For Vikes, is Minneapolis a game changer?
ST. PAUL -- Minneapolis proposes building an $895 million Vikings football stadium on the Metrodome site, but two key legislative supporters wonder if there is enough time for the Legislature to approve a stadium. A competing proposal from Ramsey County is expected to be unveiled in the next couple of days. The Vikings prefer dealing with Ramsey County.
Rep. Morrie Lanning, the chief author of the House stadium bill, said he is glad both Minneapolis and Ramsey County are engaged with stadium discussions. But the Moorhead Republican said he had not seen specifics of the Minneapolis plan and the Vikings have not selected a proposal to support.
"We have said all along that would be helpful in moving this along," Lanning said. "They have been working on it."
Lanning said that the chances of getting a bill passed are "a big question at this point," given that the Vikings have yet to pick a stadium site and other questions remain unanswered. The Legislature must adjourn by May 23, and Gov. Mark Dayton last week said he had never thought about calling a special legislative session to deal with the stadium.
"It is time to finally solve this problem," Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said. "Today the game has been changed."
Rybak and City Council President Barbara Johnson also proposed renovating the Target Center for $95 million.
The Minneapolis plan would increase parking rates, tax stadium event admissions, extend the downtown hotel, restaurant and liquor tax and add a 0.15 percent sales tax, equal to the Hennepin County ballpark tax.
It also would move taxes that currently are dedicated to paying down Minneapolis Convention Center bonds to the stadium in 2020.
The plan would need the approval of the Minneapolis City Council.
The Vikings are seeking a local partner for a stadium. Nobody from the team spoke at the news conference. The team also is negotiating with officials from Ramsey County, who have said they are close to reaching a deal with the team.
Lester Bagley, Vikings vice president of public affairs and stadium development, said the team was not involved in the discussions with Minneapolis and does not believe a 40 percent contribution at the Metrodome site, when added to nearly $40 million in lost revenue the team would incur while playing at TCF Bank Stadium before their own stadium is done, will work financially for the team.
Bagley said the Vikings have been in a 12-month-long conversation with Ramsey County. While terms have not been finalized, he said they are closing in on a deal that would make Ramsey County the team's local partner.
"That is our hope," Bagley said. "We are still at it."
He acknowledged that time is short, but said he hopes the deal is finalized so that the Legislature can discuss the deal over the last week or two of session.
"We know we are down to a very short window of opportunity," Bagley said. "We are appreciative that the state has left open a window" for discussions.
Rybak praised Ramsey County for taking a leadership role in trying to keep the Vikings in Minnesota, but said the Minneapolis proposal is superior because the existing Metrodome site includes stops for two light rail transit lines and infrastructure already in place.
The Ramsey County site would require improving transportation and access to the abandoned Army ammunition plant in Arden Hills. But County Commissioner Rafael Ortega said he thinks the Arden Hills site is superior to the Metrodome location because of the expansive land that could be developed around a stadium.
Ortega added that specifics of the Arden Hills proposal will be released "in a day or two."
The Minneapolis plan comes two weeks before the Minnesota Legislature must adjourn for the year. Legislative bills to provide stadium funding have been introduced, but no committees have considered them and no stadium meetings are scheduled.
The Vikings' Metrodome lease runs out after next season and the team says it will not renew the lease. While team owners say they will not move the team, there is a chance the team could be sold.
Rep. John Kriesel, R-Cottage Grove, expressed concern that the city only took on 22 percent of the cost. He also said it would have helped the Legislature to receive specific proposals earlier.
"I wish this conversation and presentation had been two weeks ago," he said. "We have other priorities we have to work on."
Still, he supports finding a way to get a stadium deal done because of the jobs it would create and to prevent the Vikings from leaving town, putting local establishments and other workers who benefit from having the team in Minnesota at risk.
"I'm glad to see a plan now," he said. "It is tough to get anyone to support a hypothetical."
Andrew Tellijohn is a Twin Cities freelance writer