- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 9, 2012

ST. PAUL, MINN. (AP) - If the Minnesota Vikings finally want to break out of the shabby Metrodome and into a shiny new, $975 million home, they face a harsh reality: They’ll need to ante up or walk away empty-handed.

Throughout the franchise’s latest push for a publicly subsidized football stadium, team executives insisted that the private contribution be capped at $427 million. The figure was “set in stone,” Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley said as recently as last week.

Now it is time to find out just how true that is.

By convincing votes, lawmakers are on record demanding that the Vikings and private partners foot a bigger share of construction costs. It’s part of a broader skirmish over how much, if any, tax money should benefit a private enterprise owned by wealthy New Jersey developer Zygi Wilf.

In the process of approving differing stadium bills this week, the Senate unanimously asked Wilf to kick an extra $25 million, or $452 million in all. The House wants $105 million more. Negotiators will likely wind up somewhere in between.

“The Vikings didn’t get whatever they wanted,” said GOP Sen. Julie Rosen, the bill’s chief sponsor. She said the team will have to come up with more to come away successful.

To be sure, Wilf won’t be cutting a personal check _ at least not for most of it. The team expects to tap into an NFL loan program for as much as $200 million. It could also cash in on naming rights, sell seat licenses and leverage other new revenue streams from a state-of-the art-stadium to make good on its debt.

Following Tuesday night’s Senate vote, Bagley said the team is still standing by the amount it pledged earlier, but he acknowledged the final package is “to be determined.”

“It has to be a package deal and a negotiation that works for all parties _ the Vikings, the state, the city,” he said.

Sen. David Thompson, a Lakeville Republican, questioned why the public was shelling out so much on a stadium and becoming so dependent on gambling proceeds to satisfy bonds.

“I admire millionaires and billionaires,” Thompson said. “But my goodness, we shouldn’t take money from other folks and redistribute it to them.”

The Vikings say their costs go beyond the upfront contribution. Officials note that they will pay annual rent and help defray operating costs of the building, which a public authority would also rent out for concerts, conventions, monster truck pulls and other activities.

The Senate added a new dynamic by adopting user fees on suites, parking and Vikings merchandise. The state would impose a 10 percent fee on suites and on parking within a half-mile of the stadium, and impose a 6.875 percent fee on Vikings clothing, trading cards and other memorabilia.

It’s all meant to soothe concerns of lawmakers about a gambling expansion that is the main source of money pegged to retire public debt. The stadium bill contemplates tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue from new electronic pull-tab and bingo games in bars and restaurants. The robust estimates have drawn plenty of skepticism.

Another $150 million of the stadium tab will come from a redirected sales tax in the city of Minneapolis, where the new stadium would be built.

Story Continues →