The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

November 15, 2012

Dayton: Vikings weren't forthright about seat fees

— Gov. Mark Dayton said Thursday that Minnesota Vikings officials weren't forthright during negotiations about the possibility that season ticket holders could be charged hefty new fees to help fund the new stadium.

While expressing optimism the dispute could be worked out, Dayton did not retreat from an earlier vow to fight the teams' owners over the extra charges.

The stadium legislation passed last May authorizing the $975 million construction project says the team can issue "stadium builder's licenses," typically a one-time fee on top of normal season ticket charges. Other NFL teams have charged from thousands to tens of thousands of dollars in such fees, and the Vikings raised the issue recently in a survey to season ticket holders as one possible way to pay for some of their $477 million share. The state and the city of Minneapolis are covering the rest of the tab.

On Tuesday, Dayton sent Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf a letter, condemning the seat fee idea, saying it would make the new downtown Minneapolis venue a "Rich People's Stadium."

After a speech to educators in Plymouth on Thursday, Dayton said team officials didn't bring up the high-dollar fee proposal during stadium negotiations.

"Not every card was face up on the table," he said.

Dayton said he believed state and local officials involved in the negotiations assumed any such fee proposal would resemble a more modest seat-license plan such as the one employed by the Minnesota Twins, who charged $1,000 to $2,000 on a small number of premium seats in club areas. Dayton said he hopes the Vikings ultimately take that approach.

Vikings spokesman Lester Bagley took issue with the idea that team officials were less than open about the possibility of seat licenses.

"We went through 14 committee hearings, had discussions about stadium builder's licenses with the governor's negotiators," Bagley said. "We were very forthright and very above-board and very clear."

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