FREE SPEECH ZONE | Rybak Target Center Renovation, Statewide Vikings Tax

Minneapolis Mayor R. T. Rybak wants to have it both ways. On the one hand, this Tuesday (Feb 1, 2011), he appeared with billionaire publishing magnate Glen Taylor, hawking a plan to spend $155 million, much of it public money, on a “facelift” for Target Center, which the City owns and Taylor’s Timberwolves and Lynx basketball teams play in. On the other hand, Rybak wants to be seen as a practical mayor who shares the priorities of city residents and neighborhood activists.Free Speech ZoneThe Free Speech Zone offers a space for contributions from readers, without editing by the TC Daily Planet. This is an open forum for articles that otherwise might not find a place for publication, including news articles, opinion columns, announcements and even a few press releases. Of a potential Timberwolves Tax to pay for his grand plan for Target Center, Rybak tells Minnpost “I don’t want to deal with this issue, frankly, but we simply have to do it.” Continue Reading

Vikings stadium bill: Not dead yet

After a House committee voted 10-9 Wednesday against a proposed Vikings stadium finance bill, many are writing early obituaries for this latest public handout request.But let’s not be too hasty to dance on its grave yet, shall we?Take a closer look at what’s in the bill and you’ll see how stadium backers might still find enough carrots to get them to a majority before this is over.But first, let’s look at why the stadium bill is on life support.Gov. Tim Pawlenty said he won’t sign any bill with a tax increase in it. So portions of the bill, from Rep. Loren Solberg, DFL-Grand Rapids, that raised money through a tax on sports jerseys and memorabilia, lodging taxes and rental car taxes had to go.But that effectively removes every location option for building a new $791 million stadium except for one — Minneapolis. The other funding provision in the bill would allow Minneapolis to divert local taxes already in place for its Convention Center to pay for the new stadium in 10 years, after the Convention Center debt is paid off.Problem is, Minneapolis isn’t too thrilled about giving up that revenue for the Convention Center, and doesn’t think it should have to pay all the public cost of a stadium that will be used by people from all over the state. City Council member Elizabeth Glidden said as much Wednesday in committee.So how to win over Minneapolis? How about letting the city throw some funds at the financially ailing Target Center? Continue Reading

Let the stadium bidding wars commence

A Vikings stadium bill that allows Minnesota cities to bid against each other to offer tax breaks and other incentives could be introduced at the Legislature as soon as Monday. 
Yes, there are still the small matters of a $1 billion state budget deficit to resolve, a General Assistance Medical Care fix that apparently doesn’t fix anything, whether $408 million in hypothetical federal health care funds can be counted on, and a Minnesota Supreme Court ruling on last year’s unallotment that could upset the whole budget applecart to deal with before the Legisature’s May 17 deadline. But heavy hitters in both houses of the Legislature and on both sides of the political aisle are finding enough time to line up behind a plan that would allow cities, or counties, to choose from a menu of local funding options to pay the cost of a $791 million, retractable-dome stadium, according to multiple media reports. In the Senate, Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, and Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, are putting the finishing touches on the proposal, which could offer Minneapolis the option of rebuilding a stadium on the current site of the Metrodome, or letting local governments set up a stadium commission that would put together its own funding package. Local funding options could include using taxes currently going to the Minneapolis Convention Center, a sports memorabilia tax, a lodging tax, rental car tax and more. In the House, Rep. Loren Solberg, DFL-Grand Rapids, head of the Ways and Means Committee, would carry the bill, which might meet Pawlenty’s requirement that no state tax dollars would be used. Continue Reading

Stadium wars redux: Now come the Vikes

It never seems to cease: professional sports teams in every market in the country go back and back and back to cities and states to demand that taxpayers finance stadiums the public will not own or operate. This is done with the complicity of elected officials under the ever-present threat that an area’s favorite team will abandon the market and ”go where they are wanted.” (Audio File below) And go they do, sometimes even a few years after getting their stadiums. Much has been made of the brand new Minnesota Twins ballpark as they prefer to call it – a stunning new facility that returns local baseball to the outdoors with nary a bow to Minnesota’s fickle elements. Last year, it was the University of Minnesota’s TCF Gopher Football stadium (decades after tearing down Memorial Stadium) and the St. Paul Saints are asking that city to put up a new stadium for them down along West 7th St. Now come the Minnesota Vikings, headed by owners Mark and Zygi Wilf, buttressed by the likes of the ever-loving icon, Bud Grant, to say that, now that their contract to occupy the Humphrey Dome is coming to an end, they, too, consider it our civic duty and fiscal responsibility to cough up yet another multimillion-dollar stadium, even in a recession and state deficits running to the billions – or else. Continue Reading

Leslie Davis was right: Keeping burner’s stink out of ballpark will cost county

Hennepin County commissioners learned Thursday that they’ll have to pay $500,000 to stop the stink from the county’s downtown garbage burner from entering the new, county-sales-tax-funded, open-air Minnesota Twins stadium next door. It’s exactly the kind of thing environmental activist Leslie Davis predicted when he sued for further environmental study of the Twins’ ballpark plans. The full cost of stadium-related mitigation at the incinerator, including moving the entrances for trucks that dump as much as 1,200 tons of garbage each day, is $2.3 million. The stadium, known as Target Field, will seat 40,000 people — or about 40 seats for every local job eliminated by Target Corp. on Tuesday.var mnindyHeadline = “MORE FROM”; var mnindyHeadline2 = “Michigan Messenger”; The final Environmental Impact Statement for the Twins ballpark (pdf) downplayed the odor problem from the garbage burner (known both as the Hennepin Energy Recovery Center and the Hennepin Energy Resource Company, in either case taking the acronym HERC):
HERC odors were not detected very frequently in the neighborhood … The County also researched the use of odorants to neutralize or mask odors from the tipping hall but decided that more passive approaches to odor mitigation, such as the installation of high-speed fabric doors and management of the volume of waste in the tipping hall, would be more beneficial. Continue Reading

Students shine green light on garbage burner

Starting in April 2010, Minnesota Twins fans for the first time in decades will get to experience the sights of outdoor baseball. The open sky, pennants rippling in the breeze, the natural green grass, and … the smokestacks of a giant garbage incinerator? The Hennepin County Energy Recovery Center, or HERC, is a just a long foul ball from the new stadium site. The facility burns household trash to power steam turbines, which generate electricity for about 26,000 homes. Continue Reading