At least one local elgislator has thrown his support into Gov. Mark Dayton's corner in a tiff over who prescisely should pay for the "private" share of the Vikings new stadium.
Dayton is seeing red after news broke that the Vikings may pay their half-billion dollar contribution to their new $975 million football stadium in Minneapolis by asking season ticket holders to pony up.
In May, the state and city of Minneapolis agreed to kick in $498 million of the stadium construction costs. Theoretically, the Vikings were expected to be on the hook for the rest, though lawmakers gave them some discretion about how that may be financed—perhaps through a loan from the NFL or selling naming rights and sponsorships.
According to the Star Tribune and the Pioneer Press, the team recently sent out a temperature-taking e-mail to assess whether fans would be willing to pay for a "personal seat license" or "stadium builders license" in exchange for a spot on the 50-yard line. Season tickets are already pretty expensive for the average Minnesotan. In February 2012, ESPN wrote that the Vikings' season ticket prices for 2012 ranged from $290 to $1,280. If the "seat licensing" plan is implemented, a license fee of "tens of thousands of dollars" would be added to that base cost. Fans of the Vikes knew that seat licenses may be n the table, but were expecting an added cost in the neighborhood of $1,000 to $2,000.
Popular response has been far from positive. Both in print and online, comments about the proposal ranged from skeptical to downright scathing.
"It's disgusting," said Stephanie Schleuder told the STRIB. "If they weren't getting any public financing, if they were doing this on their own, they would have a right to do whatever they want. How dare they further gouge the average fan for additional money."
The outrage has spread to the highest levels of power in Minnesota, or so it would seem. In a letter dated Nov. 11, Gov. Mark Dayton upbraided the team and its owners for trying to shirk responsibility for their share.
"Now comes word that the team is considering requiring season ticket-holders to pay part of the "NFL Team/Private Contribution" for construction costs. I sternly oppose shifting any part of the team's responsibility for those costs onto Minnesota Vikings fans," Dayton wrote. "The private contribution is your responsibility, not theirs."
As a parting shot, Dayton said he would rescind the whole stadium deal if the Vikings pursued such a course. The governor may find support among legislators south of the river. Not a single Burnsville legislator in either the house or the senate voted for final passage of the stadium bill, known as SF2469: Sen. Dan Hall, then-Sen. Ted Daley, Rep. Pam Myhra and then-Rep. Diane Anderson all voted no.
Daley's successor, Senator-elect Jim Carlson called the Vikings' apparent plan an "interesting development," but it's not a new idea. In fact, "seat licensing" was an integral part of an early draft of the stadium bill in 2010—albeit as a means to pay off the public's contribution to construction costs, rather than the team's. At the time, Carlson was Eagan-Burnsville's senator. As a member of the Senate Business Industry and Jobs Committee, he voted to pass an early rendition of the stadium bill.
What sealed the deal for him, was in fact, the "seat license" provision, but only if it were to be used for the state share of the new stadium cost. The bill died after a successive committee removed the seat license provision.
On Tuesday, Carlson said he would likely have voted for the early bill's 2012 counterpart had he been in office at the time.
"I think the deal could have been better, but I think we needed to be very sensitive to know 'when to fold' and accept a compromise," Carlson wrote.
Carlson agreed with the governor in this latest dustup, though he didn't see the issue as a "deal-breaker." Carlson said he was inclined to view the Vikes' latest move as just one more step in an arduous negotiation process.
"To think there are no further negotiations while all of this is sorted out is naive. A billion dollar project will have many more decisions and negotiations on the table before it is finalized," Carlson said. "I believe the Governor has provided clear leadership in putting a stake in the ground at the first sign of disagreement."
"I support the Governor's stance 100 percent and I think his leadership in enforcing the agreements should be applauded by stadium supporters and opponents alike," Carlson added.
Requests for comment from other legislators are still pending.
The Vikings penned a response to the governor that was released late Tuesday afternoon.