Vikings, Wolves Reject Coleman’s Stadium Ideas

By Bill Hudson, WCCO-TV and James Schugel, WCCO-TV

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Just when you thought you’ve heard all the financing proposals for a new Vikings stadium another one is now in the mix. St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman is introducing a plan he believes will solve a multitude of concerns for the Vikings, Timberwolves and Wild.

Coleman’s “statewide solution” would impose a 2-cent drink tax to pay for all the desired stadium and arena improvements. He says it will remove the competition among cities and municipalities that are vying for professional sports teams.

The St. Paul mayor adds that the time has come for an overall solution to better balance the financial burdens of funding big league stadiums.

The plan would have the NHL’s Wild and the NBA’s Timberwolves share a single home. Both would play out of St. Paul’s much newer Xcel Energy Center. That would allow the plan to retire the Target Center’s outstanding debt, removing the nearly $75 million tax burden from Minneapolis taxpayers.

“What I’m trying to do is to say we can come up with a statewide solution and stop having conversation after conversation after conversation, as to how we solve these issues,” Coleman said.

The plan would impose a 2-cent per alcoholic drink tax statewide. That alone is expected to generate $48 million a year in statewide revenue. Coleman said that annual flow of cash would be enough to service the bond payments on the state’s  $550 million contribution towards a new Vikings stadium.

Coleman says his plan is not site specific, meaning if the Vikings insist on relocating to Arden Hills they can still do that.

The drink tax funding would also be tapped to make improvements to the Xcel Center, in order to accommodate both the Wolves and the Wild. A new training facility would be build nearby to help with the stringent demands on scheduling both teams.

Another $75 million would be used to pay off the outstanding debt Minneapolis taxpayers owe on the Target Center. The building would be retired and prepared for renovation. The idea behind demolition of the Target Center is to remove it from competing with the Xcel Center for concerts and other major events.

Coleman says consolidating the two teams into one building would ultimately save taxpayers money.

“It would cost half of what it would to upgrade the Target Center to accommodate both teams at the Xcel,” Coleman said. “So we think it’s a good bargain.”

But Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak isn’t on board.

“It would be a mistake to close the Target Center and move the Timberwolves. The sensible solution is to renovate the Target Center,” Rybak said.

Coleman’s plan would also have to gain support from Timberwolves owner, Glen Taylor. The team released a statement Wednesday saying in part,  “we are happy here and support a renovated Target Center.”

Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leopold said he appreciates Coleman’s efforts and remains open to the idea.

Meantime, the Minnesota Vikings say they appreciate Coleman’s efforts but remain “laser focused” on their partnership with Ramsey County and building a new home in Arden Hills.

In addition to funding facilities for Minnesota’s major league teams, the plan would also help build the St. Paul Saints a new ballpark in Lowertown. Funding would be a combination of $27 million in state bonds, $10 million from the Saints and $10 million from the city.

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