Dayton shoots down GOP 11th-hour roofless stadium plan

Mark Dayton
Gov. Mark Dayton speaks to the media at the State Capitol on Tuesday, May 1, 2012.
MPR Photo/Tim Pugmire

In the battle over a Vikings stadium at Minnesota's State Capitol, the roof has come off. Literally.

Republican leaders are floating a new plan to slash the cost of the new stadium, with a radical change in the financing and the design. The proposal calls for an open-air stadium, paid for by the state's general fund -- which is a break with previous insistence that tax dollars not be used.

GOP House Majority Leader Matt Dean said the state would only pay for infrastructure for the project. That would not include the stadium itself.

"Our participation is capped at the infrastructure costs," said Dean "I think that's something that people can understand. It's a really honest way of paying for it, the way we pay for other things. The average person can get their head around it, and understand it."

Dean was sketchy on details but said the plan would not involve any new revenue. That would leave behind proposals for electronic pull tabs, lottery games and other ideas that have been working their way through the Legislature.

"There is no racino. There is no casino. There is no gambling in this proposal," said Dean. "There is no additional revenue in this proposal, as we are discussing it."

It's a radical shift away from the nearly $1 billion roofed stadium that emerged from 15 months of negotiations and political struggle among state officials, the Vikings, Ramsey County and the city of Minneapolis. Under that plan, the state would pay about $400 million, the city of Minneapolis about $150 million and the Vikings about $427 million.

Gov. Mark Dayton rejected the new plan immediately, saying it was contrary to the very reason he supported an NFL stadium in the first place.

"It would be available only for the Vikings games, 10 times a year, and therefore not usable by amateur sports, conventions or concerts or anything else that makes it a 365-days-a-year 'people's stadium,'" said Dayton.

Dayton also questioned the timing of the plan, which emerged with only a handful of meeting days left in this legislative session. He compared it with the deal that his administration struck with the Vikings in March.

"It's gone through seven legislative committees, it's been reviewed, vetted," said Dayton. "Now today, the day after the Legislature was supposed to go home, they come out with a brand new financing that totally revamps it, totally changes from what it was intended to be, a people's stadium, to something else. It"s just really hard to take this seriously."

The plan was rolled out late Tuesday afternoon by Dean and GOP House Speaker Kurt Zellers, and they were joined by Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem and Senate Tax Committee chair Julianne Ortman. They said they thought their GOP colleagues would support the new proposal.

The plan would also require DFL support, since it would use general obligation bonding. That requires a three-fifths super majority of all lawmakers, including at least 10 DFL house members and nine DFL senators.

Even some Republicans expressed doubt about the new details. Sen. Julie Rosen of Fairmont has sponsored the stadium bill all session.

"There are some very key parts to this stadium deal. No. 1, it has to have a roof, whether it's retractable or its fixed," said Rosen. "This should be able to be used by the high school football and soccer leagues, and the St. Thomas baseball team for spring practice. And we should be able to have a Super Bowl and the Final Four, and all those above."

Minneapolis Major R.T. Rybak also flatly rejected the plan, saying his city would not tolerate scaling back the project to omit a roof -- but keep the city's contribution at the original $150 million.

"This partner is not going to be part of that," said Rybak. "This partner and the partners in the governor's office and the different houses of the Legislature can all work together on the plan that we have negotiated for a long time."

Vikings spokesman Lester Bagley said the team doesn't support the new plan either.

"The time to reconsider the site or design is passed. We need to get this deal done," he said.

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