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Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)
New U.S. Bank Stadium oversight Chairwoman Kathleen Blatz put a quick and definitive end to discussions about a user fee on Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) events in the new $1.1 billion building.
SMG, the global company hired to manage the stadium, had been in early discussions with the MSHSL about adding a fee of at least $2 to tickets for league events. SMG Executive Director Patrick Talty said the fee would be used to pay SMG's costs for the events. SMG doesn't charge rent to the MSHSL for the use of the building.
But the MSHSL's free access is by design at the so-called people's stadium. Blatz, the former state Supreme Court chief justice serving as the interim chair of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA), told Talty on Wednesday that a user fee for high school events isn't an option.
"In fulfillment of the spirit of the statute, we ought not do that," Blatz said.
The 2012 bill authorizing the stadium required that the building's operator, now SMG, make the space available to the MSHSL for at least seven dates each year for football and soccer tournaments. The law says the league cannot be charged a fee for "this use, including security, ticket takers, custodial or cleaning services, or other similar services in connection with this use."
The fee came up in private discussions between Talty and Dave Stead, executive director of the MSHSL. The two are working on a contract covering future arrangements for league events on everything from how tickets will be sold and delivered to which scoreboards will be used. There was no contract during the first season last fall.
Talty said a "user fee" on tickets is common for venues across the country to pay for staff and security at events. Because the fee would be paid only by those who attended the games, he didn't consider it a charge to the MSHSL. He also noted that his job is to "make sure we're maximizing everything for the benefit of this stadium. ... We have a fiduciary responsibility to look at all of the different revenue for all the events."
For example, SMG has ticket fees on concerts, he said.
Under SMG's contract, the state gets a share of revenue above a guaranteed amount. So more profit could lead to more money for the state.
Stead wasn't warm to the idea of a fee of on top of the league's $14 admission charge. "Each time you increase the ticket fee 50 cents, a dollar, people get upset," he said.
The move into U.S. Bank Stadium has led to a financial boost for the league, which raked in a record $1 million for football playoffs last fall. The free rent, along with a move back indoors and increased ticket prices, led to the increase. The MSHSL increased fees by $1 to $14 for football and by $2 for adults to $12 for soccer. Soccer brought in about $159,000, which is also likely a record, according to the league.
Across town, the four high school baseball championship games are played at Target Field. The Minnesota Twins pay the league a flat fee, then retain ticket and concessions revenue for the games.
Facility fees are common at other venues. Stead said there's a $2 per ticket charge at Xcel for the hockey tournament. Target Center is $2.75 and the University of Minnesota charges a $2 fee.
Before Blatz took action, Stead said he would have challenged the legality of a U.S. Bank Stadium user fee by SMG.
And he would have found some support. Rep. Sarah Anderson, R-Plymouth, chairwoman of the Government Operations Finance Committee, said the language of the law is clear. Until she heard about Blatz's opposition, Anderson was ready to pursue legislative action if necessary.
In a statement, Gov. Mark Dayton said he was glad no fee will be charged.
Blatz said SMG was understanding of her directive. "I don't want to micromanage what they do, but at the same time I am trying to truly understand and implement the intent of the law," she said.
Staff Writer Jim Paulsen contributed to this report.
Rochelle Olson · 612-673-1747 Twitter: @rochelleolson
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