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Twins fans might be asked to fund Vikings stadium

ST. PAUL, Minn. — If the Legislature approves public funding for a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings, much of the money could come from Minnesota Twins fans.

The stadium bill introduced recently at the State Capitol offers a list of potential taxes, ranging from ticket fees to sales taxes in the community that hosts the team. Details remain vague, but Minnesota Public Radio reported Thursday that a new Revenue Department analysis is clear on one thing: about 60 cents of every $1 the state pays for a stadium would come from one source: a 10 percent tax on sports memorabilia.

That would include hats, shirts, jackets, balls and all sorts of other licensed merchandise. And the vast majority of memorabilia tax revenue would come from the sale of Minnesota Twins merchandise because that's what sports fans buy the most, MPR reported. Along with Joe Mauer jerseys and autographed baseballs, sales of anything with Timberwolves and Wild logos would help the Vikings, too.

With just a month left in the legislative session, the fate of the $1 billion stadium proposal remains unclear and a site has yet to be chosen. Based on the precedent set for construction of Target Field, the state's share of a new Vikings stadium would be about a third of the total cost.

The Vikings' lease on the Metrodome expires after the coming season. The Dome turns 30 this year, and the Vikings say it's outmoded and doesn't generate enough revenue.


Elwin Fraley runs the sports apparel wholesale business Scoreboard Sportswear. Based on his experience, he thought Twins fans could pay about 12 cents of every state dollar spent on the Vikings stadium.

"In 2011, it's probably about 60 percent Twins, maybe 25 percent Vikings and the rest split between the Wild, the Gophers and the Timberwolves," Fraley said of his sales.

Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, one of the stadium bill's authors, said turnabout is fair play.

"The Twins, the Wild and the Timberwolves have all benefited from public involvement from state or local governments in order to make those facilities feasible. And so it's only appropriate that the fans who support those teams would support this stadium," he said.

Twins spokesman Kevin Smith released a statement saying the Twins support the Vikings' effort to get a new home, but the baseball team is concerned about the memorabilia tax.

"It all boils down to affordability," the statement said. "The concern is that particularly suggested funding mechanism would negatively affect the affordability of our product to our fans."

Presumably, MPR said, it could also affect the Twins' income from souvenir sales.

The Vikings said the idea of taxing all sports memorabilia wasn't theirs.


"We have only ever advocated for an NFL memorabilia tax," Vikings vice president Lester Bagley said. "The legislators came up with the idea to tax all sports memorabilia. And that's what's in the bill."

Gov. Mark Dayton said Monday the Minnesota Vikings should pay up to half the cost of a new stadium. So far the Vikings have offered to pay a third of the cost of a roofless stadium, estimated at about $700 million. The stadium bill introduced by Republican lawmakers earlier this month calls for the team to pay a third of the cost of a new stadium. Dayton and many legislators have said they oppose a stadium without a roof, which would add at least $200 million to construction costs.

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