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Rybak proposes sales tax, casino, to pay for stadium

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Mayor R.T. Rybak
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak discusses his proposal for a new Minnesota Vikings football stadium in his city at a news conference at the State Capitol in St. Paul, Minn., on Thursday, Oct. 27, 2011. He displayed sketches of three potential sites for a stadium.
MPR Photo/Tim Nelson

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak renewed his efforts Thursday to keep the Minnesota Vikings football stadium within city limits, proposing a sales tax increase or casino revenues to fund the stadium, despite the team's plans to move to suburban Arden Hills.

Rybak said a Minneapolis stadium would be less expensive, would lower property taxes, and would create a better experience for fans.

The plan also includes the renovation of the Target Center, which would provide $5 million in property tax relief by eliminating property tax obligations to the Target Center, according to fact sheets released by the mayor's office.

The mayor said he prefers to pay for a new stadium by increasing the citywide sales tax by 0.35 percent, along with an additional 1 percent lodging tax. The mayor also raised the possibility of using gambling proceeds from a new casino at Block E in downtown Minneapolis as an alternate funding option.

However, Rybak would need the approval of the City Council to raise the city's sales tax. So far, the proposal has failed to attract much support from any council member other than Council President Barb Johnson.

The gambling revenue option has already attracted opposition. Rybak's proposal would take 5 percent of revenues from a Block E casino through 2020. After then, the rate would drop to 3 percent. The plan also includes a $20 million license fee.

A bipartisan group of nine state lawmakers held a news conference earlier Thursday to oppose any use of gambling proceeds to pay for a new Vikings stadium.

Rybak's proposed locations include the Metrodome site, a farmer's market area, and a site on Linden Avenue north of the Basilica of St. Mary, and his office released fact sheets on each of the sites which outline their potential costs and benefits.

According to the mayor's office, the Metrodome site would cost $895 million to develop; the farmer's market site would cost $1.046 billion; and the Linden Avenue site would cost $1.031 billion.

A comparison of the three proposals is available here.

"We are offering all three sites because we believe that it's important to have as many options on the table as possible," Rybak said at a news conference at the state Capitol Thursday afternoon.

The Vikings rejected proposals months ago to build a new stadium in Minneapolis, and instead plan to move to the site of a former army ammunition plant in Arden Hills, in Ramsey County.

The team released a brief statement shortly after Rybak's news conference, saying, "We respect Mayor Rybak and the City of Minneapolis for trying to find a stadium solution. However, the Minnesota Vikings have a local partner -- Ramsey County -- with whom we have negotiated for several months. Arden Hills is the ideal stadium site for the State, the Vikings and our fans."

Gov. Mark Dayton said Wednesday he intends to release his stadium plan during the week of Nov. 7. The governor was scheduled to take a helicopter tour Thursday to view potential stadium sites and plans to meet with legislative leaders Friday. The governor has said he is awaiting a formal written proposal from the Vikings in coming days.

Rybak said there's still time for the governor to decide to support a Minneapolis stadium.

"I think the governor right now is trying incredibly hard to get something done," said Rybak. "I believe the governor is wanting to have every good idea out there, because there is no single option that has moved with momentum at the Capitol."

Republicans in the House and Senate have not released a stadium plan. Dayton has said he wants to call a special legislative session for the week of Nov. 21 to resolve the issue.

Ramsey County is proposing a half-cent sales tax increase to pay for $350 million in stadium costs. The Vikings are proposing to spend more than $400 on the facility. Under that plan, the state would have to come up with $300 million.

Several ways to finance the state's portion of the new stadium have surfaced in recent weeks. The ideas include an expansion of gambling, the use of Legacy Amendment money, a ticket tax or a fee on sports memorabilia.