Vikings Stadium Narrowing Down To Two Sites.
The fight to host a new Minnesota Vikings stadium has come down to a behind-the-scenes scramble between Minneapolis — the team’s longtime home — and Ramsey County, which is determined to snatch the state’s highest-profile sports franchise.
With just two weeks before the Legislature is scheduled to adjourn, both sides may be about to put their cards on the table.
Minneapolis officials are racing to find a way to join the state and the Vikings in the project. The closed-door negotiations, according to those close to the talks, hinge on assembling a series of creative taxes, including those now paying for the city’s convention center, to finance bonds for a new stadium and also possibly the renovation of Target Center in downtown Minneapolis.
City Council President Barb Johnson and Mayor R.T. Rybak met privately with Vikings owner Zygi Wilf on Friday. Johnson said the city would likely release its proposal this week. City Council member Elizabeth Glidden, who chairs the city’s intergovernmental relations panel, said that like many others, she is still waiting to be briefed on the proposal. “They have a vision for a stadium development project that they think works for the city,” said Lester Bagley, the Vikings’ vice president for stadium development and public affairs. He declined to discuss the plan’s details and said the Vikings had not yet settled on Ramsey County or Minneapolis.
Ramsey County is seen as being further along and may announce its own plan that could include a countywide sales tax increase plan this week. Ramsey officials also met with Wilf and a top National Football League official Friday.
The Vikings are “clearly very close to doing something with Ramsey,” said Ted Mondale, Gov. Mark Dayton’s chief stadium negotiator.
While Ramsey County has made no secret of its ambitions over the past five months, Minneapolis has been the more reluctant player, with sobering budget realities making city officials wary of a major new financial commitment.
Both sides would almost certainly be helped by the Vikings’ decision to contribute more money. The stadium proposal at the Legislature recommends the state, a local government partner and the team each pay a third of the cost. However, Mondale said the Vikings are pushing ahead knowing they have to pay roughly 40 percent. The stadium’ last projected cost was just under $900 million.
In a sign of how much the stadium landscape has changed, the city’s last-minute maneuvering comes almost exactly a year after Minneapolis officials balked at using convention center taxes for a Vikings stadium. That decision helped doom the Vikings’ legislative chances at the time. The team, which has played at the Metrodome for 29 years, has announced that it will not renew its lease after this year. Many supporters fear the Vikings could leave Minnesota without a new stadium.
The city, like Ramsey County, faces many obstacles.
The special taxes that support the convention center, related parking ramps and a portion of the Target Center last year ran $6.5 million ahead of 2009 — but that was still slightly off budgeted amounts.
Minneapolis voters also in 1997 approved a city charter amendment that limits the city to spending only $10 million for a pro sports facility without a referendum. The Legislature has the power to override that, but it is uncertain whether City Council members would support such a move while polls show overwhelming opposition to public subsidies for a Vikings stadium.
One City Council member, John Quincy, said he opposes public financing for even the Metrodome site. But another, Gary Schiff, who helped pass the charter limit, said he has no qualms with financing the stadium with user fees such as a tax on a ballpark beer. However, the current 3 percent downtown on-sale liquor tax yielded only $4.6 million in 2010.
For Minneapolis, much of the urgency also comes from Thursday’s announcement that Hennepin County, which helped finance Target Field in downtown Minneapolis, would not do likewise for the Vikings.
Hennepin County’s decision came the same day that public subsidy opponents, led by Rep. Ann Lenczewski, DFL-Bloomington, pushed a plan to cap a special county sales tax so that it only pays for the Twins stadium, county libraries and youth activities. Lenczewski said the legislation had a not-so-secret goal: To thwart county officials from diverting any of the money to a Vikings stadium.
“Part of that is to not let them divert [money] to the Vikings,” said Lenczewski, whose legislation is being supported by Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen, the influential Senate Taxes Committee chair. “It’s open-ended [now] … I want to stop the slush fund, and make it shut down” once payments on the Twins stadium are complete.
The Vikings proposal at the Legislature has yet to have its first hearing. Though Dayton has said he would consider a Vikings stadium plan before he and the Republican legislative majority solve the state’s $5.1 billion deficit, many legislators insist that the deficit remain the priority.
“We’re not making much progress on the budget, and I’ve always said the budget has to come first,” said House Minority Leader Paul Thissen. “But if there’s some kind of miracle solution on the budget, there’d still be time to get [to] the stadium bill.
“I still think it’s tough, even at that,” he added.
MNVikingsBlog.com Analysis: Last week Hennepin county officially dropped out of the race for the new stadium which brings it down to these two sites. If Minneapolis wins, then where will the Vikes play as they demolish the Metrodome? If Ramsey County (Arden Hills) wins, just how big will this project become with the need of a newly designed interstate to transfer people more effectively to the stadium. Regardless the choice, it looks like the Vikings are one step closer to getting a commitment on the new stadium! We should find out more within the next week or so. SKOL VIKES.