Governor warns Vikings about stadium fees

Gov. Mark Dayton issues a stern warning to the Vikings about making fans pay for personal seat licenses.

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton is trying to say "not so fast" to the Minnesota Vikings after the team engaged season ticket holders on the possible implementation of personal seat licenses in its soon-to-be-built stadium.

Dayton, one of the chief proponents in pushing a $975 million stadium bill through the legislature last summer, sent a strongly-worded letter to team owner Zygi Wilf on Tuesday threatening to undo the stadium deal if the team uses PSLs as a way to fund its portion of the cost — in Dayton's mind shifting the responsibility to the fans.

"I strongly oppose shifting any part of the team's responsibility for those costs onto Minnesota Vikings fans," Dayton wrote. "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."

Last summer, the Vikings finally achieved their long-fought quest to get a new stadium built in Minnesota to replace the outdated Metrodome. In the $975 million plan, the Vikings will contribute $477 million in construction costs as well as $13 million annually for operations. The city of Minneapolis will pay $150 million in up-front costs and $159 million in operating costs over the next 30 years, with the state contributing $348 million.

A personal seat license, common around the league in newly built stadiums, allows a season-ticket holder the right to a certain seat in the stadium after paying what is likely a one-time fee in addition to season-tickets costs. The holder owns the rights to the particular seat as long as he or she continues to purchase season tickets and has the right to sell the PSL.

Dayton doesn't want fans burdened with that cost.

"The project's strong support came from many regular Minnesotans, not just rich Minnesotans, because they believe 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."

Yet, the PSL, or more specifically stadium building licenses, were part of the original legislation, which is why the Vikings are seeing things a little differently than the governor.

The team issued this statement Tuesday afternoon:

"The Minnesota Vikings greatly appreciate Governor Mark Dayton's support for the new multi-purpose stadium for the Vikings and the State of Minnesota. However, we are disappointed by his recent letter to the team, which does not recognize a key component of the stadium agreement struck by the Vikings, State and Local leaders this past spring.
"The stadium bill, and the prior term sheet, that was negotiated with the Vikings over the last two legislative sessions by the Governor's own representatives and legislative leaders, includes provisions that expressly authorize the sale of stadium builder's licenses and include the proceeds of any sale in the project budget. 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.
"The Vikings look forward to discussing this issue and moving forward with the agreement that was completed after many long years of effort."

According to the legislation, the stadium authority owns the rights to the licenses and has the authority to sell SBLs in the stadium. The legislation states, "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."

But with the authority having control over the licenses, even though the revenue goes to the team, Dayton advised the authority to keep the team from the additional revenue.

"However, since it is the authority which will make the decision whether or not to sell those licenses, I will urge its board not to proceed," Dayton said. "If necessary, I will go to the Legislature next January and urge that the authorization be rescinded."

Dayton was also upset about the Vikings' agreement and selection to play a home game in London next year as part of the NFL's continuing International Series. Within the legislation is a clause allowing the Vikings to play three home games outside of the United States during the first 15 years of the lease or use agreement and up to three more in the next 15 years.

Dayton wrote that he had a verbal agreement that next year's game would count among the three games in the legislation, but he claims the team is saying the game should not count against its limit because the agreement had not been signed. Dayton was also troubled that the team reportedly is looking into another game overseas.

Speaking last month after the 2013 game announcement, Vikings part owner Mark Wilf said the team hasn't agreed to any future games in London.

Dayton's frustration was apparent in Tuesday's letter.

"We negotiated in good faith," Dayton said. "Not surprisingly, given the project's magnitude and complexity, some details were not fully understood and some differences still remain. They must be resolved consistent with Minnesota standards and values. I urge all parties to think about those qualities, which make Minnesota special, as they consider their options."

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