Reporting Esme Murphy
ST. PAUL, Minn (WCCO) — If the Minnesota Vikings get a new stadium once the state’s budget deficit gets fixed, it wouldn’t be ready until 2015.
So it’s expected the Vikings would play at the Metrodome until then. But the team’s hope for a new stadium in Ramsey County hit a snag on Wednesday when the St. Paul City Council voted to oppose a half-cent sales tax proposed by the county.
That tax would help raise at least $350 million to build a new stadium in Arden Hills at the site of the former Twin Cities Army Ammunitions Plant.
But the city of St. Paul said it’s unfair for its residents. The vote was unanimous, and it was mainly a protest vote because the city council doesn’t have any legal say on whether the sales tax is passed.
City council members said they wanted everyone to know they think the tax hike is a bad idea that’s bad for St. Paul. It was a 7-0 vote, with the city council president ridiculing the proposal.
“Maybe they are going to change it to the Arden Hills Vikings, it makes absolutely no sense, I don’t think it’s ever going to catch on. It’s never going to catch on it doesn’t make sense for our residents,” said Kathy Lantry.
It’s the Ramsey County Commission that is pushing for the tax hike to raise $350 million. That would be the public portion of the estimated $800 million to $1 billion stadium proposal that would be built on the Arden Hills site.
City council members said St. Paul’s residents would end up paying almost half of the $350 million amount and get little benefit.
“I don’t think the case has been made that the half cent sale tax to build something way, way, way, away from St. Paul is valuable for a city that would be paying 40 to 45 percent of that sales tax,” said Council Member David Thune.
A few Vikings supporters were on hand for the vote and expressed their frustration at the meeting.
“This is all posturing, this is passing the buck in my mind. No one wants to step up and lead and say I have a solution to this problem and that is what we need from our leaders,” said Ty Glocke, a Vikings’ fan.
But even they acknowledged a sales tax hike in the midst of a government shutdown and a tough economy is a tough sell.
“It’s unfortunate there are going to be some returns to the city of St. Paul. A lot of the people who would come to the stadium would stay in the city of St. Paul,” said Cory Merrifield with savethevikings.org.
No one from the Vikings was on hand and they have not yet commented on the vote. Publicly, the Vikings are continuing to express optimism that some kind of deal can be reached, but with the state in shutdown mode, things are not moving very fast and everyone agrees the timing could not be worse.