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Legislators begin introducing new stadium ideas

Sen. Roger Chamberlain of Lino Lakes, right, is pictured Thursday with Rep. Linda Runbeck of Circle Pines, as he announces a bill that would allow the state to borrow money to build a Vikings stadium. The Vikings would be responsible for paying back the loan and arranging for other financing. Tribune photo by Don Davis

ST. PAUL -- A Vikings stadium construction agreement supposedly has been near for days, but while legislators wait for a major announcement they are presenting their own ideas.

A southwestern Minnesota legislator filed a bill funding an Arden Hills stadium with electronic pull tab and bingo game revenues and suburban Twin Cities Republicans proposed Thursday helping the Vikings borrow funding for a stadium, but requiring the team the team to find most of the money.

Those directly involved in stadium talks indicated that while progress continues, no major agreements will be reached until next week, at the earliest.

"It's not ready for prime time," said Rep. Morrie Lanning, the chief House stadium proponent.

The Moorhead representative criticized fellow Republicans for introducing a bill that suggests the state borrow $300 million toward a stadium that could cost about $1 billion. The team suggests it pay a bit more than $400 million.

"The Vikings are not going to go there," Lanning said, adding that introducing a bill the team rejects "is not very smart."

Lanning, Gov. Mark Dayton and others involved in stadium talks agree that some form of gambling money is needed to fund the state portion of stadium costs.

Lanning praised Rep. Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, for introducing an Arden Hills stadium plan.

While most of the attention in recent weeks has been on building a new stadium next to the Metrodome in Minneapolis, where the Vikings have played for three decades, Dayton has been critical of Minneapolis leaders for not agreeing on a plan.

If Minneapolis leaders do not gel on a plan, Lanning said, Arden Hills may emerge as viable again.

"It sends a signal to Minneapolis that they better get cracking," Lanning said of the Hamilton bill.

Hamilton denied that he wanted to send a message: "I want to get a Vikings stadium built."

His bill specifies Arden Hills as the location. The northern Ramsey County community was the Vikings' favored location, but the county has not come up with local funding legislators could approve.

"Minneapolis hasn't been stepping up to the plate," Hamilton said.

Hamilton's bill would require the team to pay $425 million for construction, with the state adding $549 million. Ramsey County would pay $10 million a year.

To finance the state portion, bars would be allowed to trade in their paper pull tab and bingo games for electronic devices. Supporters say bars, charities and the state all would collect more money if the electronic machines were allowed.

Hamilton said it is time to solve the stadium issue, which has been discussed for a decade.

Four Republican lawmakers offered their own solution with no state money and no gambling.

Part of their plan, as presented by Sen. Roger Chamberlin of Lino Lakes, was eliminating a statewide business property tax. That got Dayton's attention.

"The party of property tax increases is at it again..." the Democratic governor said.

"Evidently, they don't care about everyone else who pays property taxes in Minnesota, like home-owning families, farmers, senior citizens and renters."

The property tax elimination could convince some businesses to invest in the stadium, Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, said.

To repay a $300 million loan, Chamberlain said the plan would allow tax increases of 10 percent on tickets and other stadium-related sales. The new tax also would be on the team's broadcast revenues and money brought in by selling signs.

Chamberlain said the plan is fair to all taxpayers because the only new taxes would be paid by users of the stadium. He said it is not fair for people in Warroad to help fund a stadium if they never use it.

Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.