CHICAGO — After a decade of lobbying and false legislative starts, the Minnesota Vikings will get a new $975 million stadium under legislation approved by state lawmakers Thursday that authorizes the sale of nearly $500 million of appropriation-backed bonds.
Gov. Mark Dayton, who helped orchestrate the drive to approve a stadium funding package, is expected to sign the legislation soon.
The deal calls for the Vikings to contribute $477 million towards the stadium, about $50 million more than the team originally committed. The state would cover $348 million and the city of Minneapolis would provide the remaining $150 million.
The new roofed, 65,000-seat stadium would be built adjacent to the site of the Vikings’ home since 1982, the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis. It could be expanded to seat 72,000 and would also host other public sporting and entertainment events. The team would sign a 30-year lease.
“We delivered. ... We are going to have first-class stadium we can all be very, very proud of,” said state Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Farmington, a chief sponsor of the bill. The team has lobbied for a new home for more than a decade and had warned that it would not sign a new lease to continue playing at Metrodome.
The House and Senate approved legislation earlier in the week after lengthy debates that underscored the remaining deep division among lawmakers over public subsidies for professional sports teams. Differences in the bills forced the formation of a conference committee.
Members of the committee — along with city, state and team officials — hashed out a compromise version late Wednesday and the House and Senate then approved the legislation in votes Thursday. Stadium opponents criticized the private meetings of the conference committee, whose members said was allowed because of a lack of a quorum at the meetings.
The Vikings have agreed to the higher contribution but the Minneapolis City Council still must sign off on the final deal. The council last month narrowly approved a resolution supporting a package that relied on a $150 million city contribution.
The bill authorizes the issuance of up to $498 million of state appropriation bonds, while precluding the use of a general obligation pledge. The bill authorizes the use of floating- or fixed-rate debt.
The state would repay its share of the costs for the project with new revenue from expanded gaming, including electronic pull-tab gambling and bingo. The conference committee dropped a Senate proposal to impose stadium-generated user fees on memorabilia, parking and luxury suites.
The state borrowing would cover both the city and state share of the stadium costs, with Minneapolis making annual payments to Minnesota beginning in 2021 and continuing through 2046, totaling $150 million. The city would tap taxes that go to pay down its convention center debt, which will be retired in 2020. They include a citywide sales tax, downtown liquor and restaurant taxes, and a hotel tax. The state legislation extends the liquor, lodging and restaurant taxes to 2047.
Before the state can sell appropriation bonds it needs a ruling from the Minnesota Supreme Court validating its ability to do so. The state has filed a lawsuit seeking such validation in connection with its tobacco bond authorization. Legislation last year that led to the state’s issuance of nearly $800 million of tobacco debt allowed for the use of an appropriation pledge after the validation process.
The state has previously put its appropriation pledge on some bonds issued through authorities or commissions, but not directly by the state. Because the Minnesota needed the tobacco bond proceeds to help balance its budget, it did not tap the appropriation pledge. The structure included an extraordinary call provision allowing it retire the bonds if the appropriation pledge is validated.
A state Supreme Court decision is still pending.
The stadium would be operated by a newly created public agency known as the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority. The Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, which operates the Metrodome, would eventually transfer its assets to the authority and be abolished. The city and state would not bear the responsibility of covering cost overruns.
The team and state each would contribute $1.5 million annually to a capital reserve fund beginning in 2016 when the stadium is scheduled to open.
The conference committee legislation can be found at https://www.revisor.mn.gov/bin/bldbill.php?bill=ccrhf2958A.html&session=ls87
The Vikings had long pressed for winning public funding for a new facility, warning that only with a new, more profitable venue could it remain competitive and remain in Minnesota. In recent years its former Metrodome co-tenants — the Minnesota Twins and University of Minnesota Gophers — won public financial help for their new venues.