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Alternative financing may be needed on Vikings stadium

By DOUG BELDEN, St. Paul Pioneer Press

ST. PAUL — Friday passed without the state Supreme Court ruling on a legal challenge that’s held up the sale of public bonds for the new Vikings stadium, further squeezing officials who say they need millions from the bond proceeds next week.

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But the head of the state agency selling the bonds says it may already be too late.

Jim Schowalter, commissioner of Minnesota Management and Budget, said Friday that at this point the money needed in the short term — $17 million on Thursday and another $8 million Friday — might have to come from an alternative funding source instead of the bonds. He said he couldn’t say what that source would be.

There was no indication Friday it would come from the Vikings.

The team put up the first $50 million for project costs, of which about $14 million is left.

Asked Friday whether the team might be a source for short-term funding if the bond sale continues to be held up, Vice President Lester Bagley didn’t answer directly, saying he would defer questions on the topic to the authority and MMB.

Even if the Supreme Court had ruled Friday, Schowalter said, there might not have been enough time for the state to execute the sale of the bonds to have the cash ready Thursday.

It takes time to put together a bond sale, he said, sort of like it does to close on a house. With the money being needed by Thursday and Monday being a holiday, time is short.

Even if it was possible to complete the sale in the time allowed, it might not be advisable, he said.

“Just to underscore, we’ll be selling bonds for 30 years, so we need to make sure we get the best deal possible, because we don’t want to lock in a bad, hasty financing.”

Asked whether it’s likely the money the authority uses next week will come from some source other than the bond sale, Schowalter said “I can’t say that yet,” but “time is tight.”

The bond-sale complications were set in motion Jan. 10 when former Minneapolis mayoral candidate Doug Mann and two others filed a suit seeking to halt the sale of $468 million in stadium bonds on the grounds that the financing arrangement was unconstitutional.

That led Schowalter to cancel the bond sale, which had been scheduled for Monday and Tuesday and which the state had paid $85,100 to advertise.

“The timeline was disrupted by the case, and right now it doesn’t work, and we’re looking for very fast court action and looking at all alternatives possible,” Schowalter said.

The state responded to the lawsuit, saying the bond sale was authorized by the Legislature, and asked that the case be dismissed, saying it could delay the completion of the $975 million stadium in time for the 2016 Vikings season and threaten $400 million in nearby development.

Mann filed a related suit in the Court of Appeals earlier this month seeking to force Minneapolis to hold a referendum on stadium financing, but Schowalter said he’s basing the bond-sale decision on the Supreme Court case alone and not on the appeals court suit. Minneapolis has asked that that case also be dismissed.

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