those ideas. Vice President Lester Bagley said that the team has already cut as many stadium corners as it can — basing their plan on the Lucas Oil stadium construction for the Indianapolis Colts.

He also expressed some doubt about changing the roof design. He says a fixed roof would make it less attractive to other users, like amateur sports leagues, which are the very reason the state has agreed to chip in on the plan.

"In order to accommodate multi sports, like baseball and soccer, to make it a people's stadium... making it a fixed roof isn't an option." Bagley said.

But he said the team was still looking at number of other options to make the deal happen. Those could include rearranging the financing or looking at more user fees to help pay for the infrastructure costs.

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EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this story reported the location of the meeting as the Vadnais Heights city hall due to incorrect information. This has been corrected and we apologize for any confusion this might have caused.