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Minnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wilf, left, takes a question from the media in a June file photo. Gov. Mark Dayton, right, has a private conversation with Ramsey County Commissioner Tony Bennett after a meeting about the proposed Vikings stadium in St. Paul.

Wilf holds out hope for stadium bill this fall

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By Jon Krawczynski

AP Sports Writer

MANKATO -- Minnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wilf said Wednesday that he remains hopeful that there will be a special legislative session in the fall to consider a stadium bill for the team.

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Wilf said the team is still working on its $1 billion plan for a new stadium in the Twin Cities suburb of Arden Hills, but remains confident that they are getting closer to presenting it to lawmakers for approval.

"We still have some work ahead of us to put all the pieces in place, but we're very confident that we will have something worked out in the near future," Wilf said at training camp at Minnesota State University, Mankato. "Hopefully that could be addressed in a special session. But we're very confident in our location and the future of the franchise in a new stadium in Arden Hills."

Gov. Mark Dayton said last month that the Vikings plan was "incomplete and unsatisfactory." The Vikings initially were hoping to be included in a special session this summer to address the state's budget shortfall, but the ensuing government shutdown forced the stadium issue to the back burner yet again.

Dayton did say he would seriously consider calling another special legislative session later this year if he sees a stadium plan that's a "good deal for Minnesota." He says this "takes every partner" and "that hasn't occurred yet."

The Vikings' lease at the Metrodome expires after the upcoming season, and the team has been pressuring Dayton and the legislature to address the issue and ensure the franchise's long-term viability in Minnesota.

The team and Ramsey County officials have at times expressed frustration with the process, with vice president of stadium affairs Lester Bagley saying in July that the team was "assessing its options."

But Wilf said on Wednesday that he has not reached a breaking point in the process and that the team remained committed to getting this deal done.

"We have a lot of work ahead of us and it's an ongoing process," Wilf said. "We want to make sure when it's all said and done that the facility works out for everybody who is a partner in the venture and that it's a venture that everybody can look forward to and utilize for the best benefit of everybody in Minnesota and for our fans."

Wilf also expressed relief and excitement that the NFL's labor battle with the players ended before the start of training camp. While Commissioner Roger Goodell and representatives from the players' union were still working on the finishing touches of the new collective bargaining agreement on Wednesday, Wilf said he was pleased that the focus was shifting from the courtroom back to the field where it belongs.

He said he was very pleased with the addition of new quarterback Donovan McNabb, whom he called "a consummate professional and an exceptional quarterback."

Wilf and his brother Mark addressed the team after the second practice of the day on Wednesday, and both said they expected big things after a disappointing 6-10 finish last year.

"We're all very excited to get going here and compete," Zygi Wilf said. "That's always been our goal, to win championships. We start out all even and hopefully we'll be on top when it's all over."

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