Another legal challenge threatens to delay Vikings stadium, Downtown East development

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January 13, 2014 // UPDATED 5:36 pm - January 13, 2014
By: Ben Johnson
Doug Mann, file photo
Ben Johnson

*Updated to clarify the nature of Mann's lawsuit

The sale of $486 million in state bonds to fund the new Vikings stadium has been delayed after another last-second legal challenge, which could push back the stadium’s opening date by a year.

A “petition for writ of prohibition” has been filed directly to Minnesota Supreme Court by former mayoral, school board and city council candidate Doug Mann, his wife, and former school board member David Tilsen.

Michele Kelm-Helgen, chair of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA), said she is hopeful that the Supreme Court will make an expedited ruling on the matter because the MSFA will be short $28 million on outstanding bills at the end of the month if the bonds are not issued soon.

“These are Minnesota companies and Minnesota workers that have already done the work, and they need to get paid,” said Kelm-Helgen.

Last summer Mann filed suit against Minneapolis, arguing that the bond sale was unconstitutional because Minneapolis has agreed to contribute $150 million toward stadium construction without holding a citywide referendum.

The Minneapolis City Charter states that the construction of any sports facility costing more than $15 million must be approved via referendum, however, the state legislation approving the Vikings stadium included an explicit override of the city charter, according to analysis done by Minneapolis City Attorney Susan Segal.

The Manns and Tilsen now say that the Minnesota constitution prohibits implementing a tax on Minneapolis that doesn't benefit Minneapolis.

In a brief filed with the Supreme Court they cited an 1864 legal case, Sanborn v. Rice County, which found that "a tax cannot be imposed exclusively on any subdivision of the State, to pay an indebtedness or claim which is not peculiarly the debt of such subdivision of the State, or to raise money for any purpose not peculiarly for the benefit of such subdivision."

In short, Mann is arguing that the taxes to pay for Minneapolis' share of the stadium costs are state taxes being imposed on Minneapolis for a purpose that does not "peculiarly benefit" the city.

Ground was broken Dec. 2 on the stadium and construction has been happening nearly around-the-clock along 11th Ave. The Vikings have put up the first $50 million in construction costs while the MSFA waits on the sale of state bonds.

Kelm-Helgen said the MSFA needs the money by Jan. 23 because that is when it is closing on the $17 million purchase of a block next to the Metrodome, which is designated to become a transit station.

That purchase is the first domino in a series of real estate transactions that would transform most of Downtown East. If the MSFA fails to close by Jan. 23, the three-way deal between Minneapolis, Ryan Cos., and the Star Tribune to redevelop five blocks next to the Metrodome would be in jeopardy, because they have signed purchase agreements that were scheduled to be executed by the end of the month.