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Minneapolis mayor candidate questions stadium district financing

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Cam Winton (MPR Photo/Curtis Gilbert)
Cam Winton
Cam Winton (MPR Photo/Curtis Gilbert)

Mayoral candidate Cam Winton says he wants a closer look at the financial details for the real estate development planned for the blocks west of the new Vikings stadium going up in downtown Minneapolis.

In a letter to the Department of Community Planning and Economic Development, Winton is asking deputy director Chuck Lutz to elaborate on the financing plan for green space and a parking ramp contemplated in the area, including the Star Tribune's headquarters block.

The parking ramp is a must-have for the stadium, required by the Vikings. The Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority took bids on that parking this spring, and Ryan and the city have submitted a proposal,  with the city borrowing the money to finance the project.

As part of the deal, builder Ryan Cos. has guaranteed to cover the bond service for 10 years, and then parking and other revenues would presumably hold Minneapolis taxpayers harmless for the remaining 20 years of the bonds. Mayor R.T. Rybak has said the MSFA will split shortfalls with the city in the last two decades of the deal.

Winton says Minneapolitans might have reason to hesitate about that:

"As you know, though, revenue shortfalls have already plagued the stadium project. Furthermore, the City's track record of executing financially sound development projects is checkered at best. Accordingly, I trust you share my desire for the city to 'measure twice, cut once' so that The Yard doesn't turn into the city's next financial blunder akin to Block E or Target Center.'

Winton concedes he's a stadium apostate. "I would have put it to a referendum of city residents, as was required under the city charter," he says. "I think the folks that supported the stadium did a big end run around the referendum requirement and violated the spirit of the law."

Winton also says he hasn't gotten any assurances yet from the city regarding the stadium district project.

But current mayor R.T. Rybak offered what sounded like a bullet-proof plan when he pitched the idea earlier this month. He said the new taxes on Ryan's Downtown East development would easily cover the bonds. Here's how Rybak explained it at the big reveal in a Strib parking lot on May 14th:

"If absolutely not a single person parked in that ramp for 20 years. Which I don't think is going to happen... the total city exposure would be $30 million. The total take, just from real estate taxes on this over that period of time will be $40 million. In an absolute worst case scenario, in which nobody parked in that ramp for 30 years, the city would still be up probably about $10 million and we would get a two-block park. We think this is a good deal."

Here's Winton's letter to the city: