MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton says he’s “concerned” about public officials using luxury suites at U.S. Bank Stadium.
But one day after the state’s top auditor said he’d investigate, Gov. Dayton said media reports are “sensationalizing” the issue.
The state’s legislative auditor has begun a “priority” investigation into claims that stadium officials gave free Vikings tickets in luxury suites to friends and family. Top Republicans in the State House and Senate say they’ll hold hearings to see if they broke any laws.
The Sports Facilities Authority owns two ground level luxury suites for Vikings games and other stadium events, but it won’t reveal who gets free tickets, food, alcohol and VIP parking.
Gov. Dayton says he’d like to know the facts.
“If they are spending public funds, which they are for these two suites, then they need to serve a legitimate public purpose that warrants that,” Dayton said.
Stadium officials say the suites are used for marketing purposes, but Republican leaders say they’re skeptical. They called on the Sports Authority to immediately suspend the practice, and said they’ll hold hearings on whether it’s a violation of the state’s gift ban.
“So, $800 per ticket, and some of these people have shown up to multiple games,” Rep. Peggy Scott (R) of the state legislature’s Civil Law and Data Practices Committee said. “They’ve brought their spouses, possibly family members. You know, that adds up to some significant money.”
In a written statement, a defiant Sports Facilities Authority said it will not suspend marketing efforts, and in fact will host a number of unidentified “active clients” at the game against the Cowboys Thursday night:
“The MSFA is not suspending our marketing efforts. This evening, the MSFA is hosting a number marketing prospects and active clients in the MSFA suites as we continue to do our job.”
Gov. Dayton complained, too, about media coverage he called “sensational,” and no coverage of the billion-dollar stadium’s success.
“A billion-dollar stadium was built on time, on budget,” he said. “It’s functioned from the day it opened almost perfectly. I’m not aware of any major glitch.”
Gov. Dayton himself says he has never been in any luxury suite. Later, a spokesman for the governor called on Minnesota legislators to reveal if they have attended any stadium events in any luxury suites, and if they paid for their tickets.