MARSHALL - It's being touted as a "People's Stadium." It will have 65,000 seats with room for more. It will be the home of the Vikings, possibly Major League Soccer games, and other big-time events. It will have a plaza and tailgating area that will help make game day a true fan experience. It's what football fans in Minnesota have been waiting for for years.
But the stadium, being touted as a keystone of entertainment, sports, and art, also comes with a big question mark - one that area legislators say could take a while to answer.
In other words, legislators say, Vikings diehards should temper their stadium enthusiasm, at least for now.
"There are still some hurdles - it has to get through the Minneapolis city council and the Legislature needs to vote for it," said DFL District 20A Rep. Andrew Falk of Murdock. "I see the state's portion of dollars is coming through electronic pull tabs, and I don't know if the votes exist for that to happen. I'm glad it's making progress, but I'm not sure how many votes exist to pass it."
The plan calls for the Vikings to pay 50.6 percent on construction and operating expenses over the life of the stadium (an initial $427 million investment, plus $13 million in annual expenses) with a lease to play there for 30 years and an option for 20 more after that. Minneapolis would provide $150 million, plus $7.5 million in annual expenses, garnered from a redirecting of existing sales taxes in Minneapolis.
The state would accrue its $398 million contribution though an electronic version of charitable pull-tab gambling in bars and restaurants across Minnesota. The state would not be on the hook for any annual operating expenses and capital costs.
"It's a win-win for the state, for the city and for the team," Ted Mondale, chairman of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, said in a teleconference Friday. "This plan is supported by the governor, lead legislators, many of the Fortune 500 leaders across the state, and the mayor of Minneapolis."
As far as where the Vikings will call home the next few years, officials say the team will continue to play at the Metrodome the next three seasons before moving to TCF Stadium on the University of Minnesota campus for the 2015 season. The new stadium would open in 2016.
District 22 Sen. Doug Magnus, who has worked closely with Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, the stadium bill's author, has expressed concerns about the Vikings playing more than a few games at TCF stadium. He, too, said the issue is far from a done deal and, like Falk, doesn't know if enough votes will be there in the Legislature for a stadium bill to pass.
"There are lots of questions about the funding that need to be answered, and until they're answered, there's a lot of apprehension at the Capitol," he said. "I don't see it moving forward unless we come to a good understanding of what happens with the funding. For me to count noses right now, it's a pretty tough job to say if it's going to pass or not."
"I hope we can get something to the floor to vote; personally, I think this should've been done a lot sooner," said District 20B Rep. Lyle Koenen, DFL-Clara City. "I'd like to get that vote taken care of - get it done just to get it out of the way and off our plate."
Koenen said he's still "on the fence" when it comes to the state's share of the stadium's cost coming from e-gambling; count District 21A Republican Rep. Chris Swedzinski of Ghent as a passenger on that same boat. He said that's an area that needs to be looked closely at.
"If you're gonna be putting that money out there you'll have to pay a little bit higher interest rate because it's somewhat of a questionable line of money," he said. "If the funding mechanism is pull-tabs, we've got some work to do to figure out what those numbers will be."
Mondale, who said Friday that research has shown that construction of the new stadium will generate 13,000 direct and indirect construction jobs, said the state would bring in roughly $72 million through pull-tab revenue the first year.
Still, that's not a guaranteed source.
"That's the 400-million-dollar question," Magnus said. "We've gone from a max of $300 million from the state to now almost $400 million, and relying on that source of funding, I think it's problematic. It's like going to a bank without a credit history and wanting to borrow money; the bank is going to say, 'Well, you have to have a cosigner, we're gonna want a lot of collateral, and then we're gonna charge you a very high interest rate. That's really how this looks to me."
Magnus said he would anticipate some significant modifications to the funding package as it winds its way through the Legislature.
Officials also stressed Friday that no money from the state's general fund will be used for the stadium; the stadium will not require higher property taxes, they said, nor will it lead to increased taxes from the state.
Rybak said the existing hospitality tax in Minneapolis that currently funds the city convention center would be extended to 2045.