Minneapolis City Council stadium supporters still on board

Rybak, Bagley
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and Lester Bagley, Vikings vice president of public affairs and stadium development, stand outside the Senate chambers in St. Paul, Minn. Thursday, May 10, 2012. The Senate was debating the Vikings stadium bill.
MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson

Some members of the Minneapolis City Council who support the Vikings stadium bill say they have not seen any changes to the original bill that would cause them to switch their vote.

The Minnesota Senate approved a plan today to use public money to pay for just more than half of a $975 million stadium for the Minnesota Vikings.

The stadium financing plan has changed since last month when council members voted 7-6 to pass a non-binding resolution in support of the proposal. The final version of the plan increases the Vikings contribution by $50 million, and lowers the state's share by the same amount. The city of Minneapolis' share of upfront costs remains $150 million.

The proposal is now in the hands of the Minneapolis City Council, which could have its final say in a vote in possibly as soon as two weeks, and of Gov. Mark Dayton, who is expected to sign the bill.

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Councilmember Sandy Colvin Roy has not seen all of the changes that emerged from several days of round-the-clock negotiation and debate to come up with a package that would pass the House and Senate. But she said the increased share for the Vikings reinforces her support for the stadium funding plan.

"From what I know, all the financial arrangements for the city of Minneapolis are the same. So I haven't been given a reason to change my mind," Colvin Roy said.

Colvin Roy is one of a few council members to hold out before going public with a decision last month to support or reject the plan. The final swing vote in favor of the stadium was council member Kevin Reich. Reich hasn't returned calls for comment.

The proposal is particularly controversial because it skirts a city charter provision that requires a voter referendum to use city taxpayer money on any sports stadium that costs more than $10 million.

However, the city attorney says the money contributed by the city to the Vikings is actually controlled by the state. And the state has the authority to dictate how that money is spent.

But Councilmember Robert Lilligren, who has consistently opposed the city's subsidy, disagrees with the city attorney's opinion.

"To me, that's a very clear message from the voters of the city of Minneapolis," Lilligren said. "That's a very strong message. They want a say. I think they should have it."

Lilligren and others point out that in the end the city will be responsible for much more than $10 million. City officials say the interest on the bonds to cover Minneapolis' $150 million contribution will cost the city more than four-times the principal. And the city is expected to spend nearly $189 million in operating costs over the years.

That's too much of a public subsidy for a private business, Lilligren said.

"I represent an area that has a considerable amount of need. And my feeling is that if we're going to tax to this level, I think there are other priorities we should choose other than this Vikings stadium," he said.

Supporters of the bill say Lilligren's constituents, as well as others across Minneapolis, will benefit from the proposal. Under the plan, the city will be released from its obligation to fund improvements to the Target Center. And city officials say the money there will be used to lower property taxes.