Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Minnesota Vikings Stadium Plan Gets Good News, Potentially Bad News

The Minnesota Vikings got a big win off the field Tuesday night when the Ramsey County Charter Commission rejected a proposal to let Ramsey County residents vote on a tax hike for a proposed Vikings Stadium in Arden Hills. However, there's a new problem reportedly about to snarl the team's stadium plans.

Around 10 p.m. Tuesday night, the commission voted 10-6 against allowing the stadium funding question be added to the ballot. Ramsey County has proposed using a half-cent sales tax increase to fund $350 million of the new stadium in their county.

The Vikings argued that holding a countywide referendum on a proposed half-cent sales tax hike to help build a new football stadium would delay the project by two years and add at least $110 million to the $1 billion proposal.

“We cannot tell you whether a referendum can pass,” wrote Lester Bagley, the team’s vice president of public affairs and stadium development. He said a countywide vote in November 2012 would push stadium construction into 2013 and inflate the current costs by at least $110 million.

“Neither the taxpayers nor the team can afford such a major delay caused by adding this referendum provision,” Bagley wrote.

The Charter Commission is a 17-member panel appointed by members of the county judiciary to oversee and make changes to the Ramsey County Charter, a sort of county constitution. Before Tuesday night’s decision, the commission held a public hearing in which Ramsey County residents by about 2-to-1 favored a public vote on the proposed sales tax increase.

However, there is a new potential obstacle for the Vikings. According to the Star Tribune, the Metropolitan Council is set to release a report Wednesday, requested by Gov. Mark Dayton, on the feasibility of building a stadium on the Arden Hills site, a former Army munitions plant that’s heavily contaminated. According to the Star Tribune report, doubts are being raised on the Vikings' plan to open the stadium by 2015 and the report says the Arden Hills' plan is "an aggressive schedule that is unrealistic."

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton, a stadium supporter, has suggested he could still call a special session on the stadium this year if a deal comes together. But without broad consensus from all partners, the issue could end up waiting until the next regular session, which convenes at the end of January.

The Vikings lease at the Metrodome is set to run out after this season.

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