Fate of Vikings stadium rests with Minneapolis City Council

Stadium vote
Minneapolis City Council member Cam Gordon discusses his opposition to the Vikings stadium during a rally outside City Hall in Minneapolis, Minn. Wednesday, May 23, 2012. The Minneapolis City Council is voting Thursday and Friday on the final approval of the stadium.
MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson

The Minneapolis City Council on Thursday is scheduled to take the first of two votes that would green light the city's share of financing a new, billion-dollar home for the Minnesota Vikings on thes site of the Metrodome downtown.

It looks like Mayor R.T. Rybak has lined up the votes to approve the plan, but opponents aren't giving up yet. Reporter Tim Nelson and host Cathy Wurzer previewed the votes on Thursday's Morning Edition. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation:

Cathy Wurzer: What is the council actually considering?

Tim Nelson: The city has to sign off on a tax shift. There is a half-cent citywide sales taxes and some downtown hospitality taxes, like food, drinks and entertainment, that right now help pay for the debt on the Minneapolis Convention Center. The plan in state law has that money going to the Vikings stadium once the convention center bonds are paid off in 2020. But the state constitution says local sales taxes have to have a sign off from the relevant local governing body, a city or county.

Wurzer: It looks like this is going to pass, but there's still some opposition out there.

Nelson: That's right. There was a rally by about 50 people yesterday afternoon by the Welfare Rights Committee. They're were the ones who were heckling the governor at the stadium bill signing earlier this month. They say the city's money is better spent elsewhere.

As we've been reporting, the Taxpayer's League did a call-out to four council wards in the last couple weeks, and they're forwarding calls from stadium opponents to City Hall to put pressure on Diane Hofstede, Kevin Reich, Meg Tuthill and Sandy Colvin Roy, who represent those wards. The League is going door to door with anti stadium flyers in Reich's and Tuthill's wards.

And some people not actively campaigning for or against the stadium who say the price of a night out is already driving them out of the city. I talked to a young woman, Vanessa Pleasants, who lives in Northeast Minneapolis. She says she and her friends avoid downtown because of the expense. And the the Tax Foundation, a Washington Think Tank, says Minneapolis has the highest meal taxes of any city in the country.

Wurzer: So what is the city doing to counter this?

Nelson: Some of them seem to be doing their best to just stay away from the battle. Council member Kevin Reich, considered a swing vote on this matter, has avoided the media and public debate about the stadium. Other officials are taking a more proactive approach. I talked to mayor R.T. Rybak about his efforts.

"I've had community forums. We've sent out email newsletters. We're doing a mythbuster fact check, which has gotten unfortunately longer and longer because there's so much misinformation being put out there. But we'll keep that updated in real time. And just make sure that everybody can get the real facts. Which, when people see it, they realize, yeah, I would like to have my property taxes lowered. It would be nice to have Target Center and a billion dollar stadium and hospitality industry," he said.

Also, some of the outside groups, like Cory Merrifield's Save The Vikes Dot Org and the Vikings' own Minnesota Momentum campaign, have been encouraging fans to call and email their encouragement to stadium supporters on the council.

Wurzer: But it looks like this is going to pass.

Nelson: It does.

Wurzer: What then?

Nelson: Minneapolis has this two-step process. Today is technically just a committee recommendation, but it's the committee of the whole -- the entire council is on it -- so they're essentially telling themselves they ought to vote for this again tomorrow, at a formal council hearing.

If that passes, there will be a five-member authority set up to build the stadium itself. Rybak will appoint two people, Gov. Mark Dayton will name three -- two members and a chair. So look for those appointments soon. They'll probably hire a consulting firm and some attorneys, and they'll start drawing up what's called the "long form" that lays out the nitty gritty of the agreement between the state, the city and the Vikings -- right down to the carpeting.

The law lays out a rather convoluted bidding process on this, and either the stadium authority or the Vikings or both can oversee construction. So look for some resolution on that. But construction probably won't start until next spring.

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