Vikings' new stadium will cost insane amount

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Vikings' new stadium will cost insane amount

From Comcast SportsNet

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) Now that the Minnesota Vikings will get their new stadium, the worrying can begin over a gambling expansion designed to pay the state's share of the 975 million project.

By passing the final stadium bill Thursday, lawmakers committed the state to raising 348 million by allowing electronic pull-tabs and bingo in bars and restaurants. The financing plan drew skepticism on the bill's way through the Legislature, prompting the sponsors to include backup measures in case the pull-tab dollars don't materialize, including a lottery game and luxury suite taxes.

Gov. Mark Dayton has pledged to sign the stadium bill into law after serving as its chief cheerleader. Backers pushed it through the Legislature after years of failed attempts, despite opposition from no-new-spending Republicans, liberal Democrats and even the top House Republican, Speaker Kurt Zellers. Lawmakers were on the receiving end of an intense outpouring of support from Vikings fans, while the state's business leaders and labor unions also put their clout behind the project. Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak brought 150 million from his city to the table, subject to a City Council vote later this month.

But money questions were on the sidelines Thursday as Vikings fans celebrated the bill's passage. In the Senate gallery, fans broke out in a rendition of the ''Skol Vikings!'' fight song, earning a reprimand from the Senate secretary.

''Let's build it!'' shouted Vikings vice president Lester Bagley, the team executive who spent much of the past decade lobbying for the nearly 1 billion stadium. The new stadium will be built on the downtown Minneapolis site of the 30-year-old Metrodome, an inflatable bubble-topped building the Vikings argued did not generate enough revenue for the team to compete.

On Thursday, the Vikings and the University of Minnesota announced they have reached preliminary agreement on the Vikings' use of TCF Bank Stadium during construction of a new Vikings stadium. Under the agreement, the Vikings will pay the university a fixed fee of 250,000 per game. The combined rent and expected concessions and sponsorship revenue that the Vikings would share with the university would amount to 300,000 per game, or 3 million per regular NFL season. The Board of Regents takes up the agreement Friday, and university President Eric Kaler could sign the letter of intent in the next few days.

The Senate vote capped an amazing comeback for the Vikings' stadium dreams, which just a few weeks ago were fizzling before a visit from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell crystallized fears that the Vikings could leave the state without a new home.

At a celebratory news conference, owner Zygi Wilf recalled when he and his brother Mark first took ownership of the team nearly seven years ago and being asked whether they would move the team.

''We kept on fighting that this day would come, and it's here today,'' Wilf said.

Dayton publicly thanked the Wilfs for agreeing to a 50 million bump in their share in final negotiations this week.

''Without your willingness to take that last step, we wouldn't have crossed the goal line,'' the governor said.

The stadium project - with 51 percent of the construction cost covered by taxpayers - comes after years of state deficits and spending cuts to schools, health care and other programs. The state is currently in the black, but a 1 billion-plus deficit is projected for the two-year budget that starts in mid-2013.

''When this doesn't work, it's money right out of schools, right out of welfare, right out of health care, right out of you name it - everything we spend money on,'' said Sen. Sean Nienow, R-Cambridge, before he cast a vote against the project.

Opponents on both sides of the political spectrum predicted that the state is likely to further expand gambling if the electronic pull-tabs - now just a low-tech paper game offered in bars and restaurants - don't bring in enough money.

''They'll want to double down on the bad deal. We've created a monster here,'' said Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville, leader of the conservative faction within the GOP Senate caucus.

Stadium supporters noted that the final deal required the team to round up 477 million from private sources, 50 million more than originally promised.

Sen. Doug Magnus, R-Slayton, said he is confident the gambling money will come through. The bill envisions the new electronic games bringing in 59 million a year in tax revenue by 2014. But if tax collections end up being lower, a sports-themed lottery game and a 10 percent suite tax would kick in. Together the two measures would raise 4 million a year, Magnus said.

''Certainly there are a lot of folks that are never going to support any stadium no matter if a fairy godmother dropped one next door to us,'' said Magnus, who participated in a legislative group that worked behind the scenes on a bill for two years.

Over the long term, supporters also expect the stadium to be a good deal for the state. Sen. John Harrington, DFL-St. Paul, said he expects the return on the state's investment to be substantial over time. The Metrodome was built for 55 million, including 33 million in public money, and ended up bringing in hundreds of millions in tax revenue over the past three decades. Harrington said he voted yes on the stadium to help put people to work.

''I have 20 percent unemployment on the east side of St. Paul,'' he said. ''I need every job in this bill that we can possibly come up with.''

The deal guarantees the Vikings' future in Minnesota for three decades. Bagley said the team's billionaire owners, New Jersey developers Zygi and Mark Wilf, supported the final plan, even with the additional private cost, because time was running out. Senate passage came on the last day the Legislature was allowed to take votes.

''It's a good deal for the state, it's a good deal for our fans and it's a good deal for Minneapolis. It's a fair deal,'' Bagley said.

The Vikings intend to take advantage of an NFL loan program, sell naming rights and possibly impose seat license fees to help cover the team's end of construction costs. They will be bound by a 30-year lease on the stadium and pay about 13 million a year in operating fees. Minneapolis will kick in about 7 million a year for operating costs, and a public authority will have the power to rent the stadium on non-game days for concerts, conventions and special events such as monster truck rallies.

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Prospect report: Connor Hobbs responds to healthy scratch

Prospect report: Connor Hobbs responds to healthy scratch

Hershey update: 19-11-7-2, 4th in the Atlantic Division. Last week: 1-3-0-0

The Hershey Bears have hit a rough point in their season with seven losses in their last eight games. The Bears managed to halt a five-game losing streak with a win Saturday over Lehigh Valley, but then lost both of their games since.

The loss of Madison Bowey certainly hurts, but goaltending has been an issue of late. In a midseason review of the AHL published on NHL.com, Patrick Williams writes, “Goaltending and a thin group of defensemen have slowed the Bears, but management with Hershey and the Washington Capitals are traditionally aggressive in making late-season moves to solidify any areas that need help.”

After a very strong start to the season, Vitek Vanecek has struggled of late. In his two starts over the past week, he allowed six goals on 30 shots to Lehigh Valley on Friday and four goals on 21 shots to Binghamton on Sunday. For the season, his save percentage has now dropped to .902.

Players tend to hit these rookie walls midway through the season as teams and coaches begin to learn more about a player and adjust accordingly. One thing Vanecek really needs to work on is tracking the puck through screens. That’s a difficult part of the game to learn, but an important one as the bodies just get bigger in the NHL.

Despite his struggles, however, Vanecek has still outplayed fellow goalie Joe Cannata so it would be unfair to blame Hershey’s recent slump on the rookie netminder. Still, Vanecek was a strength for this team early in the season and as of now that is no longer the case.

Sunday’s game against Binghamton was Star Wars Day in Hershey. You can see the highlights here:

The first takeaway from that video is clearly Hershey did not have the rights to the Star Wars music.  Jakub Vrana continues to impress this season with his great shot on the power play for the goal. It’s clear watching him that his talent is a step above the AHL level. If the Caps were a basement team this year, he’d be up in the NHL. As Cup contenders, there’s no real place for Vrana just yet, barring injury of course. In all likelihood, however, this will be his last season in the AHL.

Star Wars Night also featured a great fight by the always feisty Nathan Walker. If the injury bug hits the Caps at some point this season and the team finds itself in need of a bottom-six forward, I think he could make his NHL debut. He proved he can play with bigger players in the preseason and he gives great effort on every shift. He is a handful on the forecheck and capable of generating turnovers in dangerous areas.

Bears assistant coach Reid Cashman offered a mid-season evaluation of the team’s defensemen to the Lebanon Daily News. Here are his thoughts on Bowey:

He’s another young defenseman who is in his second pro season who has gotten better on a week-to-week basis until his injury. He has a lot of talent and is very athletic who is learning how to execute his retrievals and make his first pass. He has continued to develop and evolve but he won’t be a finished product for another couple years.

Interesting take on a player who I thought would make his NHL debut this season if not for the recent injury.

Cashman provides evaluations for the team’s other defensemen including Caps prospects Tyler Lewington, Christian Djoos, Darren Deitz and Colby Williams. It is definitely worth a read to see his thoughts on each player.

RELATED: Alex Ovechkin critical of officiating Monday in Pittsburgh

Other prospect notes:

Forward Shane Gersich has been tearing it up in the college ranks since his unbelievable spin move in November. That continued this week with a goal and an assist in North Dakota’s two games. As Brad Elliott Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald notes, “Since that November night, Gersich has 12 goals in 13 games, ranking second nationally during that timespan—only behind Northeastern's Zach Aston-Reese (16 goals).”

Check out the full article on Gersich’s incredible season here.

Forward Brian Pinho remains the leading scorer for Providence College this season with 20 points in 22 games. In a midseason report of the Hockey East conference, Joshua Kummins of SB Nation writes that Pinho “has developed into a true top center this year.”

An interesting situation played out this week in the WHL for defenseman Connor Hobbs who scored a goal and an assist for Regina on Friday. You can see the highlights here:

The goal comes on a nice wrist shot, but the assist was very impressive as he showed off his stickhandling abilities and vision with a great backdoor pass to set up the goal. Even with the effort, however, Hobbs was made a healthy scratch for Saturday’s game. Why? Because what the video does not show is that Hobbs also took three minor penalties in what was ultimately a 6-5 loss.

How did Hobbs respond? With two goals and an assist in a 5-1 blowout win on Sunday which earned him first-star honors for the game. Hobbs was actually moved from defenseman to wing for the game and seemed to enjoy the experience.

“I found it so weird and forechecking was so much different than getting forechecked,” Hobbs said. “It was nice being on the other side of the pancake for that one.”

For more on Hobbs’ response to the healthy scratch, read this article from Murray McCormick of the Regina Leader-Post.

Forward Garrett Pilon also earned first-star honors in the WHL over the week with his performance Tuesday as he led Kamloops to a 4-1 win over Moose Jaw. He recorded a goal and an assist in the game. Check out his great work on the forecheck to generate the goal here:

First-round draft pick Lucas Johansen did not earn any specific honors, but he did have an impressive week for Kelowna with one goal and four assists in three games.

MORE CAPITALS: Caps make special arrangements on dads trip for Oshie

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New #RedskinsTalk Podcast - A.J. Francis talks Jay Gruden, Greg Manusky and Kirk Cousins

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@Francis_Sports

New #RedskinsTalk Podcast - A.J. Francis talks Jay Gruden, Greg Manusky and Kirk Cousins

Redskins defensive lineman A.J. Francis opens up to JP Finlay on what it's like to play for Jay Gruden, his pick for defensive coordinator, and the latest on Kirk Cousins' contract.

Listen below, and if you'd like to hear more from Francis, check out his pro wrestling podcast Jobbing Out Show here

RELATED: 2017 NFL MOCK DRAFT 1.0

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