Local legislators vote no to Vikings stadium

Whether you love it or hate it, a new Vikings stadium is coming to Minnesota.

By Jon Tatting
ECM Post Review

Last week in St. Paul, state legislators spent long hours debating, amending and debating some more while the public watched on local television and in person. The bill eventually passed 71-60 in the House and 36-30 in the Senate.

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton signed the Vikings stadium bill at a State Capitol ceremony May 14. Standing behind the governor, left to right, are team owners Mark and Zygi Wilf. Photo by T.W. Budig

Voting against the $975 million stadium project were the three Republican legislators who represent Isanti and Chisago counties. And they had their reasons when asked by the Post Review last week.

Rep. Daudt

Rep. Kurt Daudt (Crown-Dist. 17A) said his issue dealt more with the project’s funding source—gambling, which through such games as electric pull-tabs and pin boards is suppose to help generate revenue for the state’s $348 million share of the stadium project.

Actually, it’s the “expansion of gambling” that Daudt has a problem with as the issue hits close to home. So much, in fact, he thought about sharing his story with the House floor.

Kurt Daudt

“I had a close relative with a gambling problem,” he said. “It was a secret until we read about it in her suicide note. No one, not even her husband knew she was going to the casino. She ended up taking her own life (because) it was easier than facing up to her problem (and) telling her loved ones.”

Aside from not wanting to expand gambling to build a stadium, Daudt also didn’t like the unknown or inability to get an accurate projection of how much gambling would generate. Even with backup measures, such as luxury suite taxes, those dollars wouldn’t come in until after the stadium opened, he added.

Instead, Daudt said he likely would have supported a funding source involving general obligation bonds, which is typically how the Legislature pays for projects. “They didn’t look at it until it was too late,” he noted.

Sen. Nienow

According to Sen. Sean Nienow (Cambridge-Dist. 17), “There’s a grand philosophical argument about whether government should subsidize sporting arenas, and particularly for highly profitable billion dollar businesses.”

On the stadium issue, he claimed he didn’t even need to dig that deep before discovering “fatal flaws” in the proposal.

Sean Nienow

“First, the provision, (which) not even directly related to the Vikings stadium, to vacate the Minneapolis Charter so the city can refurbish the Target Center without a referendum,” said Nienow. “Minneapolis residents added that provision to the charter in the 1990s specifically to prevent that from happening, and it was done in direct response to the city spending money on an arena without voter approval.

“I said all along that I would not vote to send a stadium bill to the governor for a signature if that provision to circumvent the electorate was in the bill—it is a clear and direct violation of their expressed wish.”

The senator continued:

“If the Legislature can ignore those Minnesotans’ voice today, tomorrow it might be ours. I won’t support that happening. It’s not even necessary for the Vikings’ portion of the bill, and it should have been removed.

“The funding mechanism as currently structured in the bill is not going to be sufficient for debt service. Here at the Capitol everyone knows that is true (but not everyone is willing to publicly acknowledge it), which is why the House tried to find additional funding mechanisms and the final bill included nominal (yet insufficient) fallback mechanisms when revenues fall short.

“I had suggested and proposed a couple alternatives for a legitimate and stable funding approach, but they kept the flawed funding structure,” concluded Nienow.