Dayton will leave seat licensing issue to stadium board

8:25 AM, Nov 16, 2012   |    comments
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Gov. Mark Dayton said the sports facilities authority will make the final call on the licensing fees for seats in the Vikings stadium, and he will do his best to persuade that board to keep those fees reasonable.

"I think they should limit the number of seats affected by it," Gov. Dayton told reporters Thursday morning.

"It's one thing to tax the suites something, a license fee, whatever they call it. It's another thing to take a long-time season ticket holder, who's a working Minnesotan, and tell them they've got to pay thousands of dollars just to keep their seats."

Dayton, in a sharply worded letter to the team's owners last week,  said he was distressed by the idea of the one-time fees charged to season ticket holders to help finance construction of the new stadium.  In that letter he said he'd ask the stadium board not to sell those licenses.

He clarified Thursday that he was experiencing sticker shock at the notion of license fees in the range of $20,000 to $80,000.

"As I said in my letter to the Vikings, I always talked about a people's stadium, not a rich people's stadium and I mean it," Dayton said Thursday.

"And I meant it then, and I mean it now. And I'll do everything in my power, of persuasion or whatever else, to see that this stadium comes out that way."

Dayton appointed three of the five members of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, and the board's chairperson, Michele Kelm-Helgen, is a former Dayton staff member.  But the governor he also recognizes the authority is expected to be an autonomous body.

"It's not my decision to make. The Authority is independent of me, as they should be. And they're going to look out for the best interests of Minnesotans."

The issue of seat licenses arose when Vikings season ticket holders were surveyed by the team about what types of licensing fees they'd be comfortable with paying, to help finance the team's $477 million share of the $975 million project.

Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley told KARE that the that the governor's staff members were made aware of the seat licenses, and of the price ranges, during the negotiations and hearing at the Capitol during the 2012 session.

"No decisions have been made yet," Bagley stressed repeatedly. "And we expect to work through these issues with the stadium authority."

He said the Vikings and the stadium authority are both in the early stages of researching all potential revenue generators inside the stadium, including seats, suites, concessions and other products.

At least 16 other stadiums built for NFL teams have incorporated some type of one-time licensing fee to help offset the private share of the construction costs.

"Whatever we end up doing with those fees has to fit the market," Bagley added.  "It has to be right for Minnesota and the Twin Cities."

Bagley said he had never seen the $80,000 per seat figure that surfaced in media reports about the team's survey of season ticket holders.

(Copyright 2012 KARE. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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