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NFL funds would be part of new Vikes stadium payment

ST. PAUL -- A National Football League contribution to a new Vikings stadium may not help as legislators negotiate stadium details in the final days of the legislative session.

Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, said he, Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, and Gov. Mark Dayton discussed several stadium-related issues Tuesday with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, including whether the league was willing to chip in and help finance a $1 billion facility in Arden Hills.

Goodell said the league would help finance the deal. League spokesman Brian McCarthy later confirmed that whatever financing the league provided for the project would help the team cover its $407 million commitment to the stadium project, and would not be in excess of what team owners already plan.

Lanning was not surprised. Although he characterized the breakfast get together as "a good meeting," he added that the NFL contributing to the Vikings' portion of the deal "does not get us any closer to closing the gap," he said.

"The gap" is the amount not accounted for in the project proposal that would go toward improving transportation to the stadium. Minnesota Department of Transportation officials originally estimated that at between $175 million and $240 million, though officials from Ramsey County and the Vikings think roads can be improved for less.

Transportation Commissioner Tom Sorel said his staff is taking a closer look at the estimated cost.

The state has capped its contribution to a stadium at $300 million and that figure would include any contribution it makes to solve those transportation issues. If MnDOT's original projections are correct, that would leave little money available for other parts of the project.

Ramsey County would use a 0.5 percent sales tax to raise $350 million for the retractable-roof stadium, which would be built on an abandoned munitions plant about 15 minutes north of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Commissioner Goodell indicated Tuesday that one option the NFL could tap for helping to finance the project would be visiting teams forfeiting their share of club seat revenue. That would require the approval of three-fourths of the NFL's owners, or 24 of the 32, McCarthy said.

The commissioner emerged from the Tuesday meeting saying he was pleased that significant progress has been made in finding a solution aimed at replacing the Metrodome, where the Vikings have played since 1982.

He would not address questions about the ramifications of not passing a stadium bill this year, instead focusing on hopes that a deal can be reached by Monday's legislative adjournment date.

Andrew Tellijohn is a Twin Cities freelance writer.