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Vikings Stadium Passes Senate, MLS Exclusivity Eliminated but Still Alive

2012 May 9
by Brian Quarstad

The Minnesota State Senate passed a version of a Vikings stadium bill on Tuesday night by a vote of 38-28. The bill was approved just before midnight. The Senate evidently didn’t want to be outdone by the House which passed their version of the bill on Monday night after 8 hours of debate. The Senate debate went on for over 10 hours before being decided.

The bill for a new $975 million Vikings football stadium looks quite different from the House version. In fact during the marathon debate the bill morphed several times. The most radical of those changes was an amendment which was approved and changed the funding mechanism for the stadium away from electronic gambling. But within a short period of time a new amendment was voted on and passed that basically restored the stadium finances to its original sources.

Another change in the bill saw lawmakers increase the Vikings’ share of payment for the stadium by $25 million bringing their portion to $452 million.

Before the vote was held to approve the stadium, over 30 amendments were proposed, debated and voted on. Minnesotans that had been following the Major League Soccer component of the stadium bill may have been disappointed when the Senate struck the wording that allowed the Vikings exclusive rights with the State for an MLS team. The wording in the bill that passed the House on Monday was previously debated in the finance committee. The exclusive rights for the Vikings allowed the Wilfs, or any partial owner of the Vikings, a 5-year window to bring in an MLS team to play at the stadium rent free. That 5 year period of time started the first day that the Vikings football team played at game in the new stadium.

The Finance Committee had debated the very same issue with some saying the state was creating a monopoly by allowing the Vikings exclusive rights to bring in an MLS team. Others argued that the Vikings should have that right since they were paying nearly 50% of the stadium costs and upkeep as well as the franchise fee to purchase an MLS team. Past debate pointed out that a soccer team would bring 20-plus dates a year to the new stadium, bringing in more revenue for the State of Minnesota and the City of Minneapolis.

Senator Warren Limmer (R-Maple Grove) filed the amendment that struck the wording from the bill. Debate included questions on whether anyone knew if there was someone beside the Vikings actually interested in bringing MLS to the Twin Cities. The “semi-pro” team in Blaine was brought up and a question was asked if they would be interested in bringing MLS to Minnesota. The team evidently referred to was the NASL Minnesota Stars who are not semi-pro but a professional D-2 team and who play their games at the National Sport Center Stadium in Blaine, Minnesota.

Stadium bill sponsor Julie Rosen (R-Fairmount) said she thought those in Blaine (National Sports Center) would want an MLS team at the dome because it would promote soccer which would help their cause. After some debate the amendment was voted on and passed, killing the exclusivity for the Wilfs.

While the Senate killed the MLS feature in their bill the House version of the stadium bill includes it. In essence it means the MLS portion of the bill will now be debated in conference committee and is not yet dead.

The $975 million football stadium bills will now go to a committee made up of members of the House and Senate who will attempt to iron out their differences.

12 Responses
  1. thesuperrookie permalink
    May 9, 2012

    Is the exclusivity the end all be all of MLS in Minnesota?

    I would think the “rent free” option discussed is much more important. Not too many people seem to be knocking on the door to get into MLS in Minnesota, so it is already a de facto exclusivity, no?

    Do we know if the “rent free” option for entities owned by the Vikings is still alive?

  2. May 9, 2012

    We don’t for sure, but from those I talked to it sounds as if the “rent free” would go down with the amendment. Here is the actual verbiage that was struck from the Senate bill.

    Subd. 15. Major league soccer. The authority shall, for five years after the first NFL team home game is played in the stadium, grant the NFL team the exclusive right to establish major league soccer at the stadium. The authority and the NFL team may enter into an agreement providing the terms and conditions of such an arrangement, provided: if any of the NFL team owners whose family owns at least three percent of the NFL team purchases full or partial ownership in a major league soccer franchise, such franchise may play in the stadium under a use agreement with similar terms as are applicable to the NFL team at no additional rent, but including a provision of payment of game-day costs and reasonable marginal costs incurred by the authority as a result of the major league soccer team; and capital improvements required by a major league soccer franchise must be financed by the owners of the major league soccer team, unless otherwise agreed to by the authority.

  3. thesuperrookie permalink
    May 9, 2012

    What do you mean by, “goes down with the amendment”?

  4. Rob permalink
    May 9, 2012

    So… if someone interested in trying to persuade the lawmakers who may be involved in the conference committee to add the language back into the bill, what is the best course of action?

  5. ThunderGunner permalink
    May 9, 2012

    Exclusivity and free rent are gone.

    While I’d love to see an MLS team in MN, I’m glad to see this provision removed. I’m not a fan of the full package–which I see as a bad deal for taxpayers and a great deal for the rich owner. But the provision for exclusivity really reeked of crony capitalism. I would say that I think I could see that the rent-free provision (in the context of a bill I don’t like) makes sense if the goal is to try to maximize the long-term value of the stadium by incentivizing the wilf’s to bring an MLS team. but I don’t see any language that would prevent them from moving the team after their free rent is out. Wilf only cares about money, so I could totally see him trying it for a few years while the rent is free and then moving the team or selling it off once they actually have to pay. Plus, I’m still not convinced that he is really interested in MLS; rather, soccer becomes another way for them to talk about how amazing the stadium is.

  6. Bart permalink
    May 9, 2012

    Ahh, the joy of matching lawmakers with lawyers, activists and politicians. None of this prohibits the Wilfs from bringing MLS to MN and the stadium if they want to do it. On the contrary, it expands the pool of potential interested parties to do so.

    If a third party (other than Wilf) gains a MLS franchise, there is nothing to stop them from negotiating a lease where the first 5 years is free.

    A better deal for everyone, if you look between the lines.

  7. ThunderGunner permalink
    May 9, 2012

    Oh, and just to be clear…exclusivity and free rent are indeed gone from the Senate version.

    In all honesty, with the conference committee make up, I think there is little doubt that both will be back in the final package. All of the conferees from both House and Semate are strong stadium supporters and will be generally siding with the Vikings on things like that. Big discussions will likely be around new user fees and the size of increase to the Vikings share.

  8. smatthew permalink
    May 9, 2012

    If I was a betting man I except Zygi/Vikes will “reluctantly” accept the removal of the soccer language for some other aspects of the two bill be removed.

  9. May 9, 2012

    Yes, that was my take on it as well, ThunderGunner. Here is the conference committee gathered from IMS friend Paul Demko’s article from Politics in Minnesota:

    Rosen said the conference committee will immediately begin working on reconciling the two bills. The conferees are Sens. Roger Reinert, DFL-Duluth, Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, and Rosen, and Reps. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, Joe Hoppe, R-Chaska and Terry Morrow, DFL-St. Peter.

    http://politicsinminnesota.com/2012/05/vikings-stadium-proposal-clears-senate-headed-to-conference-committee/

  10. Sgc permalink
    May 9, 2012

    In a sense, none of the language matters. It’s hard to see MLS going into a big NFL domed stadium unless the NFL owners are all-in behind it anyway, and unless they’re offered a deal of little to no rent. And the exact logic behind the clause–that even at no rent, having an MLS team is still beneficial to the area, and that MLS would really hold all the negotiating cards–could easily be quietly resuscitated during direct negotiations.

  11. May 9, 2012

    It’s a confusing situation as far as the Stars’ are concerned. If he already owned the team, or was promising to buy the Stars and move them to MLS, I’d say give him TEN years exclusivity.

    Without knowing if there’s been any agreement between Wilf and NASL about the Stars’ future, then it seems that he would essentially quash any hopes the Stars to find a buyer. Any buyer of a Division 2 soccer team would have to have his eye on the MLS upside.

    If he chooses to never bring MLS to Minnesota, then we’ll have lost the NASL and MLS.

  12. May 9, 2012

    I can confidently say there have been no talks between the Wilfs and NASL. At least not up until a couple of weeks ago and I know they have been entirely focused on the stadium and doubt the Wilfs even know much about a team here and less about the NASL.

    So the question was raised earlier what they can do if they want to contact someone about getting the MLS language back in the compromise bill that will be hammered out by the conference committee. Here is a list of the members and their email address.

    I strongly urge you to write these legislators and tell them to help bring Major League Soccer to Minnesota.

    Joe Hoppe – rep.joe.hoppe@house.mn
    Morrie Lanning – rep.morrie.lanning@house.mn
    Terry Morrow – rep.terry.morrow@house.mn

    Senate
    Julie Rosen – sen.julie.rosen@senate.mn
    Roger Reinert – sen.roger.reinert@senate.mn
    Bill Ingebrightensen – sen.bill.ingebrigtsen@senate.mn

    http://www.mls4mn.com/the-final-countdown/

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