Did Mark Dayton Read the Vikings Stadium Bill Before Signing It? #wilfare

Gov. Mark Dayton has come out with a stern letter to Vikings owner, Zygi Wilf, telling Wilf that he shouldn’t do stuff that he’s contractually able to do. How do you think that will turn out?


First, Dayton is upset with Wilf because Wilf is attempting to not count one of their overseas “home” games in London as an out of state game. Dayton is right to call Wilf on that one.

Dayton is also upset with Wilf over Wilf’s interest in charging season ticket holders for personal seat licenses / “Stadium Builder Licenses” in the new stadium.

Which reminded me of a front-page story by Tom Goldstein in CityPages, where he broke down how bad of a Vikings stadium bill Governor Dayton was cheerleading for:

For more than a year, virtually every media outlet in town has reported that the Vikings have pledged a $407 million (since increased to $425 million) “contribution” toward either a $1.1 billion stadium proposal for Arden Hills or a new building on the Metrodome site, now projected to cost $975 million.

That was the deal Dayton was selling to MN taxpayers. Dayton put on a Vikings jersey and held rallies on behalf of a private corporation in order to convince the legislature to support this corporate welfare project.

Had Dayton read Goldstein’s piece in CityPages, perhaps he would have better understood what his purple clad cheerleading was supporting?

The reality is something quite different. As noted by Mike Kaszuba in the Star Tribune last November, the Vikings’ actual contribution would be around “$225 million, maybe less.”

But even that figure is misleading. Kaszuba cited information from the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission that estimated that the sale of personal seat licenses and a loan from the NFL would bring in $175 million, leaving the team to kick in the rest. However, in that same article, Kaszuba also mentions that the “Vikings would be expected to net up to $8 million a year from stadium naming rights and another $3.2 million annually from Arden Hills parking revenue.”

Got that? In other words, the Vikings would actually have no real money at risk in the project.

Did anyone in Dayton’s office take a look at how the NFL operates in other cities? For example, Field of Schemes had a rundown of recent PSL schemes way back in January:

The San Francisco 49ers put “stadium builder licenses” (aka personal seat licenses) up for sale this week for 9,000 seats at their planned Santa Clara stadium, and the initial reports seem to show a fair bit of sticker shock among fans.

The prices on the initial round of lower level club seats run from $20,000 to $80,000 for a lifetime license to buy tickets (fans then still need to pony up for tickets as well). That’s significantly more than the PSLs that the New York Giants PSLs (which topped out at $20,000) and Jets (top price $84,000, but with some lower-level seats priced as low as $2,500 after PSL sales stalled) and even more than the Dallas Cowboys PSLs, which run from $16,000 to $50,000.

Dayton also whines to Wilf that the contract Dayton giddily signed would shield over $100 million on PSL sales from taxes. Quite a deal for Wilf, eh? I’m not sure why Dayton is so upset about that. He’s the same governor who was cool with the Wilfs paying no property taxes on the stadium (which actually takes more property off the tax rolls due to the stadium’s larger footprint).

Senator John Marty was one voice of reason in the legislature during the debate. I got the impression that he actually read the bill AND looked at how other communities around the country have been taken by the NFL:

Roseville Sen. John Marty is among a cluster of DFLers who have joined with Republicans in pushing back against funding yet another stadium at taxpayer expense.

“The current stadium deal was never negotiated in the public interest,” Marty said. “They weren’t negotiating to get a fair deal for taxpayers.”

Think about how strange this sounds now:

Dayton, who served as a main cheerleader for the deal for months, publicly thanked the Wilfs for agreeing to a $50 million bump in their share in final negotiations this week.

“Without your willingness to take that last step, we wouldn’t have crossed the goal line,” Dayton said.

Sure, the legislature and Dayton could have negotiated a contract that forbid PSLs. Sure, the state could have written a Super Bowl guarantee into the contract. Sure, the City of Minneapolis could have fought to put the stadium on the property tax rolls. Sure, the state and city could have agreed to pay far less money subsidizing the National Football League.

But, there is one upside to this: at least the fans are getting a chance to pay for at least a small part of their heavily subsidized tickets.

Update: Apparently Dayton really didn’t read the bill he signed. Take a look at Tom Pelissero from ESPN’s story about the final bill’s content regarding PSLs:

On PSLs — called Stadium Builders Licenses (SBLs) here — there are two references that make clear the Vikings are permitted to market and sell the licenses on behalf of the newly created stadium authority:

– Subd. 2 – NFL Team/Private Contribution; timing of expenditures – (a) The NFL team/private contribution, including stadium builder’s license proceeds, for stadium costs must be made in cash in the amount of $477,000,000.

– Subd. 14 – Stadium Builder’s Licenses. – The authority shall own and retain the exclusive right to sell stadium builder’s licenses in the stadium. The authority will retain the NFL team to act as the authority’s agent in marketing and selling such licenses.

Was Dayton wearing a Vikings jersey when he wasn’t reading this?

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