In stadium talks, focus on public's contribution
Potential revenue sources. Stadium locations. Spending limits. And the latest -- a spending limit tied to a stadium location because of its potential revenue source.
Every day seems to reveal a new obstacle in the battle for a new Minnesota Vikings stadium. The latest? Team owner Zygi Wilf reiterated Friday that the team will spend $400 million as long as the site is the Arden Hills location. Pick a different site and the Vikings' wallet apparently shrinks.
Really, though, Gov. Mark Dayton and legislators shouldn't worry about the Vikings' contribution. What they should do is hammer out how much public money will be used and how it will be gathered from that public.
Amid all the posturing, these two challenges have long been the biggest obstacles to any deal. And in case you forgot, their size grew by at least $300 million with the death last month of the plan to invoke a sales tax in Ramsey County.
So who is going to pick up that $300 million to $350 million? Assuming at least a portion of it will come from public dollars, how will those new dollars be gathered?
Gambling revenues seem the most promising source. Potential options include building a casino in Minneapolis, adding slot machines at Canterbury Park and Running Aces, or offering electronic pull tabs statewide.
Electronic pull tabs are the best choice.
They provide a broad benefit in that bars and restaurants across Minnesota could offer them. Also of note is many people do not see electronic pull tabs as an expansion of gambling. Look at the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association, a powerful force in St. Paul. It will not oppose them because MIGA says they are simply a different form of gaming already available.
About the only potential drawback is new claims that the state's horse racing industry will essentially collapse if "racinos" are not created. While the industry might not do as well without racinos, this is not a card (pun intended) backers have played until now. What changed? And is it true?
Dayton has said he plans to continue talking this week with the Vikings and key legislators about putting together a deal. While that's good, he could make it better by focusing only on how much Minnesota will contribute to a stadium and how those dollars will be collected.
Once those details are in hand, present them to the Vikings and let the team bear the responsibility for deciding whether it wants to snub the very public help it has long demanded. -- St. Cloud Times