The Vikings stadium bill was signed into law back in May, but Governor Mark Dayton is apparently just now getting around to reading it. And he is shocked to learn that the so-called “People’s Stadium” may not be the populist paradise he intended. On Tuesday, Dayton sent a sternly worded letter to Mark and Zygi Wilf to warn them against charging season-ticket holders for personal seat licenses in order to fund the team’s portion of stadium construction costs.
Dayton wrote: “I strongly oppose shifting any part of the team’s responsibility for those costs on to Minnesota Vikings fans. This Private Contribution is your responsibility, not theirs.” If the team pursues the sale, the governor has even threatened to dismantle the entire stadium deal, the very deal he negotiated and signed.
As Nancy Pelosi might say, the governor apparently had to sign the stadium bill so he could find out what’s in it. And what’s in it is language that explicitly allows the sale of “stadium builder’s licenses” (aka personal seat licenses). So how was the governor blindsided by the issue? He wasn’t.
Michele Kelm-Helgen, chair of the Metropolitan Sports Facility Authority, says that seat licensing was “always an option” and agreed that it was provided for in the bill. It’s worth noting that Kelm-Helgen was previously Dayton’s Deputy Chief of Staff, and served as the governor’s point person on stadium bill negotiations. According to the AP, Kelm-Helgen “didn’t recall Dayton raising objections before his letter” on Tuesday.
But the licensing provision has understandably raised the ire of Vikings fans, and the issue is becoming a political liability for Dayton.
Cue the strongly worded letter. While the letter mostly consists of (presumably) empty threats, it does contain a surprising admission: “We negotiated in good faith. Not surprisingly, given the project's magnitude and complexity, some details were not fully understood…”
Call me old-fashioned, but I think a governor ought to understand the details before signing a bill that commits hundreds of millions of public dollars to build a sports stadium for a billionaire business owner, not after.
The final stadium bill was negotiated behind closed doors and, in the words of one legislator, the Vikings were “calling the shots”. As the Star Tribune reported, “the results of a furious, final stadium negotiating session were released after hours of closed-door meetings…in which top lawmakers conferred with the Vikings and the state’s top business leaders out of public view.” The entire process was the antithesis of open and transparent government and an affront to taxpayers, but it was the process that Governor Dayton (and some legislators in both parties) chose.
Now that the bill’s flaws are laid bare, the governor is demanding that the Vikings clean up his mess. If the team balks, they risk facing Dayton’s ultimate punishment: another sternly worded letter.
Cross-posted from Freedom Foundateion of MN