Minnesota state senators met early Tuesday afternoon in a crowded room for the second hearing in a week regarding a potential new home for the Minnesota Vikings.
The focus of Tuesday's hearing was financing-and it included testimonies from all parties involved. The meeting convened at 12:30, and state Senator Julianne Ortman opened the discussion by describing the hearing, which didn't address any specific bills, as a "fact-checking" process. She said she was frustrated by the number of unknowns involved in existing funding plans, and hoped that a series of testimonies from state officials and members of the public would offer clarifications.
Testimony by the general public is scheduled to begin at 3:30, and the hearing is expected to run until 6 p.m. The Star Tribune offers a live-streaming video of the hearing here.
Near the beginning of the hearing, Kristin Hanson, assistant commissioner of Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB), addressed several possible bond-issuance financing plans, including the use of revenue bonds, which would include pledged revenue streams, or appropriation bonds. To highlight the state's current financial standing, Hanson also pointed out the recently released November budget forecast, which projected a surplus of $876 million for the remainder of the current budget period. (Law requires that the forecast balance be used to restore the state's reserves.)
Ted Mondale, chair of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission (MSFC), stressed the urgency of a new stadium, stating that "sooner or later" the Vikings will leave if a new stadium isn't built. He also said that every year that the stadium construction is delayed will cost an additional $46 million.
Vikings Chief Administration Officer Kevin Warren said that the team plans to meet with the MSFC in early January to settle a current dispute about the team's lease at the Metrodome, and both sides expect a positive outcome that won't negatively affect new stadium plans. Warren also said that the Vikings will be the only team in the National Football League (NFL) without a lease agreement following the conclusion of this season.
The Vikings have consistently supported a plan to build a $1.1 billion stadium in Arden Hills. Minneapolis officials, meanwhile, previously said that they backed three potential Minneapolis locations for a new stadium.
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak announced at Tuesday's hearing that the city has narrowed its proposal to building a new stadium at the site of the Metrodome, in part because it has "significant infrastructure already in place." That proposal carries a price tag of $895 million, the least expensive option on the table. The announcement will likely lessen the chances of a stadium being built at the Farmer's Market location or at a site near the Basilica, which had previously been supported by Minneapolis officials.
"We do see potential in all three sites, but our preferred site is the Metrodome," Rybak said.
The Associated Press reported that during last week's stadium hearing, Vikings executives were encouraged to help Minneapolis leaders narrow the list of possible stadium sites in the city to one.
The remainder of Tuesday's hearing was expected to include discussion on many possible funding mechanisms, including tax proceeds from expanded gambling, a surcharge on income taxes paid by NFL players, a pro sports ticket surcharge, sales tax on sports memorabilia, or money from existing arts and cultural funds, according to the Star Tribune.
Watch the remainder of the hearing at StarTribune.com here.
Regarding other financing possibilities, Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) recently reported that one plan could include "seat licenses"-a key financing tool in the NFL but one that hasn't received much attention in the Vikings stadium debate. If the Vikings used the method, fans would buy their seats from the team and pay for game tickets separately. MPR likened the process to how condo owners pay association dues. Teams then typically offer side benefits like free parking or even locker room access, and fans can also sell their seat licenses, MPR reported. Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley told MPR that the team hadn't yet decided on whether to pursue that financing method.