AFL-CIO endorses Block E Casino site, lawmakers condemn it

Big labor wants the casino, but big government doesn't.
Big labor wants the casino, but big government doesn't.

The AFL-CIO wants more labor jobs, and it's not above endorsing a little vice to get things rolling.

Yesterday, the Minnesota chapter of the AFL-CIO endorsed the planned Block E casino, which has resurfaced as a possible method to fund a new Vikings stadium in Minneapolis.

The AFL-CIO hasn't thrown its support behind any particular Vikings site. But with a growing morass of funding plans coming from lawmakers, the worker-folks think the casino-for-stadium deal is good enough.

"Given the number of funding options being debated, the Block E casino option is a way to both fund the project and create jobs," Minnesota AFL-CIO President Shar Knutson said.

As if to prove Knutson's point about the constant stream of funding plans, Mayor R.T. Rybak held a press conference yesterday to lay out three (!) separate plans that could keep the team in town.

In one of Rybak's plans, we don't even get to blow up the Metrodome.
In one of Rybak's plans, we don't even get to blow up the Metrodome.

Rybak's proposed sites are all in the downtown area, including one most people are quite familiar with: the Metrodome! Yes, that's right,  behind Rybak's Door No. 1 is a $895 million renovation of the old grey lady-rhino.

His other two locations would tuck the stadium in near Target Field. One would see a new stadium rise atop the spot currently used for the Farmers' Market, and the other puts Christian Ponder's cleats on some Linden Avenue real estate, near the Basilica of St. Mary. The Pioneer Press has a helpful little map thing if you're curious about geography, but that subject is obviously null and void without economics.

So, here are Rybak's projects by the numbers: The upgraded 'Dome comes in under $900 million; the Farmers' Market site ($1.03 billion) and Linden Avenue site ($1.05 billion) just barely push the cost into the ten-figure range. In each case, the state is responsible for $300 million, the Vikings would chip in $446 million, and the city of Minneapolis picks up the balance.

Where those hundreds of millions could come from is -- you guessed it -- still up in the air, but Rybak floated two options yesterday, the first being a sales-and-lodging tax hike. The second, of course, is the Block E casino.

That solution seems less likely after a press conference yesterday in which a bipartisan lineup of nine lawmakers, including four from the city itself, said they woudn't support any increase in gambling in Minnesota.

So this issue shapes up, as they all do now, as a special interest power play. On the one side, you've got big labor pushing a downtown casino and a city stadium; on the other side, you've got big casino lobbyists trying to throw themselves in front of any new roulette tables.

Stuck in the middle is Adrian Peterson, who's just looking for some running room.


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