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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Caps defenseman Matt Niskanen to be reevaluated Thursday

Caps defenseman Matt Niskanen to be reevaluated Thursday

Matt Niskanen suffered an upper-body injury in the first period Wednesday night and did not return. The team says the veteran defenseman will be reevaluated on Thursday morning.

“I don’t have a real good update,” Coach Barry Trotz said. “Obviously, he took that hit. For precautionary reasons we kept him out. He’s going to be reevaluated in the morning and we’ll make a decision and maybe an announcement on where he is. He took a big hit. He’s an important piece for us.”

RELATED: Capitals find no joy in victory on Wednesday

Niskanen was hit from behind by Bruins center Patrice Bergeron late in the first period of the Caps’ 4-3 overtime win. At first, the team said Niskanen was probable to return to the game. Then, prior to the start of the third period, he was ruled out.

It marked the second time in five games that Niskanen could not finish a game due to injury. In Toronto, he left after 40 minutes because of a lower body ailment.

Trotz said a decision to recall a player from Hershey could be made as soon as Thursday morning since the team is set to travel to Buffalo for a game against the Sabres on Friday night.

“We’ll see where we are in the morning because we are a capped [out] team,” Trotz said. “That will impact what we have to do going forward, or maybe it’s not impacted at all.”

Asked what he thought about Bergeron’s hit, Trotz declined to give his opinion.

“I don’t have an opinion on it,” he said. “It was a hard hit. [Niskanen] went face-first into the boards. I’m sure the league looks at all the hits, so we’ll see if they think it was a dirty hit or not.”

MORE CAPITALS: Caps hold players-only meeting after Wednesday's win

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Capitals find no joy in victory after giving up three-goal lead to Bruins

Capitals find no joy in victory after giving up three-goal lead to Bruins

The Capitals walked away with the overtime win over the Boston Bruins on Wednesday, but you wouldn't know it from the mood in the locker room following the game.

For a team that has found wins hard to come by of late, heading into Wednesday's game Washington had lost three of their last four, you would expect some measure of relief after taking two points in the standings.

But there was none of that.

"It's not good enough," Nicklas Backstrom said. "We wanted to be a better team, we want to play tight, we want to be able to shut teams down."

RELATED: Caps hang on against Bruins in OT

After jumping out to a 3-0 lead over the Bruins, the Capitals took their foot off the gas, allowing Boston to tie the game and force overtime.

"We sat back," Justin Williams said. "Three-nothing lead isn't like it was 10 years ago. you still have to play the same way that got you the lead. We sat back and if you sit back five percent, ten percent, teams feel that and they put the pedal down."

The feeling of frustration and disappointment was evident following the game. It wasn't that the Caps had allowed Boston to erase a three-goal deficit, but the way they did it.

After taking a 3-0 lead at the 5:51 into the second period, the Capitals would not register another shot on goal until 12:28 had elapsed in the third period. That's a stretch of 26:27 without a single shot on goal.

Sloppy mistakes also cost the Caps, especially on Boston's second goal.

With the score 3-1, the game still felt very much in hand for Washington until Boston capitalized on an egregious turnover from Evgeny Kuznetsov.

David Pastrnak dispossessed Kuznetsov of the puck at the Bruins’ blue line with a poke check. Kuznetsov then nonchalantly turned to retrieve the puck, but Pastrnak out-hustled and outmuscled him for the breakaway goal. Suddenly Washington had lost control and Boston had seized the momentum.

The fact that Washington was still able to escape with two points was little consolation after the game.

"Results don't always show what happens," Braden Holtby said. "That's why you play 82, the averages even out over 82."

He was not referring to the three games the Caps had lost since Thanksgiving. He was referring to his own team and an effort that should not have been good enough to earn a win on Wednesday.

"Really we were lucky to get two points," Backstrom said. "I think that's on us."

MORE CAPITALS: Niskanen leaves game for 'precautionary reasons'