Sen. Brown Column: Vikings are Minnesota’s team

No one denies that the Vikings are an institution in Minnesota. The team has the power to bond communities around the state.

They give our state a common cause to rally behind. Unfortunately, the issues revolving around how to fund a new Vikings’ stadium are becoming more and more divisive.

The governor and a few legislative leaders devised a plan that they touted as the final solution to the stadium debate. In the bill, the Vikings will pick up about 44 percent of the cost while the state pays 41 percent and the city of Minneapolis pays 15 percent. I am not alone in saying that the bill they have proposed is far from perfect. While I am certain the Vikings’ franchise can cover their end of the bargain, the state funding is much more tentative.

In the plan endorsed by the governor, the state is committed to spend $398 million on the stadium. Currently, the proceeds from traditional pull-tabs and bingo go to the local charities that run charitable gambling programs. The Lions Club, the VFW, the American Legion and other charitable organizations that give back to the community could see their share of gaming proceeds drastically reduced. Furthermore, many believe that the money projected from electronic pull-tabs is significantly higher than the amount that will actually come in, potentially putting the state on the ropes to find another revenue source. Additionally, if the building costs exceed the currently projected $975 million price tag, the public is on the hook to pay overruns. Compound these concerns with the lack of support for the expansion of gambling and it is clear the governor’s stadium plan is not a winner.

What many, including the governor, are failing to address, is that there is room for discussion. There are still options on the table.

Another bill that has been proposed gives the Vikings a loan from revenue bonds taken out by the state which would be paid back over 30 years. It does not require the state to expand gambling. It does not designate a specific site. It does not spend taxpayer dollars.

Yet another viable option is still on the table — the Jerry Jones model.

Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, built the stadium he wanted to build where he wanted. Why? He paid for two-thirds of the total facility costs. When the cost of the stadium exceeded the initial projections, Jerry Jones borrowed money to complete his team’s facility. Surely Vikings’ owner Zygi Wilf can use his billions to follow in the steps of Jerry Jones at any point he wishes.

While few can agree on the biggest questions surrounding the stadium debate, most Minnesotans can find consensus on one thing — the Vikings are Minnesota’s team. We need to do what we can to support our team, but we have to keep the best interests of the state in mind. That means keeping all options on the table, working to build consensus amongst local leaders, state legislators and the team, and finding the best solution for Minnesota.

 

Sen. Dave Brown (R-Becker) represents the Princeton area in the Minnesota Legislature. Reach him by e-mail at sen.david.brown@senate.mn.

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