Roseville-area state lawmakers Rep. Alice Hausman and Sen. John Marty have joined Gov. Mark Dayton in blasting the Minnesota Vikings for their plan to charge fans a "seat license fee" to help the team build its new stadium in downtown Minneapolis.
"Yes, the Vikings are definitely trying to shift their share of the stadium onto the fans," Hausman said late Tuesday. Her comment to Roseville Patch came after the Star Tribune reported that Dayton has threatened to undo the historic stadium agreement if the Vikings owners insist on proceeding with the seat license fee as a way to pass on a part of the team's share of the $975 million cost.
"In a sternly worded letter to the team owners, the governor objected to a proposal to charge seat-licensing fees in exchange for premier seating choices, a move that could mean big-spenders boot longtime season-ticket holders to less desirable seats," the Minneapolis newspaper reported. .
Dayton called the Vikings' idea "deplorable." Hausman. a DFLer from St. Paul, agreed but wasn't surprised by the turn of events.
"Many of us expected this very thing," said Hausman, a DFLer who won election last week to the new District 66A which includes Falcon Heights, most of Roseville and parts of St. Paul. "They (the Vikings) want a free ride. They want to maximize their profits.
"They (the Vikings) are a big business," Hausman told Roseville Patch. "Milk the state and the fans for as much as you can on your way to a bigger bottom line."
Meanwhile, DFLer Marty, who was re-elected as senator for the new District 66, was equally critical of the Vikings plan.
"It's as if the public paid to build a "public" golf course, then finding the operator of the course selling memberships to people, and prohibiting non-members from playing on the course that they paid for," said Marty, a long-time critic and opponent of public subsidies for professional ball stadiums.
Roseville Patch has also sought reaction from Rep.-elect Jason Isaacson. Patch will update this story as his comments become available.
Meanwhile, Dayton contended that fans of average means supported the stadium, "not just rich Minnesotans, because they believed the Vikings are also their team. If a new stadium were to betray that trust, it would be better that it not be built." Dayton said he could urge lawmakers to open the contract to remove the option of seat licenses.
In his letter to Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf, Dayton wrote:
Now comes word that the team is considering requiring season ticket-holders to pay part of the "NFL Team/Private Contribution" for construction costs. I strongly oppose shifting any part of the team's responsibility for those costs onto Minnesota Vikings fans. 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."
At his ESPN blog, Kevin Seifert wrote that Dayton made a "sloppy political maneuver":
"I dug up the legislation itself online and found the relevant passages. Here you go: On the topic of what the bill refers to as "stadium builder's licenses," the legislation says: "The authority shall own and retain the exclusive right to sell stadium builder's licenses in the stadium. The authority will retain the NFL team to act as the authority's agent in marketing and selling such licenses." In a subsection on the Vikings' contribution, the bill reads: "The NFL team/private contribution, including stadium builder's license proceeds, for stadium costs must be made in cash in the amount of $477,000,000."