New Vikings' stadium plan announced but also in legislative limboMinnesota News
- A Minnesota Vikings football stadium bill is not ready for kickoff. “We have some issues that need to be resolved,” Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, said Wednesday after meeting with Vikings owner Zygi Wilf. “These are not simple matters that are going to be solved overnight.”
By: Don Davis, Pierce County Herald
ST. PAUL - A Minnesota Vikings football stadium bill is not ready for kickoff.
“We have some issues that need to be resolved,” Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, said Wednesday after meeting with Vikings owner Zygi Wilf. “These are not simple matters that are going to be solved overnight.”
Lanning, the lead House author of a bill authorizing funding for a stadium, said he did not know if the issue can be settled before the Legislature adjourns for the year on May 23. He said he has not talked to Gov. Mark Dayton about whether he would call a special legislative stadium session if issues remain when the Legislature goes home.
Wilf and Ramsey County on Tuesday announced plans for a $1 billion stadium north of Minneapolis and St. Paul. But Lanning said he still is waiting for details from the proposal.
No future meeting has been scheduled with Wilf, Lanning said.
The Moorhead lawmaker and Senate stadium bill sponsor Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, told Wilf about their concerns, including the need to improve highways in the area to accommodate fans headed to a 65,000-seat stadium. One estimate indicates it would cost Minnesota $7 million a year to bring highways up to where they need to be, money Lanning said the state does not have.
“That is a major concern,” Lanning said.
The morning meeting with Wilf, Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley and legislators was the first since the team picked the Ramsey County plan over one to reuse some of the Metrodome in Minneapolis.
When the plan was announced Tuesday, Wilf called the Arden Hills location in northwestern Ramsey County the ideal site. He emphasized the space it would give the Vikings, which would allow for tailgating and other game-day activities.
Brothers Mark and Zygi Wilf want to bring football’s Super Bowl, Final Four basketball tournaments, Major League Soccer and, especially, a traditional football game-day experience to Minnesota.
“We are going to bring back … the old traditions of tailgating and a full-day experience,” Vikings owner Zygi Wilf said Tuesday as Minnesota Vikings and Ramsey County officials announced plans for a $1 billion Arden Hills stadium. “This is what our fans want.”
The announcement of the retractable-roof stadium drew cheers from a legion of fans. But 10 miles away at the state Capitol at the same time, lawmakers were less enthusiastic about the proposal coming in the waning days of their 2011 session.
The team has committed $407 million. That would cover 44 percent of the cost of the $884 million stadium or 39 percent of the $1 billion project’s overall costs, which includes parking, on-site infrastructure and environmental costs.
“This is not only a special day, but also a very exciting day for the state of Minnesota, Ramsey County, the Vikings and our fans,” Zygi Wilf said. “We believe we have selected the ideal site here in Ramsey County for a new stadium.”
With the potential state contribution capped at $300 million, Ramsey County would raise $350 million through a half-cent countywide sales tax, Commissioner Tony Bennett said.
On hand for the announcement were former Vikings coach Bud Grant, retired star Jim Marshall and current coach Leslie Frazier.
The venue, located on 260 acres about 10 miles from both downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul, would have 21,000 parking spaces with plenty of room for tailgating.
Zygi Wilf said the development would also include a Vikings hall of fame and several other amenities that would create a full-day experience and “a state of the art facility the entire nation will look up to.”
Bennett added that building a stadium on the site on the abandoned Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant would create 13,000 jobs, 7,500 of which would be construction jobs for the three-year duration of the project.
“Jobs are very important,” he said.
But while the team and the county gushed about the possibilities of a new stadium, to replace the nearly 30-year-old Metrodome, the proposal still is far from a done deal.
Some legislators cast a skeptical eye on the projects, while others say more work is needed before bills supporting a stadium advance.
House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, said Dayton has done a good job of “grabbing onto the issue” to help it progress. However, he said, legislative leaders remain focused on budget issues and are doing little about a stadium.
Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville, reiterated long-held opposition to funding a Vikings stadium. He cited a recent poll concluding that 60 percent of the state is against public funding.
Rep. Kate Knuth, DFL-New Brighton, said the Vikings need to pay at least 60 percent of a stadium’s cost. She represents the stadium area and said that she fears it could divide the community.
A trio of Ramsey County legislators also opposed the plan.
Legislative approval is needed before a stadium can be built, because the state would borrow money to finance stadium construction, to be repaid by new sports-related taxes and other fees.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation estimated that the site needs up to $240 million in transportation improvements to be viable, though Wilf and Bennett said those enhancements can be made for less.
The Ramsey County announcement came a day after Minneapolis presented an offer for a nearly $1 billion stadium. The Vikings said they were not involved in creating that plan and had issues with the funding methods.
While Dayton pointed out the high road improvement costs, he remained open to the Ramsey County site.
“I will support either project up to $300 million state participation,” Dayton said. “I think it is very possible and very doable,” Dayton said. “I also think it is possible that it won’t” happen."
Minneapolis officials pitched as part of its proposal the ability to reuse much of the Metrodome site in building a new facility downtown.
Legislative leaders have said they want to emphasize fixing the state’s budget problem, which is not close to completion.
Dayton has said he would consider signing a Vikings bill before the budget is resolved.
The proposed stadium would be north of Minneapolis and St. Paul, about 10 miles from each downtown. It is just east of Interstate 35W and just north of Interstate 694.
Here is a financial breakdown of the Minnesota Vikings’ stadium proposed for Arden Hills:
Total cost: $1.057 billion
Retractable-roof stadium: $884 million
Infrastructure, parking, environmental needs: $173 million
Off-site transportation needs: $7 million per year
Vikings to pay: $407 million
Ramsey County to pay: $350 million from 0.5 percent sales tax increase
State to pay: $300 million from pro-sports memorabilia tax, sales tax on direct satellite services, dedicated sports-themed lottery