Vikings New Stadium Road Construction Estimated at Over $130 Million According To Minn. DOT.
The state and Ramsey County agreed Wednesday it will cost $131 million to fix up roads near the proposed Minnesota Vikings suburban stadium site, clearing an obstacle to the team’s progress in getting its $1.1 billion plan approved at the Capitol.
But the stadium push still faced obstacles as GOP legislative leaders continued to insist that lawmakers won’t turn to the stadium issue until after they agree on a state budget with Gov. Mark Dayton. Budget talks remained stuck, threatening to push resolution of that issue past Monday’s constitutional deadline to adjourn the regular session.
A disagreement over road improvement costs between the Minnesota Department of Transportation and road officials in Ramsey County had slowed stadium talks in recent days. MnDOT officials originally said it would cost at least $175 million to make the needed repairs, while the county insisted it would be considerably lower.
In a letter to Dayton, state Transportation Commissioner Tom Sorel said it would cost $86 million for highway improvements and another $45 million to improve adjoining roads and interchanges. While that’s $44 million less than originally estimated, it still amounts to nearly half the $300 million that Dayton and key legislators insist is the cap on the state’s contribution to the stadium construction.
The Vikings released a statement thanking the state and county for settling on a final number, expressing hope that all involved can now “focus our energy on moving this project forward.” The deal announced last week between the team and Ramsey County had assumed that the state would contribute both a $300 million share and road costs, meaning the new announcement amounts to a $131 million hole in the project with no immediate idea of which entity will pay it.
In a letter Wednesday to Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf, Dayton and the lawmakers sponsoring the stadium bill reaffirming the state won’t spend more than $300 million — and that any road costs would fall under that cap.
Dayton, Sen. Julie Rosen of Fairmont and Rep. Morrie Lanning of Moorhead also wrote to the Wilfs that they require the state like the team’s owner require a return on their investment.
“To this end, in return for our investment the people of Minnesota, through their state government, need to be full partners in the construction, ownership, and operations of this valuable asset,” Dayton, Rosen and Lanning wrote.
The Democratic governor and the two Republican lawmakers have maintained a united front in recent days in their dealings with the stadium issue. But at a press conference Wednesday at the Capitol, two Republican senators who have been working on the state transportation budget criticized the governor on the issue.
“They seem to be more focused on the Vikings stadium than they are on the budget,” said Sen. Ted Lillie, R-Lake Elmo.
Dayton took issue with that charge. “It’s just ridiculous,” he said. “They’re the ones who couldn’t put a budget together.”
The proposal from the Vikings and Ramsey County calls for a $1.1 billion, 65,000-seat stadium with a retractable roof at the site of a former Army ammunition plant in Arden Hills, about 10 miles northeast of the team’s current home at the Metrodome in downtown Minneapolis.
The team would kick in $407 million of that cost, Ramsey County would pay $350 million from a half-cent county sales tax increase, and the state would raise its $300 million from new statewide sales taxes on sports memorabilia, luxury seats and digital video recorders as well as naming rights, a Vikings-themed lotto game and an income-tax surcharge on NFL players.
Despite the team’s alliance with Ramsey County commissioners, some in the county are criticizing the venture. On Wednesday, top Democratic and Republican party leaders in the county teamed up to call the stadium a bad deal for their county.
In a joint statement, Ramsey County DFL Chairman Rod Halvorson and James Carson, the county GOP’s 4th Congressional District chairman urged party activists and citizens of Ramsey County to contact Dayton, state lawmakers from the county, and county commissioners to oppose what they called a “horrible agreement” between the team and members of the county board.
“It is simply wrong to force a $350 million sales tax onto the people and businesses of Ramsey County, especially without a vote of the people,” the two wrote.
MNVikingsBlog.com Analysis: There is no question that the road construction adds an additional expense to building a new stadium. It’s hard to justify the additional costs when you have a state that doesn’t even want to pay for the stadium. Look for the state to ask the Vikings to cover the additional $130 million which they surely will not.