Architectural rendering of Minnesota's new stadium
Ex–Cox cable honcho Bill Geppert says he's come up with a killer model for the new Mission Valley Chargers stadium being touted by Republican mayor Kevin Faulconer and his county supervisorial cohort Ron Roberts.
"Interestingly, Minneapolis is successfully completing a new stadium this year based on a model similar to [Faulconer's task force proposal], and has many similarities to San Diego. Minneapolis has a stronger corporate base while San Diego has a much larger mega-region of fan support to draw from," writes Geppert in a Union-Tribune opinion piece.
"Stadium costs are virtually identical at just over $1 billion. Their stadium includes a $200 million roof; a roof is not included in the San Diego plan. However, our construction costs will be higher with the project completion four years later than Minneapolis."
Says the op-ed, "the public contribution is below 50 percent in both cities with proposed team contributions for rent and operations between $10 million and $13 million, a true tale of two similar cities!"
Geppert continues: "The NFL said any new stadium deal must be similar to the newly built stadiums in approach and cost. Minneapolis is the ideal example for San Diego on many levels and it lines up with the [task force's] proposal.
According to Minnesota newspaper accounts, though, there is a substantial bit more to the Vikings stadium story.
A report last September 21 by Saint Paul's Pioneer Press describes a pricey deal that is sucking up tax money from an array of levies, including state corporate and gambling taxes.
"In January, the state sold $462 million in bonds to support the state and city of Minneapolis' $498 million contribution to the project," recounts the newspaper. "The team, after a recently announced increase, now is chipping in $525.6 million."
But that's not the total public cost of the deal, the newspaper notes.
"When all is said and done, the state is raising $1.6 billion in general fund revenues to cover $881.8 million in debt service."
In addition to paying off the mammoth construction debt, the paper says, "part of the remaining $692 million will be spent on other expenses related to the stadium deal, including grant money to the city of St. Paul, payments for the city of Minneapolis for stadium operating and capital reserve, and appropriations to the Commissioner of Human Services for problem-gambling treatment programs."
The treatment of gamblers is germane, as their money plays a major role in financing the football venue, the paper notes.
"Data from Minnesota Management and Budget provided to the Pioneer Press show the state is projecting roughly $7 million a year in taxes on charitable games to help pay off the stadium bonds. That would be $241 million over 30 years, 27 percent of the total $881 million debt service."
The story continues, "E-pulltabs grabbed public attention early in the stadium-financing discussion, touted as the spark that would supercharge charitable gaming overall and throw off enough tax revenue to pay the state's entire $348 million piece of the $1 billion stadium. Instead, they fizzled and were replaced last year by other revenue sources."
Smokers are also being hit up: "$26.5 million in one-time cigarette tax money is credited to the account in the first year."
In addition, "starting in 2021, sales tax revenue from Minneapolis starts to flow in each year, starting at $19.4 million and rising to $37.5 million by 2045."
Ironically, all of that Minnesota tax money is being used to subsidize a wealthy New Jersey family with longtime ties to San Diego politicos.
As first reported here in April 2001,members of the wealthy Wilf family, owners of the Vikings, have given heavily to local officials, including ex–mayor Dick Murphy, ex–mayor Bob Filner, GOP mayor Faulconer, and Democratic city councilman David Alvarez, as well as to ex–city councilman Carl DeMaio, on behalf of the Wilfs’ giant residential development outfit Garden Communities.
Many of the Wilf Murphy donors were identified as retirees, although listed elsewhere as having active ties to the family business. The company didn't respond to phone calls.
Reached at home in New Jersey, Joseph Wilf declined to go into details about his Murphy money. "My interest? Actually, I am not used to giving interviews on the telephone. It's kind of unusual. Our name is known in the San Diego area. Why should I respond on the phone? I have no information."
Mario Dudzinski, a Wilf employee in New Jersey, responded, "I'm very civic-minded, just leave it at that."