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Editor's column: Bleeding purple, but worried about the green

The Vikings broke ground on their new stadium Tuesday, but the shaky financing surrounding the stadium leaves bad taste.

December 7, 2013
By Per Peterson , Marshall Independent

Our centerpiece photo on Wednesday's Page 1A was a classic, but probably made some of you sick to your stomach.

The photo showed there were plenty of smiles to go around at Tuesday's groundbreaking for the new Vikings stadium. The subjects in the photo - billionaire team owner Zygi Wilf and running back Adrian Peterson - surely do have plenty to smile about, but it's Wilf, who almost looks evil when he wears those big grins, who ultimately will be laughing all the way to the bank.

I don't begrudge Wilf the fortune he has made in the real estate business, but I continue to be concerned about funding for the stadium and worry that taxpayers will end up shouldering more of the burden than what was originally planned.

That'll go over well.

The state's main funding mechanism for the stadium - expanded gambling - was about as successful as the team's Josh Freeman experiment. The state had grandiose plans and bold projections on how much money electronic pull tabs and fancy new machines would raise. Talk about a gamble. Instead of a flood of revenue, we got a leaky faucet.

Plan B was a tax on cigarettes, a one-time floor tax all sellers of smokes would have to cough up (which generated $26.5 million), to go along with a corporate tax-law change that would provide $20 million a year, if needed.

So what's left in terms of the public funding portion, public funding that will account for nearly half of the $1 billion needed for the new stadium?

The general fund? I certainly hope legislators know better than to even think about going there in 2014, unless they don't want to get re-elected.

As a quote in Wednesday's front-page story said, the state could have done this a better way. If more funding is needed down this long and winding road (and it will be), it should be up to the Wilfs to come up with it, not taxpayers. The Vikings have upped their pledge toward the stadium to more than $500 million to ensure all the bells and whistles are included, but the Wilfs can do more, especially considering they're being backed financially by the National Football League and possible Personal Seating Licenses - money that comes from the fans for the right to purchase season tickets.

I love the Vikings and look forward to watching them play in the new stadium in a few years, but it's sad that all that positivity is, for the time being, being overshadowed by funding questions and concerns that were poorly handled and improperly vetted by Gov. Mark Dayton and the DFL-controlled Legislature during the 2013 session (note: both parties should be held accountable for this mess). And it's a shame that because financial details in the stadium deal still have yet to be ironed out, many taxpayers in Minnesota likely weren't wearing smiles Tuesday as big as the ones Wilf and Peterson were.

We should all be smiling about the Vikings getting a new stadium - the Twins got theirs, the Gopher football team got theirs. But I can't. Not yet.



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