Gov. Mark Dayton wrote a stern letter Tuesday to the owners of the Vikings threatening to undo the stadium deal if they pass on the cost of building the $975 million project to the fans, Richard Meryhew and Baird Helgeson of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
“The project’s strong support came from many regular Minnesotans, not just rich Minnesotans, because they believed the Vikings are also their team,” Dayton wrote. “If a new stadium were to betray that trust, it would be better that it not be built.”
Dayton sent the letter to Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf.
The letter comes less than a week after the team sent out an e-mail survey to season ticket holders to gauge their willingness to pay thousands of dollars more for personal seat licenses or “stadium builder’s licenses” to secure the best seats. The fee, most likely a one-time payment if imposed, would be on top of the annual cost of season tickets.
The stadium financing legislation approved last spring stipulates that revenue generated from the seat licenses would go toward the Vikings’ share of the construction cost. The state and city of Minneapolis are contributing $498 million to stadium construction, with the team picking up the remainder through an NFL loan, stadium naming rights, sponsorships and possibly, licensing fees.
The Vikings firmly defended their right to proceed with seat licenses fees, or so-called builder’s licenses.
The stadium agreement “expressly authorize the sale of stadium builder’s licenses and include the proceeds of any sale in the project budget,” the team said in a statement. “Stadium builder’s licenses were vetted by the Legislature, testified to by Vikings and state of Minnesota negotiators, and most importantly, specifically reflected in the stadium legislation that was passed and signed by the governor.”
“I strongly oppose shifting any part of the team’s responsibility for those costs onto Minnesota Vikings fans,” Dayton wrote in his letter to the Wilfs. “This Private Contribution is your responsibility. Not theirs. I said this new stadium would be a ‘People’s Stadium,’ not a ‘Rich People’s Stadium.’ I meant it then, and I mean it now.”
The stadium legislation gives the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, which is working with the team to oversee development of the project, the right to own and sell the seat licenses, although the revenue then goes to the Vikings construction costs. “Reportedly the purpose for this arrangement is to shield revenue from taxes,” Dayton wrote in the letter dated Nov. 13. “If true, I deplore it.