.

Sen. Bonoff: Where I Stand On Vikings Stadium

"I know this essay has been long, but I often think the public does not really get the whole story. I am telling the story as I see it and welcome your comments."

As you know, there has been strong bi-partisan interest in finding a way to keep the Minnesota Vikings in Minnesota. At the same time, there is a bi-partisan consensus that we do not believe it is appropriate to tax our citizens to build a stadium. After I voted for the Twins stadium, I told many who were angry with me that I would not vote for using general fund taxes to fund sports stadiums.

Yet I share the belief of many that having the Vikings in our state brings a great deal of benefit to all. There is of course the intangible spirit and enthusiasm that comes with having an NFL team, but we should also consider the tangible benefits of increased tax revenue and jobs associated with the franchise.

It is important for the public to know the facts. Therefore, you will begin to see a series of hearings happening on this issue. You will hear for yourself what we gain and what we have the potential to lose if a stadium is built or not built.

You will hear bill proposals that will identify potential stadium sites and where the money will come from.

Currently, there is not agreement on these issues. On Wednesday, there was a breakdown in understanding and communication between the Speaker and the Governor. The Governor had proposed that a Special Session take place on Nov. 21. He thought that had been agreed to. We learned Wednesday that the Speaker was not prepared to do that at this point. That conflict became public, and we heard strong concern from many that this situation was going to result in another deadlock.

As the Deputy leader of the Democrats in the Senate, I was part of a working group meeting Wednesday night. There were members from both parties and both houses. I can tell you that we are committed to resolving this matter in a bi-partisan way that will also garner public support.

We know the Vikings need to commit a significant share of funding for this project. They have been clear about their intention to do so. What is not clear is how the state would pay its share of the stadium, an approximate $300 million. In addition, it is unclear how a local partner would pay its share.

The Vikings have made the Arden Hills site their first choice. Yet we in the legislature were not willing to grant Ramsey County an exception to the requirement for them to hold a referendum if they use a sales tax increase for their local share. While it has not been voted on, we as leaders have talked to enough members in our caucuses to determine there are not the votes for that. I personally would not vote for this exception to the referendum.

In terms of the state share, there are two options still being proposed. One option is the expansion of gaming, and I will explain that in some detail. The other option is to use some portion of the Legacy funds. I strongly oppose that and believe there would not be enough votes to pass that, so I predict you will hear little about that in the coming days.

As to expanded gaming, there are really three alternatives being discussed:

Allow Canterbury and Running Aces to have additional gaming in their facilities. That is called the Racino. The state would get a share of the proceeds.
Pro: There has been support for Racino building over the years, and there may be enough votes to get this passed.
Con: If passed, this would be challenged in the courts as to whether it violates the compact we have giving the Native American tribes exclusive gaming rights. The Tribes believe this would significantly hurt their business.
Also, others who have supported the Racino want this, if passed, to be used for education purposes such as paying back the school shift.

Allow a downtown casino to be built on Block E. This would be a very upscale facility that would be more similar to the casinos found in Las Vegas. Recently other metro areas have gone in this direction and the public response has been very positive. The state share from this endeavor would be sufficient to cover the needed investment for the stadium.
Pro: This proposal would solve some large and looming problems that exist downtown now. Block E is empty. Hotels are at 40 percent occupancy. Crime has increased in this area. The development would be much bigger than just a casino. It would include restaurants and would draw many people to the nearby entertainment venues. It would create a significant number of jobs and potentially revitalize the downtown area.
Con: There is a group of legislators on both sides of the aisle that oppose the expansion of gambling. In this case, because this casino would be so big and so lavish, many are concerned it would draw more gambling to our community and prey on those who are vulnerable to gambling addiction. In addition, while there seems to be less concern about this being a legal battle in that the games would be run through the existing State Lottery, there is still some concern that it would be in conflict with our current pledge of exclusive gaming rights for the Tribal community. This is both an ethical and a legal concern.

Transition current charitable gaming pulltabs to electronic pulltabs. This would allow people all over the state to go into bars and play electronic games. Currently this is a paper game. Moving to an electronic form is expected to generate more revenue from a much wider and younger audience. The proceeds of this expansion would be divided between the state, charities and the bars. The state share would not be enough to cover our commitment, so it would have to be coupled with a few other things. Proposals have included things like the memorabilia tax (the GOP is troubled by this as it may conflict with their “no new taxes mantra”), naming rights (The Vikings as of yet are unwilling to give up naming rights), small amounts of legacy money (There is very little support for the use of Legacy money), redirecting the Minneapolis Convention center bond proceeds when they expire in 2020 (This is something we are investigating and do not yet know whether the City Council will allow.), etc.
Pro: This version of gaming expansion has the most support from the members. Those who are concerned that the Casino is too big and lavish are more comfortable with this. The Tribal interests seem to be less threatened by this expansion. The charitable community could benefit and that makes this a win-win. The support for this seems to be bi-partisan.
Con: I have listed above the concerns related to where the rest of the money would come from; this is obviously the biggest con to this proposal. Pursuing this option means we have our work cut out for us to find additional funding.

The site issue remains an open question. If the casino were to be used, the site would most definitely be in Minneapolis as the casino is in Minneapolis and the city’s proceeds from the casino would make up their local partner share. If the other gaming options were used, I also predict the site would be in Minneapolis, as neither of the other gaming options provide enough money to cover both a state and local share. Without Ramsey County being able to increase their sales tax, there has not been a revenue stream identified to provide the local share.

Given the Vikings have a strong preference for Arden Hills, there is still the possibility that in a couple of the scenarios they would contribute additional money to keep that site. And of course, as in any negotiation, surprises are bound to happen.

So, in summary, it is likely that this stadium will be built with some kind of expansion of gambling initiative and may likely end up in Minneapolis. As always, I will tell you where I stand. I think the Block E approach provides the most long-term benefit to the state. I think the amount of jobs, tourism and redevelopment that would accompany this effort would be helpful to say the least in this very tough climate.

As to the issue of gambling addiction, while I am concerned for any person who battles addiction, I do not think we in government should play the role of gatekeeper. We do not do that with alcohol and it seems hypocritical to allow some gambling and say we cannot expand it based on the addiction issue. With regard to our promise to the Tribal community, that is a very different story. I, for one, think our promises are very important and we should be talking to the leaders of that community and attempt to do this in partnership. I am for a win-win in this arrangement. I have made my feelings known in this regard to all parties concerned. I feel the same way with regard to the Racino. I believe we need to find a way to work out our issues with this expansion, so that it is not a court battle and we are in partnership with the tribal community. Some say this is naïve. I do not think so. As a business woman, I approached every transaction in this manner.

If we are able to work out the issues on the memorabilia tax, the naming rights and/or the expired Convention Center bond proceeds, the electronic pull tabs seems the easiest and least controversial way to proceed. Walking a bi-partisan path of least resistance is something that cannot be taken lightly. In addition, I am sure it is apparent from my comments that I believe a Minneapolis site is the most financially viable alternative. Currently the Linden site which is by the downtown Basilica seems to have the most traction.

I know this essay has been long, but I often think the public does not really get the whole story. I am telling the story as I see it and welcome your comments.
Following the shutdown I decided to add a feature to my website so that I could hear more directly from you and provide a place for ongoing public conversations. Please visit my new “Community Forum” www.terribonoff.com/forum and tell me what is on your mind.

I have just launched this and want to hear directly from you. I believe that increased civic engagement is vitally important. I ask for your partnership; please try this new tool. Instead of e-mailing directly, try entering this discussion forum. Of course, if you prefer e-mail that is fine too. As always, thank you for the opportunity to serve.

Ed Kohler November 07, 2011 at 01:58 PM
Sen. Bonoff, maybe the gambling addition, in this case, is the state's addiction? Perhaps, today, we are social gambling revenue generators, but by expanding from where we are today, would turn into complete addicts for this type of predatory revenue? Personally, I think the state should be investing in businesses that export products and services outside the State of Minnesota. That's what truly creates a healthy economy. Spending money to entertain ourselves doesn't cut it.
Garrett Gardner November 07, 2011 at 02:25 PM
The state needs to keep the Vikings, Its to bad the politicians dont have the political courage to alllow local taxes to pay for their share. Ramsey County would benefit from taxes from the Arden Hills site so it makes sense for them to make the investment.
Ed Kohler November 07, 2011 at 03:04 PM
@Garrett, the public would not have supported a referendum to tax themselves for the benefit of a single private business (Vikings). Also, the tax revenue generated by the Vikings within Ramsey County would have come nowhere near covering the $28 million/yr cost of debt payments for 30 years. The Vikings are demanding more than $3 million per game in subsidies for 30 years. The numbers don't add up.
Michelle Peterson November 07, 2011 at 06:29 PM
The tribes have 18 casinos in Minnesota. They have had exclusive rights for years. Now it's time to share the wealth with the rest of the state. How many more decades do we have to feel guilty? Build the stadium with any gambling revenue, but maybe Terri Bonoff should consider sharing the wealth with the other side of the river for a change. After all, St. Paul is indeed in Minnesota. Keep in mind that Rybak and Minneapolis would most likely take the biggest share of the gambing revenue from Block E to keep their city from being taxed into oblivion.
Joann Torvik November 07, 2011 at 06:32 PM
I personally don't care if the Vikings stay or leave MN. There are so many more important issues than passing this stadium issue. Let them play where they have been playing and quit crying and whine that they need a new stadium. These Sport celebrities are just about as bad as the Hollywood celebrities, with all their trials and tribulations in life. I for one am sick of hearing about the Stadium Issues
Jeff Sabini November 07, 2011 at 06:42 PM
The stadium needs to be built. That's it. If the state loses the team, it must be with the understanding that they will NEVER, EVER have another NFL team. How truly sad that would be. If Minnesota wants a new team after losing the Vikings, guess what? A new stadium will HAVE to be built - and it will cost WAY more than we are talking now. The shiftless, irresponsible and spineless Jesse Ventura and Tim Pawlenty have shirked this dilemma for many years. The stadium could have long been built by now at a fraction of the current cost. And regarding gambling, do the Tribes expect a monopoly on gambling into perpetuity?? The revenue can go to education and repaying the stadium debt. The Wilfs have been incredibly patient. The Twins got their staidium, so why do the rules change now? I think Arden Hills is a pipe dream at this point, I just hope they will be content with a state-of-the-art venue in Minneapolis. The Vikes have fans all across the world - we do not want to see them leave. The jobs, tax revenue and long-term general spending this project would create, simply makes this a "must do" - not to mention its permanent ramifications of ever having an NFL team here again.
Jeff Sabini November 07, 2011 at 06:45 PM
You're not considering the benefits of the team. Also, I am sure there are things that you like, want and believe in -- but other's don't yet still end up paying for. It's called a "society". Have kids? If you don't, you are still paying for the public school system whether you like it or not. Have a car? If you don't, you are still paying for the roads. Etc., etc., etc.
Joann Torvik November 07, 2011 at 06:50 PM
I do not want any more updates from Patch
Jesse Jackson November 07, 2011 at 06:54 PM
Investing in a new stadium is a win-win for Minnesota! The Super-Bowl alone would bring in over 400 Million to the local economy. Throw in a couple of NCAA Final Fours and your bang for the buck is outstanding. Spend a dime today to make a dollar tomorrow!
Becky Glander (Editor) November 07, 2011 at 07:12 PM
Joann, is something wrong that I can help with?
ghoweey November 07, 2011 at 07:14 PM
For Jeff Sabini You perpetuate a myth. According to studies made by reputable economists, a market only has so much to spend on entertain. If they do not spend it on Vikings, then they spend it elsewhere. I would suggest that wherever they put it [if it is to be put here], have a $5.00 per ticket surcharge. Let those who 'need' the Vikings, pay for them 'OR let the owners pay for them. Sen Bonoff takes the easy way out by looking to tax tax tax us. Vote next time for someone more responsible. AND STOP CRYING
Ed Kohler November 07, 2011 at 07:22 PM
@ghoweey, a $5 per ticket surcharge is a great idea, but would only raise $3.2 million/year. Debt payments on the absurd amount of money Wilf is demanding would be well over 10X that. A $40 per ticket surcharge would be closer to what it would take for the fans to actually cover the cost of the stadium they are demanding be built for Wilf.
Jesse Jackson November 07, 2011 at 08:31 PM
* The construction of a new stadium will support approximately 13,000 jobs, including 7,500 construction and trades workers who will be employed during the three-year building process. * Over $286 million will be directed toward wages from 7,500 construction jobs. * In addition, the fabrication of project materials will create a separate substantial number of jobs and wages. * Upon completion of the stadium, 3,400 full and part-time jobs will be supported by the economic activity generated by a new stadium. * 95% of the total materials and labor subcontract value will go to Minnesotans. The Building & Construction Trades Council is experiencing nearly 20% unemployment; this project will have a significant impact on putting these construction workers back to work. * According to CSL, the economic activity from a new stadium will generate over $26 million per year in tax revenue and over $145 million in direct spending by Vikings fans inside the State of Minnesota.
Matt Shankweiler November 07, 2011 at 09:38 PM
I think Terri Bonoff's take is very well thought out (although I tend to be from the other side of the aisle), however unlike Bonoff, I do not sympathize with the Tribes on this issue. They have had BOTH exclusivity of a highly lucrative industry combined with tax exemption for decades and that gravy train has to stop! The answer is simple...they can pay taxes on their earnings or deal with some minor competition from the downtown/Block E initiative (although given the downtown location I don't see much competition and those near the tribe casinos will still frequent those establishments). It's their choice. While I agree it is important to keep the Vikes here it is not in the people's best interests to fund private enterprises like sports teams, hence the Block E project gets my thumbs up for keeping the tax specter away and yet still preserving a longstanding MN tradition (and a revenue draw to some degree) in the Vikings.
brian berge November 08, 2011 at 04:39 AM
good article. this is an emotional issue where people selectively use facts and logic to support a position they feel VERY passionate about. it is unfortunate you guys are going to get hung out to dry either way. but that is the way it is. if vikes are not here in the fall of 2012 i believe people will discover they actually do care more than they say right now.
rob_h78 November 08, 2011 at 06:04 PM
Third Option The Governor's office opens a Savings Account at a Minnesota Bank - you publicize that information and people who want to spend their own money to help build a new stadium will be free to voluntarily send in checks for any amount that they want to the fund.
shawn phillips November 24, 2011 at 10:49 PM
I think the Packer model of selling stock to raise money is a better model. People who want the stadium and vikings voluntarily spend money. There are enough fans plus business owner who benefit that can put their money where their own interests lie.
dick peterson May 03, 2012 at 12:44 AM
dick peterson Dayton needs a job that he actually earns without using the family fortune, then mabe he wouldn't be so willing to give away taxpayers money to build this stadium.

Boards

More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something