Dayton: Vikings “snuck” personal seat licenses into stadium deal

Governor Mark Dayton in Rochester today, at a meeting of the Destinational Medical Center Corporation board. (MPR Photo/Tim Nelson)
Governor Mark Dayton in Rochester today, at a meeting of the Destinational Medical Center Corporation board. (MPR Photo/Tim Nelson)

Governor Mark Dayton says he isn't having buyer's remorse about the deal he crafted for a new Vikings stadium.

That said, a day after saying he was "deeply concerned" by the legal troubles of the team's owners, he expressed yet more regret about the terms of the deal.

Dayton was in Rochester, kicking off the work on the Mayo Clinic's Destination Medical Center. In a discussion afterward, he talked again about the New Jersey lawsuit over real estate dealings by Vikings owners Zygi, Mark and Leonard Wilf. In the course of the discussion, Dayton offered that there were some parts of the Vikings stadium deal that he might like to change if he could do it over.


"They are relatively minor in the scheme of the entire project things, like the personal seat licenses, that as far as I'm concerned snuck in there. There were others who were negotiating in more detail that were more aware of it," Dayton said.

Personal seat licenses are the one-time, up-front fees that pro sports teams charge ticket holders to help finance new stadiums. The Twins used a form of the program for a small part of Target Field. The NFL, on the other hand, has come to rely on them. The San Francisco 49ers got their their fans to pay up to $80,000 dollars a seat for their new stadium in Santa Clara, according to NBC Sports. Ticket buyers paid $400 million in seat licenses for more than 2/3 of the 68,500 seats in the new Levi's Stadium, according to CBS News.

The seat licenses were discussed at some length in a Minnesota Senate tax committee hearing in December, 2011. The Vikings have floated five-figure prices for "stadium builder's licenses" before (in an online survey of their fans), prompting a stern reaction from the governor in November. The team hasn't announced the final prices, how many seats will have licenses or how much the expect to raise with the mechanism.

But it didn't sound today like the Vikings had heard the last from the governor on the subject yet, either. Dayton elaborated today:

"They had the advantage of a fast moving pace of the legislative session. They knew what they wanted and they had the expertise. We brought in expertise, but you said personal seat license, it's an example where they they buried two references using another term. Stadium builders licenses doesn't have anything in common with personal seat licenses. So they knew how they wanted to engineer things."

So, again: Is that reason enough to make Dayton want to undo the stadium deal?

"Absolutely not," he said. "There the ones we needed to, and still need to do business with, if we're going to be in the business of having an NFL team, and building the stadium, which I think has vast additional advantages, apart from the Vikings."

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