Twin Cities North Chamber Protests Mpls. Stadium Plan

The Twin Cities North Chamber of Commerce, which advocates for the interests of businesses in the northern metro area, described the process of selecting a site for a new Vikings stadium as "unorthodox, unfair, and convoluted."

One week after Governor Mark Dayton, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, and Vikings owner Zygi Wilf announced an agreement that would put a new stadium in downtown Minneapolis, backers of a plan to build in Arden Hills are calling foul.

Bill Gschwind, chairman of the Twin Cities North Chamber of Commerce's public policy committee, on Wednesday sent a letter to state leaders, describing the site selection process as “unorthodox, unfair, and convoluted.”

The Twin Cities North Chamber of Commerce advocates for the interests of businesses in the northern metro area.

Its letter-addressed to Dayton, Senate Majority Leader David Senjum, and House Speaker Kurt Zellers-states that when stadium proposals were initially sought, the Ramsey County plan was the “only detailed proposal submitted,” but it was “summarily rejected” after a Metropolitan Council review found fault with some financial aspects of the plan.

“It appears to us that the latest plan that emerged from closed-door negotiations has more significant problems than did the Ramsey proposal,” the letter states. “We suspect that had your negotiators spent as much time and effort addressing the Ramsey plan 'shortcomings' as was committed to the latest plan that solutions could have been found and the many remaining obstacles avoided.”

The letter claims that the Ramsey County plan would have resulted in benefits that the current Minneapolis plan will not produce, including the clean-up of the former site of the Twin Cities Army Ammunitions Plant and the improvement of existing traffic issues in the area.

In the letter, Gschwind also asks Dayton why the latest plan has not been subjected to the same type of scrutiny by the Met Council, and why concerns about bypassing referendum requirements aren't a stumbling block to the Minneapolis plan. (The Ramsey County plan hit a major obstacle when state legislators threatened to hold a public vote on a sales tax increase to fund the county's portion of the cost.)

Further, the letter asks why electronic pull-tab revenues-which would contribute to the state's portion of funding under the Minneapolis plan-weren't considered as a funding source for the Ramsey County plan.

“Why shouldn't Ramsey be permitted to potentially levy entertainment taxes like Minneapolis is proposing?” the letter asks. “Why are opinions of individual legislators able to kill options without full debate?”

In conclusion, the letter urges state leaders to use proposed bonding funds to clean up the contaminated Arden Hills site and prepare it for development-even if the state insists on pursuing a Minneapolis stadium.

The agreement reached last week by Dayton, Rybak, and the Vikings-which would put the stadium near and overlapping the Metrodome's footprint-is still pending legislative and City of Minneapolis approval.

A Star Tribune report indicates that a bill probably won't be introduced at the capitol until early next week.

Under the plan, the $975 million stadium would open in 2016. The Vikings would pay $427 million, or close to half, of the building cost, while the state would contribute $398 million and the City of Minneapolis would pitch in $150 million.

It would be owned by a new stadium authority comprising three members appointed by Dayton and two appointed by the City of Minneapolis. The Vikings would be required to commit to a 30-year lease in the new facility.