UPDATE: Vikings stay with suburban site despite tax block

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The Minnesota Vikings aren’t abandoning a suburban stadium site despite a tax setback delivered by state leaders.

Vikings vice president Lester Bagley says the team won’t change course after an announcement Tuesday that lawmakers have all but ruled out allowing a local sales tax increase without a public referendum.

The sales tax was a key piece of a Ramsey County proposal to finance a stadium in Arden Hills.

Gov. Mark Dayton and legislative leaders say they lacked the votes to advance a sales tax initiative without letting voters to have a say at the ballot box. The Vikings oppose a referendum.

Minneapolis officials have three stadium sites in the mix, but Bagley says the team hasn’t had formal discussions with the city since aligning with Ramsey County.


ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Gov. Mark Dayton and legislative leaders said Tuesday that the Minnesota Vikings and their supporters should find a way to pay for a new stadium that doesn’t include local or state tax increases.

That leaves a big hole in the current proposal for a $1.1 billion stadium in Arden Hills, in suburban Ramsey County north of the Twin Cities. Supporters on the county board had proposed hiking the county sales tax by half a cent to raise $350 million for the project.

A joint statement from Dayton and leading lawmakers said there’s too little support in the Legislature to exempt any proposed tax increase from a public vote, either in Ramsey County or in Minneapolis if a stadium plan lands there instead. Without an exemption from the Legislature, a public vote would likely be held in November 2012, long after the team wants construction to begin. And there’s a strong likelihood that voters would reject any tax increase to fund a replacement for the Metrodome, where the Vikings are in the final year of their lease.

“Given this reality, we are now actively assessing and discussing with the team other financing options,” Dayton said in the statement, which also carried the names of the leaders of the four legislative caucuses.

A Vikings spokesman said the team would comment later Tuesday.

The Vikings have sought a replacement for the Metrodome for years, calling the Minneapolis venue no longer sufficiently profitable. In recent weeks, Dayton has thrown considerable weight behind the new stadium push; the Democratic governor hopes to call a special legislative session before the end of the year to dispatch with the issue. Dayton and others have said they take seriously the possibility that the Vikings will leave for another city without a new stadium.

The deal assembled by the Vikings and Ramsey County called for building a stadium on the site of a former Army ammunition dump in Arden Hills. Ramsey County would have contributed $350 million through the half-cent sales tax increase, with the state contributing $300 million in a so-far-unspecified manner and the team contributing the balance, something north of $407 million.

Possibilities floated for raising the $300 million state share have included tax revenue from expanded gambling, or money diverted from the so-called “Legacy” sales tax increase approved by voters in 2008 dedicated to arts and cultural programs, outdoor preservation and clean water maintenance.

It wasn’t immediately unclear what other options might be under consideration if Ramsey County’s preferred method for raising its local share is off the table. It could leave an opening for supporters of keeping the stadium in one of three sites under consideration in downtown Minneapolis; shortly after Dayton’s announcement, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak called his city “the best location for the Vikings, because it is the least expensive.”

The Vikings have expressed a preference for Arden Hills over Minneapolis. Ramsey County commissioners Rafael Ortega and Tony Bennett, the team’s strongest allies on the Arden Hills site, said in a statement they had always preferred a payment method that spread the obligation wider than Ramsey County sales taxpayers, and that they would continue to push that site despite the latest development.