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Stadium panel recommends two stadiums
By Michael Khoo
Minnesota Public Radio
January 16, 2002

A tripartisan stadium task force is poised to recommend that the governor and the Legislature approve financing proposals this year for two new stadiums. One would house the Minnesota Twins; the other would be home to the Vikings and the University of Minnesota Gopher football team. The task force voted to prepare a draft report containing the recommendation and expanded the possible revenue sources to fund the plan. But some members argued the proposal remains too vague and offers policy-makers little guidance.

Rep. Kevin Goodno, R-Moorhead, left, the panel's co-chair, says adding more options gives legislators from different backgrounds space to find consensus. The task force's other co-chair, Will Haddeland, is on the right.

The panel voted 13-4 in favor of recommending financing two new sports facilities. Sen. Steve Kelley, DFL-Hopkins, offered the motion, saying the task force needed to give lawmakers and the governor clear guidance on that fundamental point.

"If we're going to move forward on this, we ought to talk about two facilities. And we ought to be relatively specific in recommending that much to the Legislature," he said.

Kelley's motion calls for public financing for new facilities as opposed to a direct cash subsidy. Under the financing option, the state would issue a loan to be repaid through a variety of revenue sources. Those include taxes on tickets and stadium concessions as well as more general funding sources, such as a local tax on hotels and restaurants and unspecified gambling revenues.

But some task force members felt uncomfortable recommending the stadiums without more definite information on how much money could be generated from such sources.

Rep. Mary Liz Holberg of Lakeville voted against the Kelley amendment because "it's really easy for me to say I think we should buy this, but I can't give you a clue how much money's in the purse at this time. And whether it's public funding, user fees, surcharges, or whatever," she said.

The task force, in fact, approved or set aside for further consideration every funding mechanism proposed. That includes options from a two percent surcharge on rental cars at the Twin Cities airport to rental fees for media companies that might use the stadiums' press facilities.

"Basically what we're doing is throwing it back to the Legislature."

- Rep. Al Juhnke, DFL-Willmar

Rep. Al Juhnke, DFL-Willmar, complained that the final report would, as a result, be too vague. He noted that the task force voted to remove options for a new lottery game and for certain sports-related gambling and to replace those proposals with a broader statement on gaming revenues.

"Throw everything on the table. But then I think our time was not well spent the last month and a half listening to every proposal and everyone come forward. Basically what we're doing is throwing it back to the Legislature," Juhnke said.

But others say the more general the task force's recommendations, the more flexibility lawmakers will have in crafting a final plan.

Rep. Kevin Goodno, R-Moorhead, the panel's co-chair, says adding more options gives legislators from different backgrounds space to find consensus.

"Rather than contracting or constricting the support or reducing the amount of support you have over there, I think from the report from the task force we're actually increasing the number of people that would be willing to support the findings of the task force, or elements of the findings of the task force," he said.

The task force will now draw up a draft report. They'll meet once more to give final approval to the plan just before the Legislature reconvenes at the end of the month.