Ramsey County reboots tax plan for Vikings stadium

Artist's rendering of Arden Hills
This promotional image published by the Minnesota Vikings depicts what the team's new stadium may look like in Arden Hills.
Courtesy of the Minnesota Vikings

Ramsey County is dropping its countywide sales tax plan to help pay for an Arden Hills stadium for the Minnesota Vikings. Instead, county officials are proposing new user fees and parking lot naming rights. They also hope to recapture proceeds from development spawned by the stadium project.

The revenues are outlined in a letter to be sent Friday to Gov. Mark Dayton and legislative stadium bill sponsors Sen. Julie Rosen, of Fairmont, and Rep. Morrie Lanning, of Moorhead.

Ramsey County says new "user fees and site-specific" taxes can generate up to $20.6 million a year. Over the life of the plan, that would add up to about $618 million.

"This looks at fees associated with the stadium. It does provide for some taxing, but it does involve just the stadium property," says Ramsey County Commissioner Tony Bennett, the chief backer of the new plan.

There are seven revenue streams in total that county officials will pitch to the state:

• Stadium parking revenues
• Parking lot naming rights
• Admission surcharge
• Sales tax growth at the new stadium
• Stadium property fees comparable to those collected in Minneapolis
• Property taxes on stadium-related businesses at the site
• Debt service for Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant site acquisition and cleanup

The plan relies on a complex mix of revenue-generating tools and spending shifts. County officials, who did not want to be identified before their meeting with the governor, explained some of the more unusual aspects of the proposal to MPR News on background.

The portion of the revenue stream described as "sales tax growth" will be calculated against the base revenue from the current Metrodome site. Since the new stadium is expected to be 50 percent big than the Metrodome, it's expected to generate more sales overall. County officials acknowledge that's existing state revenue, but they're suggesting it should be earmarked for more than $100 million in road and freeway improvements around the site.

The fees on the stadium property would include entertainment, bar, food and hotel taxes that match downtown Minneapolis taxes.

The property tax element of the plan would apply existing state business property taxes to new commercial development around the stadium. The money raised by that tax, similar to the growth in sales taxes, would apply to surrounding transportation improvements, rather than putting the money into the state's general fund.

The county is also offering to pay for the cost of acquiring the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant site. The property has an estimated value of approximately $30 million.

In the original stadium plan Ramsey County's offered to pay for $350 million of the stadium's cost. The cost of the new proposal totals $321 million.

Ramsey County's previous proposals relied on countywide sales taxes. One plan would have imposed a half-percent sales tax. The other plan relied on a 3 percent food and beverage tax. Both plans were rejected by Republican lawmakers who said they wouldn't unilaterally impose new taxes to pay for a stadium.

The tax idea was also subject of a failed referendum effort before the Ramsey County Charter Commission. Opponents are now gathering signatures for another potential ballot measure that could bar the county from spending any money on the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant property.

The latest stadium offer further reduces Ramsey County's proposed contribution to the Vikings stadium. The original countywide sales tax plan aimed to generate up to $28 million per year. The 3 percent countywide food and beverage tax was estimated to raise approximately $24 million a year. Ramsey County's latest plan would raise up $20.6 million a year.

County officials say they still think the money will be enough to pay the local share of a deal they reached with the team last May.

A Ramsey County delegation is set to meet with Sen. Rosen this morning, and will present their plan to Dayton at a 10 a.m. meeting.

Editor's note: A previous version of this story made reference to the new stadium proposal's "advertising fees." That language has been replaced with "parking lot naming rights" for clarity.

Read Ortega's letter to Dayton:

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