With clock running, state funding plan for Vikings stadium up in the air

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The state of Minnesota is committed to paying $348 million for the new Vikings stadium, and its big game plan that relies on new electronic pulltab gambling games to generate the cash so far has been a loser.

Now what?

Minnesota state lawmakers have been scrambling like a blitzed quarterback to create a new funding stream. But time is running out – the Legislature is scheduled to adjourn on Monday.

The most recent alternative plan seemed to collapse on Tuesday. That plan would put a 13 percent tax on sports memorabilia, but after further consideration, legislative leaders said that plan won't work because it would hurt one of the state's top employers: Target. Target warehouses all sports memorabilia for its 1,700 U.S. stores in Minnesota. The tax would be levied at the wholesale level – thus disproportionately hurting the Minneapolis-based retailer, Senate Taxes Committee Chairman Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearwater, said Tuesday, the Star Tribune reported.

So a search by Gov. Mark Dayton and DFL leaders to find a backup financing plan continues, the Pioneer Press reports.

Dayton and DFL leaders are mulling options as they try to finalize a broader state budget agreement. “We’re hearing there’s this supersecret plan to fund the shortfall in the Vikings stadium. The governor hasn’t said what it is,” Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen, said, the Star Tribune reported.

The new e-pulltab games have been a huge disappointment to state leaders, so far surfacing in just 234 bars and restaurants (the eventual target was 2,500), the Pioneer Press reported. State budget leaders have said the games will net the state only about $1.7 million this year, way below a forecasted $35 million, the newspaper reported.

Design plans for the new $975 million stadium, to be constructed on the site of the Metrodome in downtown Minneapolis, were unveiled Tuesday night. (See a video virtual tour here.)

The soaring glass structure that some have likened to a giant cathedral would feature 95-foot-tall pivoting glass doors that open onto a public plaza. Various city entities would have to consider and approve the plan, KARE 11 reports.

The stadium is scheduled to open for the 2016 season. Groundbreaking is set for October.

The city of Minneapolis is expected to contribute $150 million of the cost of the new $975 million stadium, and the Vikings, along with other private investors, have agreed to pay $477 million.

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The stadium legislation was released Friday afternoon following the agreement Gov. Mark Dayton, Minneapolis leaders and Vikings owners announced March 1. It proposes constructing a 65,000 seat roofed-stadium near the current Metrodome site for $975 million. $398 million would come from the state, funded by electronic pulltabs. Minneapolis would cover $150 million of the cost and the Vikings would pay the remaining $427 million.

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The Pioneer Press reports lawmakers are leaning toward using electronic pulltabs to pay for the state's share. Republican Sen. Julie Rosen says a group of legislators trying to put together a package feels that the other leading option -- slot machines at racetracks -- wouldn't get enough support.

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The first proposal would plant the facility in Arden Hills and significantly up the state's contribution, which would be covered at least partly through electronic bingo and pulltab machines, a plan that Vikings spokesman Lester Bagley says might be "viable." Bagley tells the Star Tribune the second proposal, which would have the team and its partners cover 80 percent of the stadium's costs, "would not allow the Vikings to be competitive."