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Vikings stadium challenge tossed out

By DOUG BELDEN, St. Paul Pioneer Press

ST. PAUL — The Minnesota Supreme Court on Tuesday threw out a legal challenge holding up the sale of public bonds for the new Vikings stadium in Minneapolis.

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The dismissal prompted the head of the stadium authority to say she is confident bond money would be available soon and the project would remain on track.

Michele Kelm-Helgen, chairwoman of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, said that with the dismissal of a related case Tuesday by the Court of Appeals, “currently there is no litigation pending on the stadium.

“And that is a very good thing,” she said.

Jim Schowalter, commissioner of Minnesota Management and Budget, the state agency that sells bonds, said in a statement that the bond sale could now proceed. However, Schowalter did not give a date.

But Kelm-Helgen said she believed the project could cover its expenses in the short term even without the bond proceeds.

She has said she needed $17 million from the sale of bonds Thursday and an additional $7 million Friday for land acquisitions related to the stadium project and an adjacent development.

But she said Tuesday she has been talking with developer Ryan Cos. about postponing the closing on those parcels.

If that happens, the authority would still owe about $18 million by the end of January for work performed on the stadium, and it would have about $14 million on hand.

Kelm-Helgen said she was confident the authority and construction manager Mortenson could figure out a way to delay payment on the few million dollars the authority would be short.

Ryan Cos. representatives could not be immediately reached for comment Tuesday.

In any case, Kelm-Helgen said, she expects the bond sale to happen soon.

“As far as I know, we’re talking days,” she said.

The $468 million bond sale to finance the $498 million public investment in the stadium was to have taken place Jan. 13-14, but it was postponed after the Jan. 10 filing with the Supreme Court.

The lawsuit, which claimed the plan to repay the stadium bonds was unconstitutional, asked for a remedy outside the court’s jurisdiction, and the three petitioners did not show they didn’t have an “adequate remedy at law,” the Supreme Court ruled in a joint opinion in which Justice Alan Page, a former Viking, took no part.

Also Tuesday, the Court of Appeals threw out a petition filed by former Minneapolis mayoral candidate Doug Mann — one of three petitioners in the Supreme Court case — that asked the court to order a referendum on stadium financing in the city of Minneapolis.

Mann “failed to bring a timely appeal” and, again, did not show he didn’t have an adequate legal remedy, the appeals court ruled.

Mann could not be reached for comment.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, who pushed for approval of the $975 million project in 2012, praised the Supreme Court for its quick action in a statement Tuesday.

“Although I felt it had no merit, I was extremely concerned that this lawsuit would delay the financing of the stadium, and the progress of the $400 million development adjacent to it,” Dayton said.

Both the Minnesota Management and Budget and the stadium authority had warned that a delay of more than a few days could increase project costs and jeopardize the 2016 opening of the new facility.

The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.