By Don Davis
An investigation shows the Vikings owners can afford their share of stadium construction costs, and now Gov. Mark Dayton says he wants to make sure they use some of their own money for the job.
Dayton said Monday that he is bothered by reports showing owners Zygi and Mark Wilf could get by without forking over any of their own dough for a nearly $1 billion stadium.
“I strongly urge you to negotiate a final financial agreement, which requires the Vikings’ owners to provide a significant share of their financial contribution from their own resources and not from Vikings’ fans through the sale of expensive personal seat licenses,” Dayton wrote to the head of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority.
The authority is in the final days of negotiating contracts with the Wilfs. The question about how much the Wilfs themselves will contribute to stadium construction costs has been discussed for years, but the talk intensified recently as the contract deadline neared.
Seat licenses, naming rights for the stadium and $200 million from the National Football League all count as the team’s contribution under state law enacted last year. Critics say the owners may end up paying nothing out of their own pockets.
The team and government each would pay about half of the construction costs under a bill lawmakers passed and Dayton signed.
An authority financial report released Friday shows the Wilfs have enough money to pay their share.
Dayton wrote to authority Chairwoman Michele Kelm-Helgen that her agency’s report is good news, but he urged her to keep seat license fees low.
Licenses are fees charged, above ticket prices, for the right to have certain seats.
“I have always said that this building should be a ‘people’s stadium,’” Dayton wrote. “Excessive personal seat license fees conflict with that goal.”
Kelm-Helgen’s agency did not immediately respond to a request for a comment about the Dayton letter and whether it would affect ongoing negotiations with the Vikings.
While Dayton called for low-cost seat licenses, a Republican legislator made a last-minute effort to stall the contracts and totally rewrite the law about stadium financing.
Rep. Bob Barrett of Lindstrom said that he wants more information on the financing made public, the state’s cost to drop and to require Vikings owners to pay $200 million toward stadium construction.
“The Wilfs ran all over us…” Barrett said. “They got everything they asked for.”
Barrett’s proposal calls for $200 million from the National Football League, $150 million from stadium naming rights, $175 million from seat licenses, $150 million from Minneapolis, $100 million from the state and $200 million from the Wilfs.
Barrett said that he wants the 2014 Legislature to revisit a plan approved last year.
“This proposal is about 18 months too late to be taken seriously,” Dayton Deputy Chief of Staff Bob Hume said.
Hume did not comment about whether Dayton’s last-minute proposal seeking less costly seat licenses also was too late.
Last week, Kelm-Helgen said that she hoped stadium negotiations would conclude early this week. The authority’s board must approve contracts by the end of next week.
Construction is to begin Nov. 1 on a site overlapping the Metrodome in downtown Minneapolis. The first football game in the multi-purpose facility is expected in the fall of 2016. The Vikings plan to play in the nearby University of Minnesota stadium for two years during construction.