Stadium discussions thrown a curveball by Senate panel

ST. PAUL -- Like a wide receiver running into a goalpost, momentum to build sports stadiums hit an obstruction Thursday in the Senate Taxes Committee.

ST. PAUL -- Like a wide receiver running into a goalpost, momentum to build sports stadiums hit an obstruction Thursday in the Senate Taxes Committee.

The panel initially defeated -- on a 6-6 vote -- a proposal to build a University of Minnesota football stadium on campus. However, the proposal is expected to eventually pass the Senate. After that vote, the committee began what could be a multi-day discussion on stadiums for the Twins and Vikings.

The Gophers' on-campus stadium will pass, said Senate Tax Chairman Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis.

"We are going to get a Gopher bill out of here by itself," he told committee members.

He predicted Twins and Vikings stadium construction bills also will get through the committee, although questions fired at sponsors of the plans indicated concern.


Pogemiller said the committee will meet through the weekend, if needed, to finish stadium bills. Until Thursday, stadium bills had been gaining momentum.

The big stumbling block in Pogemiller's committee is how to fund stadium construction.

That is what happened when the Gopher bill sustained its setback. After Pogemiller amended it to tax all licensed sports memorabilia 13 percent, the committee deadlocked on the final bill. The tax would have produced up to $13 million a year.

The university wants to return football to campus in a $248 million stadium.

Pogemiller wanted to dump the university's plan to collect $35 million by selling TFC bank the stadium's naming rights. He also wanted to eliminate a land swap with the state that would have added more funds for the stadium as well as an increase in student fees.

The tax chairman's plan would leave the state paying 70 percent of stadium costs, compared to 40 percent under the university's proposal.

Much of the debate over the next few days will be how to fund the Twins and Vikings stadiums.

"One possibility would be to put the Twins and the Vikings together and pay for it by a metro-wide sales tax," Sen. Steve Kelley, DFL-Hopkins, said.


Kelley added that the tax would produce enough money to help pay for transit needs throughout the Twin Cities and to install a roof on the Twins ballpark. So far, at least, no one has suggested a statewide tax to fund the two professional sports stadiums.

Kelley said senators probably don't want to take one stadium a year; they would rather pass all three stadiums this year.

House Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, said the House will not accept the Pogemiller-Kelley Twin Cities sales tax increase. If the Senate passes something like that, he added, chances of a stadium bill diminish greatly.

The Twins want to build an open-air ballpark in downtown Minneapolis, while the Vikings propose to build a stadium and shopping complex in the northern suburb of Blaine.

Each team's plan would raise sales taxes in their host county.

The House easily passed the Twins proposal Wednesday night.

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