Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton sent a letter to Vikings owner Zygi Wilf on Tuesday, vowing to fight any move by the team to charge fans additional fees to buy season tickets in the new stadium.
Dayton said he is "distressed" by reports the team may sell "Stadium Builder's Licenses" as part of the private contribution toward the stadium. The Vikings are responsible for slightly more than half of the $975 million total cost.
Vikings season ticket holders received surveys in their email inbox this week to gauge their reaction to possible seat licenses.
Dayton says he will urge the public Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority to block any such move, and says he will escalate the matter to the Legislature in January if necessary.
In fact, the governor says he would rather have no stadium at all than a stadium financed in part by expensive seat licenses.
"The project's strong support came from many regular Minnesotans, not just rich Minnesotans, because they believe the Vikings are also their team," he said in the letter. "If a new stadium were to betray that trust, it would be better that it not be built."
"Everybody calm down," said former state Rep. John Kriesel (R-Cottage Grove), guest hosting on KFAN radio Tuesday morning.
Kriesel said the licenses were part of the Vikings stadium discussions and the bill signed by the governor.
Jeff Anderson, Vikings director of corporate communications, has previously called the licenses "a viable financing tool in this market."
Currently, 14 NFL stadiums have personal seat licenses or stadium builder licenses. Those are found in the following cities:
GOV. DAYTON'S LETTER TO WILFS
Dear Mr. Wilf and Mr. Wilf,
Recent news reports about the Vikings' involvement with the new stadium have not been favorable. First, the team announced that it would play a 2013 "home game" in London, which, it was claimed, should not count against the limit of three such games every fifteen years, because the final agreement had not been signed.
After my strong objection, I was told the team verbally agreed that a 2013 London game would count as one of the three overseas games during the first fifteen years of the project. Soon thereafter, the team expressed its desire to play a second "home game" overseas in the near future and extolled the virtues of its doing so.
The Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority and Vikings are supposed to be working together to build a news $975 million stadium. It would be far more helpful, if the Vikings focused public attention on a desire to play home games there, rather than elsewhere.
Now comes word that the team is considering season ticket-holders to pay part of the "NFL Team/Private Contribution" for construction costs. I strongly oppose shifting any part of the team's responsibility for those costs onto Minnesota Vikings fans. 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.
The project's strong support came from many regular Minnesotans, not just rich Minnesotans, because they believe the Vikings are also their team. If a new stadium were to betray that trust, it would be better that it not be built.
Incongruously, since the revenues from the sale of "Stadium Builder's Licenses" go to the Vikings, the law says that only the Authority may sell them. Reportedly, the purpose for this arrangement is to shield revenue from taxes. If true, I deplore it.
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. If necessary, I will go to the Legislature next January and urge that the authorization be rescinded.
I am greatly distressed by these developments and the future they portend. We negotiated in good faith. 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.
MINNESOTA VIKINGS STATEMENT
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.