by Ron Holch
The State wants to stick the cost of a new Vikings stadium to one of the most underdeveloped counties in the metro area. A plan for a stadium in Blaine leaves the taxpayers of Anoka County with the tab.
The Anoka County finance plan was adopted by the County and
the City of Blaine and is subject to the MN Legislature adopting the enabling
Bill (HF3089). This is unlike previous stadium proposals. If this stadium bill
passes the legislature, Anoka County alone would be responsible for at least
one-third of the cost of this new project “up to $240 million” in
new taxes. This giveaway would leave Anoka County schools and roads and public
safety without needed revenues. Currently the total stadium price tag is $600
million. According to Rep Phyllis Kahn, this is more than three times the cost
of the Metrodome in today’s dollars. And the price does not include site
preparation costs in what is essentially undeveloped open land. Many tax increases
have been mentioned, including:
• General Sales, county-wide
• Taxes on bars restaurants and lodging, county-wide
• Ticket and parking taxes at the stadium
• In-stadium sales and income taxes
• “Captured Taxes” from so-called new revenues generated within
the stadium district (i.e. the closer you are to the stadium, the more your
local taxes will pay for the project, a sort of black hole of taxes.)
According to testimony from Stadium Bill author Rep. Stang, possible future
“Special Assessments” could leave the door open for any kind of
tax. According to the bill, a six-member Stadium Authority will be appointed
by the governor to act independently. The bill language says:
“The authority may require that a reserve fund for capital
improvements to the stadium be set up and may require the teams and the host
communities’ governments to contribute to the fund in a manner and on
the terms the authority determines.”
The capital improvements are not specified and the amount of the fund is not
indicated. The governor appoints all six of the Authority members. While once
again avoiding the appearance of raising taxes, Governor Pawlenty will appoint
an “Authority” that writes itself a blank check.
Unfortunately for the taxpayer, the Legislature is moving very
quickly. The Stadium Bill passed its first two committees within six days of
its introduction. The bill passed “without further recommendation”
through both house committees without roll call votes. This means no committee
member has yet committed to a vote on the bill itself. According to one state
representative there is still a danger that the final bill will not even include
a referendum for the tax increases to Anoka County voters.
Why build a stadium in Anoka County? Hennepin and Ramsey Counties
want the Twins Stadium in their counties because at 81 home games per season,
the Twins are a substantial revenue generator. The Vikings play 10 at-home games
per season, making it much harder to recover the cost of a Vikings Stadium.
No wonder no other city or county is interested in paying a third of the cost
of a Viking Stadium.
The Anoka County Board is already cranking up the spin machine.
At a Town Hall meeting in late March, Steve Novak, an Anoka County division
manager, proffered a slide presentation and a brochure, both of which were heavy
on graphics and light on information. The stadium would be part of a whole development
at the Northeast corner of 35W and Lexington Avenue in Blaine called “The
Preserve At Rice Creek.” The plan calls for “mixed use,” “environmental
conservancy” and “wetland development,” and for the stadium
“to be utilized on a year-round basis.” Imagine tuning to your favorite
TV broadcast some night in the future to the sound of a gravelly voice announcing
a monster truck rally: NEXT WEEK AT THE PRESERVE!!! BE THERE!!!
What can you do? Here are some ideas. First let your representatives
know you want a chance to vote on any tax increases to pay for a stadium. Use
the http://www.leg.state.mn.us/leg/districtfinder.asp to find your legislators and
write letters. Write letters to any local publications. Also testify at the
legislative hearings. The next one will be the House Tax Committee hearing,
which has not yet been scheduled. For more information on what you can do, go
to and/or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org .
In the 1970s the late, great newscaster Dave Moore made a rare
editorial comment on the passage of the Minneapolis Metrodome Bill. He called
it “a monument to greed.” Here’s a suggestion for the Anoka
County Board. Why not have The Preserve live up to its name and set aside the
stadium acreage as a preserve in The Preserve. Leave it in its current, open
beauty as a monument to environmental and fiscal stewardship.