The Minnesota Supreme Court dismissed a motion by former Minneapolis mayoral candidate Doug Mann and several co-petitioners that delayed a crucial $468-million bond sale meant to pay for design and construction work—already performed—on the $1-billion Minnesota Vikings Stadium just getting under way. In a five-page order, the court says it does not have jurisdiction over the case.
State budget officials are moving quickly to start the bond sale to avoid a delay of the scheduled 2016 opening. No more hurdles are expected for the stadium, expected to cost nearly $1 billion over 30 years, including financing, say officials.
Standard & Poor’s gives Minnesota a credit rating of “AA,” its second-highest rating, and says the bond rating would not be affected by the legal challenge.
Mann says his complaint was based on the fact that the Minneapolis city charter required a citywide vote before sales-tax revenues could be used to fund a project such as the Vikings stadium.
“There is a prohibition against using city taxes to pay for state bonds,” Mann says. “But officials kept analyzing non-tax revenues from the lottery and other sources and kept coming up short, so they went around the law. There has never been a sound funding scheme in place to build this stadium.”
In July, the Hennepin County Circuit Court ruled the city charter had required a referendum before the bond sale but that the state had the power to preempt that measure, which it did. Mann then took the case to the Minnesota Court of Appeals. On Jan. 10, the night before the bond sale, Mann filed a motion with the state’s high court asking for a restraining order to block the issuance.
The Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, administrative body for the stadium project, argued that none of the petitioners’ contentions had merit and that the city had every right to allocate funds from its own sales tax to pay for the bonds with the approval of the state Legislature, MSFA says in its filing with the court.
Mann says the lower court erred when it “incorrectly invoked the doctrine of preemption” and that the state cannot preempt local law through special legislation. He says he does not like to see this amount of money spent on a sports stadium that could jeopardize the financial well-being of the state.
“If the state fails to appropriate funds to meet the debt service, there is a risk of non-payment,” Mann says. “In that case, people would lose a lot of money and the state’s credit rating would be damaged. Then, Minnesota would have to pay a lot higher interest rates to borrow money.”
Mortenson Construction, the general contractor for the stadium, could not be reached for comment.