Sometimes we need to step back from a legislative issue to look at the big picture. The recent stadium issue is a prime example.
It is important to take a broad view because limiting ourselves to the talking points sells us woefully short. The stadium vote is the most difficult either of us have taken as members of the House and it deserved thoughtful consideration from myriad angles. Both of us favored other options, such as private investors. In the end, the proposal which passed was the only viable option remaining. Here is why we voted "yes" on this bill as it passed:
First of all, citizens will not pay a single penny toward the stadium unless they participate in new electronic pull tabs, play linked bingo, or attend events at the new stadium. It's this simple: Don't want to pay? Don't play.
As hackneyed as it sounds, this truly will be the "People's Stadium." The Vikings will use it 10 days a year and it likely will be used for 300 or so other events each year. This is a $477 million investment from a private businessman into our state, an increase of $50 million from when the bill first hit the House floor. The state's contribution will be limited to $348 million. The team will absorb any construction cost overruns and also pay for any enhancements.
Backup plans also are in place in case electronic pull tabs do not live up to revenue projections. Another potential backstop for funding could be to sell excess real estate owned by the state.
The ripple effect of benefits from this new stadium will be tremendous. Businesses will enjoy an enhanced environment. Charities will get tax relief and more proceeds. Gaming options are already prevalent and these modernized methods will keep a larger share of discretionary income in areas like ours. Hosts of electronic gaming will be able to capture revenue that otherwise may have gone to tribal casinos, etc.
The plain fact is this issue was not going to disappear until we had a stadium deal in place. We never felt threatened the Vikings were using relocation as leverage, but a new stadium is the only way to ensure the team remains here for the long haul. The Metrodome was built on the cheap and lacks amenities now commonplace in big-league stadiums. Ignoring that truth was not getting us anywhere and leaving this issue unresolved would have caused the Vikings to look elsewhere at some point.
We should be comforted by knowing checks and balances make it very difficult to pass significant legislation. This particular effort has been under way the past several years. The public was thoroughly engaged and provided us with an enormous amount of feedback. Please accept this as an apology if we were unable to respond to your message as quickly as normal. Our email boxes were flooded with Vikings-related messages, the vast majority urging our stadium support.
Just as with Target Field, someday we will look back on this new stadium and know we made the right decision by building it.
Rep. Dean Urdahl, District 18B
Rep. Ron Shimanski, District 18A