THEIR OPINION: Time for viable downtown Minneapolis plan for Vikings stadium
MINNEAPOLIS If nothing else, Wednesday's release of a report on possible risks inherent in Ramsey County's plan for a new Minnesota Vikings stadium in Arden Hills confirms the value of facts. Without the analysis by the Metropolitan Council and M...
If nothing else, Wednesday's release of a report on possible risks inherent in Ramsey County's plan for a new Minnesota Vikings stadium in Arden Hills confirms the value of facts.
Without the analysis by the Metropolitan Council and Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, taxpayers would have had to depend on an overly optimistic financing plan developed by the Vikings and their let's-make-a-deal county partners. Too often in public-private stadium deals, taxpayers -- not team owners -- end up having to pick up the cost of delays and other surprises that should have been anticipated. And remember, this is supposed to be a "people's stadium," according to Gov. Mark Dayton, who requested the study.
Sports Facilities Commission Chairman Ted Mondale, who serves as stadium point person for Dayton, said no "unknown time bombs" remain in the Arden Hills proposal. Try explaining that to the taxpayers of Ramsey County, who might have been unaware that the proposed 0.5 percent county sales tax "may compromise the county's and the region's ability to finance other projects." It would also leave St. Paul with the highest sales tax of any city in the state.
We also learned that the cleanup and site acquisition timetable put forward by the team and county for the state's largest Superfund site might have been a bit hopeful -- by at least a year and possibly two. And each year means another $46 million in costs. There's also the matter of a separate, unexplained $39 million funding gap in the current proposal that, until we hear otherwise, we'll blame on the lack of a functioning calculator in the county's offices.
Add the $39 million to the cost of a one-year delay and other potential overruns found in the study, and there's a risk that the project could cost $1.234 billion -- or $123 million more than the original budget. But why quibble over a hundred million dollars or so among public-private friends?
It's unclear whether the new analysis will finally derail the Arden Hills project. The Vikings could agree to cover all of the potential cost overruns uncovered in the study, or they could continue to negotiate with the county and state and come up with a new Arden Hills agreement. Dayton has promised to keep working on the Ramsey County plan, but he left open the door to a Minneapolis location, saying in a statement that he's willing to support either locale "as long as the project's financing, including any contingencies, is clearly defined and agreed upon by the representatives of the affected parties."
This page strongly favors a solution that lives up to Dayton's "people's stadium" label, and that means developing a downtown Minneapolis project that would provide the greatest economic benefit for the region and state -- not bypass Minnesota's largest and most important commercial hub in favor of developing a sprawling suburban entertainment complex.
(Disclosure: The value of property owned by the Star Tribune near the Metrodome is likely to be affected by the stadium decision.)
To date, a breathtaking lack of civic-minded leadership on the Vikings stadium issue has left the critical question unanswered: What's best for the state of Minnesota?
For years, Minnesotans have heard governors, legislators, city officials and business leaders say over and over that they were committed to finding a Vikings stadium solution that would ensure the team's future in the state. But they must also ensure that the region and state enjoy the most benefit possible at a reasonable cost.
Until now, the Vikings have been left largely in control of the site selection process. That needs to end. In recent months, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, Hennepin County officials and downtown business leaders have been waiting in the wings expecting the Ramsey County deal to fall apart. It's time for them -- with support from Dayton and legislative leaders -- to put forward a downtown Minneapolis plan that's in the best interests of all Minnesotans.
The real time bomb in the stadium process is the possibility that a decision will be made without a thorough analysis of all viable options.
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