Local legislators wary of using public funds for Vikings stadium
The chances of Douglas County's three legislators supporting a bill that uses tax dollars to build a new Minnesota Vikings stadium is slim - slimmer than Brett Favre returning for another season.
Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen, Representative-Elect Mary Franson and Representative Torrey Westrom - all Republicans - said there are more pressing issues to pursue right now than a stadium.
"We've got to move pretty quickly in dealing with a $6.2 billion deficit - that's our priority," said Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria. "A new stadium is the least of our worries."
Ingebrigtsen said the collapse of the Metrodome's roof earlier this month has raised awareness throughout the state about the Vikings' stadium situation. "It's a big factor and some people are playing off that," he said.
However, Ingebrigtsen said that he wouldn't support a measure that calls for public funding of a stadium.
"I think it's got to be a private partnership," he said. "And we don't know yet what a bill would look like. To say yes or no to anything at this point is premature."
Ingebrigtsen said he understands why Vikings' fans want a stadium. If the Vikings don't get a new facility, some are worried the team will leave the state. The Vikings have said they won't play in the Metrodome after next season.
"I know Minnesotans want to keep their Vikings," he said, "but at the same time, jobs and the economy are the priority right now."
Ingebrigtsen said there are a lot of stadium funding ideas that are floating around including putting a tax on sports memorabilia or jerseys; raising taxes in the metro area where a new facility would be; turning the ownership of the team over to the public like Green Bay did; or using proceeds from a racino.
While Ingebrigtsen said he would be open to looking at the proposals, any plan that spends a lot of public dollars is out of the question. "We have to get our own budget in line," he said.
Newly elected District 11B representative, Mary Franson, R-Alexandria, noted that the Vikings are an important part of the state's economy but added there are simply bigger issues for the Legislature to deal with.
"It isn't that we don't want to keep the Vikings here but we need jobs," she said. "And with a $6.2 billion deficit, there's not a lot of room for a stadium."
Franson, as she stated several times on the campaign trail, said that the Legislature's spending decisions should come down to priorities and a stadium isn't one of them.
"Although we have a deflated Dome, our economy is deflated too," she said.
Representative Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, who represents District 11A, said the Dome's collapse only slightly increases the chances of stadium legislation being approved this session.
He noted that the Metrodome is only about 30 years old. He said it would make more sense to spend $100 million or so remodeling it rather than building an entirely new stadium.
"Remodeling the Dome and turning it over to the Vikings and letting them own it seems a more prudent proposal," Westrom said.