Erma J. Vizenor has served as chairwoman of the White Earth Reservation since 2004. “I’m still optimistic,” Vizenor said of the tribe one day seeing their hopes for a Minneapolis-St. Paul-based casino realized. “There will come another time.”

Minnesota Governor Signs Agreement for New $975 Million Vikings Stadium

ICTMN Staff
5/14/12

Today, Gov. Mark Dayton authorized an agreement to build a new $975 million stadium for the Minnesota Vikings at the same site of the team's current home, the Metrodome in downtown Minneapolis, reported The Associated Press.

For more than 10 years, the Vikings have appealed for a new stadium. With the Metrodome’s 30-year-old lease expiring this past year, the team finally had leverage. Vikings fans had expressed fears the team would relocate if an agreement for a new stadium was not reached, pointing to Los Angeles as a potential market.

The new deal guarantees the Vikings a home for the next three decades. The team intends to officially move in by 2016.

The bill, revised by the Minnesota Senate during a May 9 hearing, raises the amount the team initially said it would contribute by $50 million to $477 million, nearly half of the total construction costs, reported the AP on May 10. Team owners Zygi and Mark Wilf are currently deciding whether to add a retractable roof—costs covered by the team.

The state of Minnesota and city of Minneapolis will share the remaining 51 percent of construction costs. The terms of the bill require the state to cover $348 million, and the city of Minneapolis, $150 million.

In a vote expected in late May, the Minneapolis City Council must issue final approval to its monetary contribution to the stadium. The city intends to fund its portion by redirecting an existing hospital tax, the AP reported on May 14.

Gov. Dayton's approval of the agreement for the new stadium officially kills the White Earth Nation’s MinnesotaWins proposal. Under MinnesotaWins, revenues from an off-reservation, White Earth Nation-operated casino in the Twin Cities area would be split 50-50 between the tribe and the state, and would fund the entire public share of a new Vikings stadium and other critical state priorities for years to come.

While the bill received some support from policymakers, it never got a hearing, Dr. Erma Vizenor, chairwoman of the White Earth Nation, told Indian Country Today Media Network. “We had sponsors for bills in the state legislature. We knew it was a long shot,” she said, adding that the tribe attached amendments to its casino bid.

The state plans to generate revenue to cover its share of construction costs through expanded gaming. The stadium will feature video lottery terminals, including electronic pull tabs, which are touch screen devices that mimic the traditional paper pull tab games found in bars around the state.

According to Vizenor, the video terminals at the stadium will not have any effect on the White Earth Nation’s business at its 20-year-old Shooting Star Casino in Mahnomen, Minnesota, or on other area gaming tribes. But it will negatively impact the local and state economy. “The pull-tabs proposal—all the experts around know that that is not a viable financial proposal,” Vizenor said. “In another year, the state will be a billion dollars in debt. It’s not solving its financial problems. Of course, we’ll still be here with our needs.”

Vizenor also noted that the tribe’s pursuit of a casino in the Minnesota-St. Paul area was not in vain. “We worked hard, and it wasn’t all for not, because we laid the foundation and created the opportunity for us to educate state leaders and also the media on the severe economic challenges we face here on the reservation,” Vizenor said. “Our foundation that we have laid will be good for ongoing discussions on how the White Earth Nation and the state can work together to make Minnesota a better state for our nation, all tribes and all Minnesotans.”

Due to White Earth’s proposal for an unprecedented revenue sharing model with the state, MinnesotaWins faced immense tribal opposition. “It was never our intention to have conflict with tribes; we only wanted to better the economic conditions of our people,” Vizenor said, highlighting that White Earth is the largest tribe in Minnesota, accounting for 40 percent of the American Indian population, and is located in the poorest area of the state.

Still, Vizenor firmly believes that the tribe will see the day when its plans for a Twin Cities casino are realized. “I’m still optimistic,” Vizenor said. “There will come another time.”

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