Vikings cash in on lottery earnings

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings' lottery scratch-off game was a resounding success in its first year, and now the team hopes to use some of the money generated to help pay for a new stadium.

The Vikings partnered with the Minnesota State Lottery and the NFL on a Vikings-themed scratch game just before the team reported to training camp in late July. The $10 game has cleared $12 million in total sales, making it one of the most successful games in the state.

"This is a great reminder of the strength of the Vikings brand, and we hope the team's partnership with the state lottery continues in the future," Vikings vice president of sales and marketing Steve LaCroix said.

The team has been in a years-long fight at the state capitol to get a new stadium to replace the outdated Metrodome, a pursuit that has only intensified since the dome's roof collapsed under the weight of heavy snow in December. The collapse forced the Vikings to move one home game to Detroit and play another outdoors at the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium in the final month of the season.

Costs for a new stadium could approach $900 million, depending on a roof and other amenities. That would mean roughly $40-60 million a year in public funds would be needed to help pay for the project, a percentage of which the Vikings say could be gained from the lottery game.

"Certainly it's not going to pay for the whole financing, but it could be part of the puzzle," LaCroix said.

Gov. Mark Dayton has been cool to the idea of using gambling revenue in a stadium bill, saying it is too volatile to satisfy bond holders who would be looking for a reliable revenue stream to ensure the payments would keep coming in.

But there is precedent for the proposal. Seattle used proceeds from state lottery games to help pay for the Seahawks' football stadium and the Mariners' baseball park. Baltimore also used lottery money as part of a stadium finance package that paid for the Ravens' football stadium.

"We need to sit down with the governor, legislative leaders and lottery officials and discover if this is a viable option for helping to put this all together," LaCroix said.

Whatever the plan is to pay for it, the issue is coming to a head in 2011.

Even if the dome's roof is repaired, the Vikings are entering the final year of their lease at the building. Developers in Los Angeles are building a stadium in hopes of luring an NFL team back to the nation's second-largest city, and the Vikings' current stadium situation could make them a candidate to relocate.

Owner Zygi Wilf has not threatened to move the franchise yet, but he has acknowledged being contacted by the prospective owners in Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, the Vikings and state leaders are trying to come up with a plan to pay the enormous price tag while navigating a state budget deficit that is projected at $6.2 billion over the next two years.