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Pioneer Editorial: Stadium issue needs resolution

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opinion Bemidji, 56619
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

The apparent demise lf the Metrodome, thanks to a severe snow storm, is pushing the issue of a new football stadium for the Minnesota Vikings to the forefront of the 2011 legislative session.

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There is no doubt a new stadium is needed; the current Metrodome is not favorable venue for a National Football League team in second decade of the 21st century. Also, the damage done in the past weeks only points to the fragility of Teflon-roofed stadium that is 30 years old.

But the key question for years has been how to pay for it. To that, the Minnesota publilc has clearly spoken that they do not want tax dollars spent for a stadium built for millionaire owners.

Gov.-elect Mark Dayton, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Vikiings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf met last week prior to the Vikings-Bears game in a cold and snowy TCF Bank Stadium. Gov.-elect Dayton, although dealing with a Republican-led Legislature, set the tone by saying he would support a publicly financed stadium for the team as long as the benefits outweighed the public costs and the state's general fund isn't used to build it. Another words, no state tax dollars.

Among the options are user fees, such as surcharges on stadium-related revenues like tickets and memorabilia. Other options include some sort of dedicated gambling, such as allowing video slot machines at Canterbury Downs, what is known as a racino.

Republican House Speaker-elect Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, seems cool to the idea of elevating discussion of a new stadium, as the Legislature must first deal with creating jobs and erasing a $6.2 billion deficit. He's right, but the 2011 Legislature must deal with the issue, as the challenge is that the Vikings lease with the Metrodome ends after the 2011 and a threat to move the team if no stadium is built is very real.

An eventual stadium must be a partnership between the state and the owners, but we agree that no state funds should be used. That means another partner is also needed, such as the county or city that hosts the new stadium to impose user fees or some other arrangement as that area will see the most economic benefit from Viking games. As no state funds should be involved, the stadium should not detract from the debate to fill the $6.2 billion state budget hole.

The Vikings are an important part of the Minnesota's quality of life and help in attracting businesses and individuals to this state to do business and to recreate. Republican legislative leaders should not put the issue on the backburner, but we do appreciate their concern over the use of state taxpayer dollars.

We urge that everyone work hard to find a solution that builds a new stadium and keeps the Vikings here for another 50 years.

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