Vikings Stadium Bond Suit Thrown Out by Minnesota CourtAndrew Harris
Minnesota’s top court threw out a legal challenge to the planned sale of $468 million in bonds to help pay for a new stadium for the National Football League’s Vikings.
The state supreme court said in an order issued yesterday that it lacked jurisdiction to hear the lawsuit filed by three Minneapolis residents on Jan. 10.
Led by one-time Minneapolis mayoral candidate Doug Mann, the petitioners said the stadium plan unconstitutionally relied upon city sales taxes to pay the bond debt. Minnesota postponed a sale scheduled for Jan. 13 after the challenge was filed.
The statute under which Mann and the others sued “does not confer original jurisdiction on the court to resolve all challenges to legislation authorizing the use of appropriation bonds,” six members of the court said in an unsigned ruling. The court’s seventh member, former Vikings defensive tackle Alan Page, didn’t participate in the case.
The justices said the residents could file a lower-court case raising a constitutional challenge to a matter involving taxation, without expressing an opinion on whether such a claim could be successfully litigated. A suit filed by Mann against the Minneapolis City Council was rejected by a lower court in November and again yesterday by a three-judge panel on the state’s intermediate-level Court of Appeals.
“I will consider my appeal options in the lawsuit against the city, decide whether to take further action within a few days,” Mann said yesterday in an e-mailed statement.
“Given the stance taken by the Supreme Court on the writ of prohibition, and amazingly quick action by both the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals, a request for review by the Supreme Court seems unlikely to be granted,” he said.
The constitutionality of the laws authorizing the sale wasn’t at all addressed, he said.
In asking the Supreme Court for a dismissal last week, Jim Schowalter, commissioner of the state’s Department of Management and Budget, said there was no constitutional violation.
“MMB and the state’s financial team are turning to selling the necessary bonds to keep the stadium project on track and all the Stadium Authority to make timely payments on construction and land acquisition agreements,” Schowalter said in a statement issued after yesterday’s rulings.
No new date has been set for the bond sale, John Pollard, a spokesman for the management and budget department, said in an e-mailed message.
Groundbreaking began last month on the $975 million structure, which the Minnesota Vikings franchise has sought since the roof of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome collapsed in 2010 under the weight of snow. Local officials expect the venue to generate development in downtown Minneapolis and provide a destination for national events such as the Super Bowl.
The city is obligated to pay debt service on its share of a principal amount of $150 million plus interest, while the state’s liability is limited to payment on as much as $348 million of bonds plus interest, according to the residents’ petition.
Governor Mark Dayton yesterday thanked the court for ruling swiftly.
“Although I felt it had no merit, I was extremely concerned that this lawsuit would delay the financing of the stadium and the progress of the $400 million development adjacent to it,” said Dayton, a Democrat. “Today’s decision clears the way for thousands of Minnesotans to get to work on these two important projects.”
The case is Mann v. Schowalter, A14-0029, Minnesota Supreme Court (St. Paul).