Stadium Opponents Pursue Public Vote for Funding

The opponents say that with enough signatures, they'll be able to put a referendum on the next election ballot that would overturn any state measure to ban a stadium referendum.

A group that opposes public funding for a new Vikings stadium claims to have found a way to let the people decide whether to impose a tax to collect money for the project.

The opponents-who have rallied around Web site that with enough signatures, they'll be able to put a referendum on the next election ballot that would overturn any state measure to ban a stadium referendum.

Minnesota Vikings leaders and Ramsey County officials last week announced a deal to build a new $844 million stadium in Arden Hills, although the City of Minneapolis has a competing proposal on the table.

Both plans call for the project to come to fruition without a public vote-which was how the Twins' new stadium was built in Minneapolis. The Minnesota Legislature allowed Hennepin County to levy the countywide sales tax that now pays for the bulk of Target Field without a voter referendum, and both Ramsey County and Minneapolis would likely seek the same type of permission to cover their share of the Vikings stadium.

In a Star Tribune poll conducted in May 2011, more than 60 percent of respondents said that the Vikings should continue playing in the Metrodome-and almost 75 percent said that team owner Zygi Wilf should not get taxpayer money for a new stadium. Given that, the chances that voters would approve the needed funding could be a long shot.

Stadium opponents point out that both Ramsey County and Minneapolis are governed by charters that dictate how they operate. Opponents say that under the terms of those charters, if they collect enough signatures, they can get a referendum on the next ballot that would overturn a state measure to ban a stadium referendum.

The group says that it would need 25,000 signatures for Ramsey County and 8,500 for Minneapolis in order to force a vote on public funding for a new stadium. They'd also need to get those signatures within 45 days of the passage of a stadium ordinance.

According to Ramsey County's charter, which is on its Web site, ordinances that are petitioned by enough people will be put on hold until they are repealed or voted on through a special election or during the next election cycle

Chris David, who's in charge of the Web site, could not be reached for comment by phone or e-mail on Monday afternoon. But the Web site details the group's mission and plan.

“Our organization is dedicated to stopping these massive subsidies to sports teams, which inevitably come at the expense of other programs, particularly in a time of state budget deficits and skyrocketing property taxes,” the Web site said.

Under the terms of the Ramsey County proposal-the plan that the Vikings are currently pursuing-the team would contribute $407 million, or 39 percent of the total cost. Ramsey County would pitch in $350 million, leaving the state to pick up the remaining $300 million. Although the stadium itself is estimated to cost $844 million, the price tag would actually be closer to $1 billion with infrastructure upgrades to the 260-acre site.

Plans for the 65,000-seat stadium include a retractable roof and 21,000 parking spaces. The team said that the stadium project is expected to support 13,000 full- and part-time jobs, including 7,500 construction jobs during a three-year building period.

The competing plan floated by the City of Minneapolis calls for a new, $895 million stadium at the Metrodome site. Under that plan, the city would pay $195 million, or 22 percent; the state would cover $300 million, or 33 percent; and the Vikings would pick up the remaining $400 million, or 45 percent of the tab.