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This artist's rendering provided Thursday by the Minnesota Vikings shows an interior view of the proposed $975 million stadium. The plan would put the new building nearly on top of the current Metrodome site. The drawing at top shows where the new Vikings stadium would be built, with the Metrodome outlined. AP Photos/Minnesota Vikings

Vikings stadium deal reached; now real work begins

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ST. PAUL -- Smiles surrounding a Minnesota Vikings stadium announcement seemed to indicate victory, but in reality they represented something else: a beginning.

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"Now, the real work begins, persuading a majority of the Minneapolis City Council and the Minnesota Legislature to approve this agreement," Gov. Mark Dayton said Thursday.

Dayton was surrounded by legislators, Minneapolis leaders and Vikings officials as they revealed a deal that could lead to a new Vikings stadium.

The $975 million downtown Minneapolis stadium would be used by the Vikings and for monster truck rallies, soccer games, concerts and all other types of events such venues host.

Those broad smiles belied work that lies ahead in the Legislature and council. Both bodies must approve stadium plans, and both have many members opposed to the proposal.

The 13-page page agreement spells out what the state, city and team are expected to do and pay, the first time such an agreement has been written in detail. That is good news, according to one of Minnesota's most experienced politicians.

Roger Moe of Erskine, a state senator 32 years and majority leader 22 years, stood in the background Thursday, knowing the document was a significant advancement.

"At least, there is something there," Moe said. "That is what the Legislature needed."

For a decade, and even during intense negotiations of recent weeks, most Minnesotans only knew general information about a stadium. Now there are details and key lawmakers will draft a specific bill in coming days.

Rep. Morrie Lanning, who first talked to the Vikings about a stadium more than eight years ago, said getting to this point has been difficult. The Moorhead Republican, lead representative on the stadium, added: "The time has come for Minnesota to make a decision."

"We believe we have a plan now that stands the best chance of getting legislative approval," Lanning said.

Sen. Julie Rosen, the lead Senate stadium author, said the Thursday announcement is a "handoff" of work from negotiators who worked behind closed doors to legislators who will hold public committee hearings.

The state, Vikings and Minneapolis would share construction costs.

The $398 million from the state, up from $300 million Dayton last year said he could support, would come from new revenues predicted from allowing pulltab and bingo games to use electronic devices. The proposal also would increase the take charities around the state now receive from current cardboard games.

Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf pledge $427 million in what they call "private" contributions from the team, but on Thursday refused to say whether some of that would come from the National Football League and other sources outside of the Vikings.

Minneapolis would contribute $150 million toward construction costs from existing city sale taxes.

The stadium would sit on some of the space now occupied by the Metrodome, the downtown Minneapolis facility that hosted the Vikings for nearly three decades.

Dayton said the project would put 8,000 construction workers on the job, along with 5,000 employees of suppliers.

No state funds are planned for operating costs once it opens, probably in 2016. Minneapolis and the Vikings would contribute to on-going operating costs.

The Minneapolis City Council needs to approve the deal, which was negotiated by Mayor R.T. Rybak and Council President Barbara Johnson. Minneapolis news media report that a majority of the council is not on board.

Several lawmakers say they are opposed to using any gambling to support a stadium. Others say the Vikings should build their own facility without state aid.

House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, continued his long-held stance of not taking sides on the issue until he sees a bill and it goes through the committee process.

"We do have members on both sides," Zellers said, indicating the division over the issue in the House.

Dayton emphasized the stadium agreement raises no taxes and uses no state general fund money, requirements he and legislative leaders long ago said were necessary.

Debate over the stadium began before the Wilfs bought the Vikings seven years ago. Zygi Wilf, chairman of the Vikings board, said that all along the team pledged to remain in Minnesota. He said owners remained patient while legislators approved stadiums for the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota Twins.

"This is an exciting day because the dream of keeping the Minnesota Vikings here for generations to come is close at hand," Zygi Wilf said.

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Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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