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Minn. Supreme Court dismisses Vikings stadium suit

By PATRICK CONDON - Associated Press
    2014-01-21 15:59

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Minnesota's Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit challenging the funding plan for a new Vikings football stadium, eliminating a legal obstacle that threatened a last-minute derailment of the project.

Minnesota finance officials had to postpone a $468 million bond sale while the case was pending, and the government authority managing construction said that even a short delay in getting money from those bonds could have thrown off timelines and added costs to the project. The new stadium, on the Metrodome site in downtown Minneapolis, has a planned opening of July 2016.

The lawsuit was filed Jan. 10 by Doug Mann, an activist and former Minneapolis mayoral candidate who argued the stadium funding plan was unconstitutional. The state's highest court disagreed.

State law ''does not confer original jurisdiction on the court to resolve all challenges to legislation authorizing the use of appropriation bonds,'' the Supreme Court's five-page ruling read. The ruling was issued ''per curiam,'' meaning on behalf of the entire court. Justice Alan Page, a former Minnesota Vikings player, did not participate.

The high court wrote that the proper route to challenging the constitutionality of the bond sale was in a district court lawsuit. A Hennepin County judge already ruled against the plaintiffs in their attempts to block the stadium, and the plaintiffs recently petitioned the Court of Appeals. But that court also ruled against Mann on Tuesday, saying he filed the wrong type of appeal and has now missed the window by which he was supposed to file a proper one.

Mann did not immediately return a call seeking comment. A spokesman for the state's Management and Budget office did not immediately respond to a query about when the stadium bonds would be sold, but it's likely to be soon.

The stadium project has seen its share of stumbles since the Legislature signed off. The initial plan to use electronic gambling proceeds to cover the state's debt fell miserably short. Last year, lawmakers reopened the financing plan to substitute other state tax dollars for a $348 million share. An additional $150 million is coming from a sales tax diversion in Minneapolis.

The city component is what triggered Mann's lawsuit. He contends the agreement illegally circumvented a Minneapolis charter provision that could have put the matter before voters.

Vikings executives haven't commented on the legal wrangling, and the team isn't party to the case. Team owners are drawing their $500 million stadium share from personal seat license sales, an NFL loan program and other private sources. The ownership already upped its contribution when it became clear that some amenities wouldn't fit within the original $975 million budget, and the Vikings have already spent $50 million on construction.

The Vikings have agreed to play two seasons at the University of Minnesota's on-campus football stadium, which seats fewer fans than the Metrodome or the new stadium.

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