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Super Bowl: Minn. draws line at player income-tax relief

Courtesy Photo This is a drawing showing the new Vikings stadium and surrounding Minneapolis area.

MINNEAPOLIS — State leaders have offered their cooperation in Minneapolis’ bid to host Super Bowl LII in 2018. But they’ve drawn a line when it comes to making salaries from players on the two teams exempt from state taxation.

The Minnesota Super Bowl Committee on Tuesday officially submitted a bid to play host to the game in the Vikings’ new stadium, scheduled to open in 2016. Included was a letter of support written and signed by Gov. Mark Dayton, as well as Democratic and Republican legislative leaders.

The bid committee felt it was important to include the letter after the NFL made it clear that tax breaks would play a part in which venue they choose. Competing against Minneapolis are New Orleans and Indianapolis, with the winner to be selected during the NFL owners’ meetings May 19-21 in Atlanta.

Two of the five legislators who signed the letter said Tuesday they are open to the possibility of offering tax breaks for Super Bowl-related events. But both said it was agreed there would be no income tax relief, a perk typically offered by cities looking to host the Super Bowl.

“I can pretty much say with certainty that we’re not going to provide income tax breaks for salaries to be a part of this,” said House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis. “I don’t think there’s any appetite for that.”

The letter also was signed by Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook; Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie; and House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown.

“The signers of the letter (said) that whatever the legislation, there was not going to be income tax provisions on it,” Hann said.

That the NFL is even considering Minneapolis as host is attributable to the fact that Minnesota recently approved $500 million in state and municipal financing for the Vikings’ new stadium, currently being built on the site of the Metrodome for a price tag of nearly $1 billion. But because of that, there is a general giving fatigue among legislators of all stripes.

Tuesday’s preliminary bid included hundreds of pages of documents related to all aspects of Super Bowl week, including event venue options, transportation, parking, lodging, security and team practice sites.

The bid noted that more than 180 hotels in the Twin Cities are working with Minnesota’s Super Bowl Bid Committee to secure more than 19,000 hotel rooms and that 48 different venue options in Minneapolis, St. Paul and Bloomington have been proposed for potential use during Super Bowl week.

“Submitting this bid was a tremendous task that involved multiple individuals and organizations in Minnesota,” committee co-chair and U.S. Bank CEO Richard Davis said in a statement. “This level of collaboration allowed us to produce a comprehensive bid that accurately reflects the excellent attributes of our region. We put Minnesota’s best foot forward, and we feel extremely good about our bid.”

Members of the Minnesota Super Bowl Bid Committee will meet with NFL representatives in New York this month to go over the preliminary bid. The committee will submit its final bid May 7.

“The important thing here is that the NFL knows that the government commitment is there from both the Democrats, the Republicans, the legislative leadership, the governor,” said Michele Kelm-Helgen, chair of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority. “So this letter clearly shows their commitment to work with us. … We feel like we just hopefully sent in the winning bid.”

There had been doubt late last week about whether the letter of support would be produced by Tuesday’s deadline. But Thissen said it was delivered after discussions had “come full circle” about “what (the Super Bowl) means to the public and the private sectors.”

While there has been much discussion about tax breaks the NFL seeks, Thissen and Hann emphasized that monetary relief the league seeks can come from the private donations.

“There is some leeway on how you do that,” Hann said. “It can come with taxes and from donations from the business community. I don’t think they really care as an NFL group; I just think they’re looking for a relief of some kind.”

A law passed for the 1992 Super Bowl at the Metrodome excepting game tickets from taxes remains on the books. New Orleans and Indianapolis have laws pertaining to tax exemptions for Super Bowl tickets and events.

If Minneapolis wins the bid to host a second Super Bowl, Thissen and Hann both said possible tax breaks on NFL-related events could be considered by the Legislature next year. Any such legislation would need to be approved two years before the game.

“I’m certainly committed to trying to (pass legislation for tax breaks) for those things that are directly related to the event,” Thissen said.

The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.