New measure would make Vikings backup to state stadium financing

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GOP Rep. Bob Barrett says he wants the Vikings to be the backup to the electronic pulltabs if the games can't pay the debt service on a new stadium.

The games are tens of millions of dollars behind expectations, almost six months after their debut in Minnesota bars.

The second-term Republican from Lindstrom says he'll introduce a bill that would make the Vikings guarantee the debt service for stadium bonds out of the team's expected stadium revenue -- including naming rights and a $200 million dollar NFL "G4" loan to the team.

"We want to move enough of it over to the public side so that we fill the gap in the e-pulltab revenue and we keep it out of the general fund," Barrett said in an interview today. "We want to make sure today, tomorrow, next year, five years from now, the general fund will not be hit for this project. That's what the public doesn't want, and my goal is to keep it out of the general fund. Whether its temporary or permanent, we don't know, because we don't know if e-pulltabs will ever hit their mark."

Barrett's proposal would require reopening the stadium bill passed last year and would represent a major  change to the deal struck by the Dayton administration, the Legislature, the city of Minneapolis and the Vikings last May.

Barrett says the situation is different now, for a number of reasons. Here's his list:

• The fact that the all privately-funded $1.2 billion Los Angeles stadium project is dead.

• The fact that the Atlanta Falcons just announced plans to build a new stadium, which includes 80 percent private money and no money from the state of Georgia.

• The fact that the San Francisco 49ers are currently building a stadium in which personal seat licenses are contributing a significant portion to the PUBLIC share of the stadium. This stadium plan includes no money from the general fund of the state of California.

• The fact that, according to estimates, the value of the Vikings organization has already increased by 22 percent, or $210 million, since the stadium bill was signed.

Failing a recalibration of the stadium deal, Barrett says, the state should legalize slot machines at "existing gaming facilities," which he says would probably only be Running Aces Harness Park near Forest Lake.

Barrett says he's planning to file what he calls "Football Fans and Fiscal Sanity" bills in the House today for formal introduction tomorrow. He says he doesn't have any co-sponsors or a Senate author yet, but thinks there will be wide interest in his ideas.