Gov. Dayton Not Exactly A Supporter Of Proposed Vikings Stadium in Arden Hills
Gov. Mark Dayton expressed fresh misgivings about the proposed deal to put a Vikings stadium in Arden Hills, saying it was a good deal for the team but fails to live up to his visions for a “people’s stadium.”
“I could see why that would be appealing to the Vikings,” Dayton said of the plan. “I don’t know why Ramsey County agreed to it.”
Among Dayton’s concerns: The agreement cedes too much control and ongoing revenue to the team. In addition, he said, it still pins responsibility for road improvements entirely on the state.
Dayton said the state’s contribution of $300 million is “absolutely the limit” for the $1 billion project. State transportation officials estimate that road upgrades may range as high as $240 million beyond that.
Meanwhile, the bill’s chief House author, Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, said Friday that any bill he brings to his colleagues must spell out the state’s $300 million limit, have acceptable terms and a clear indication that “the governor supports whatever road we’re on.”
Lanning said that “unless all those things happen, this bill will not move forward — and it hasn’t happened yet.”
Some outstate legislators introduced another hurdle for backers of the Arden Hills proposal. They expressed concern that their home district road projects might be postponed to make way for work done on stadium area freeways.
“We have pavement that needs to be taken care of … projects that need to be done that have been on the plans for years,” said Rep. Terry Morrow, DFL-St. Peter.
Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Good Thunder, in a newsletter said that he was pleased by stadium progress but thought parts of the proposal could be “problematic.”
“To take funds from southern Minnesota in order to build a stadium more than 100 miles away is the wrong approach,” Cornish wrote.
Ted Mondale, Dayton’s stadium point man, said the structure of the deal needs to be more like that of the Metrodome, creating a state “rec room” that would be publicly owned and controlled.
Mondale said no alternative state funding sources for roads were discussed at a meeting Friday with Dayton and the stadium bill’s sponsors, Lanning and Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont.
“I’m thinking about making buttons: ‘The state’s number is $300 million,’” Mondale said.
The day’s discussions and maneuvers closed out a week that began with no specific site for a new stadium and ended with two viable candidates, the city of Minneapolis’ Metrodome plan and Ramsey County’s deal with the Vikings that calls for development on the empty acreage of a former Army ammunitions plant.
The Vikings and Ramsey County announced their plan Tuesday to build a 65,000-seat stadium in Arden Hills, with the team contributing $407 million and the county raising $350 million through a countywide half-percent sales tax increase.
In a meeting with state Department of Transportation officials Thursday, Vikings’ Vice President Lester Bagley said the team’s engineering consultant from Minneapolis-based Parsons Brinckerhoff discussed how the roads could be done for about $80 million.
“We’re trying to get on the same page,” Bagley said. “There is a number somewhere between $80 [million] and $175 million.”
Sen. Barb Goodwin, DFL-Columbia Heights, whose district includes Arden Hills, said she’s troubled by the differing goals she’s heard from Vikings lobbyists.
She said Friday that two months ago lobbyist Larry Redmond “told me that … they really want it in Minneapolis.”
She said that she told him, “Thank you for coming to tell me that, because now I know I’m not going to have this big hassle in my county.”
When they pivoted to Ramsey, Goodwin said, Redmond denied telling her they wanted to be in Minneapolis. “I said, ‘You most certainly did,’” she recalled. “I know exactly what he said.”
Asked about Goodman’s story, Redmond declined to comment.
With 10 days left before the Legislature is set to adjourn, Dayton said that passing legislation so that work could start on a new Vikings’ stadium was “far less preferable [but] it might be more preferable than no bill.”
However, he said that passing stadium legislation without the details being resolved — such as the road improvements — might be giving the project a “blank check.”
“I don’t think they should be asked to” do that, Dayton said of the Legislature.
MNVikingsBlog.com Analysis: I don’t think this is a surprise to many. The Vikings have to be careful here as Dayton has primarily been a stadium supporter but is very conscious to the states budget issues. If Dayton doesn’t give his support and the St. Paul mayor backs out then this stadium could be doomed from the start.