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Conflicting info slows stadium agreement

ST. PAUL -- Trying to agree on how to fund a new Vikings football stadium is hard enough, but legislators and Gov. Mark Dayton also must deal with trying to find the facts. It's not that anyone is lying, but everyone is trying to spin their side of the story.

Vikings officials keep hammering home the point that the $425 million they pledge for a $1.1 billion stadium in Arden Hills would be the third largest team contribution ever to a National Football League stadium.

On the other hand, the stadium team owner Zygi Wilf wants would be the third most expensive, too. The average cost for new or extensively renovated stadiums since 1997 is $525 million.

Also, Wilf and his family actually would not put up all of the $425 million. The NFL may loan owners part of the money, and with other non-Wilf funds, the team's contribution may be closer to $200 million.

Then there is the possibility of the stadium ending up in Minneapolis, not where Wilf wants it. If that is the case, Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley often has said the team will contribute less.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak in recent weeks has pushed keeping the Vikings in his downtown, and appeared to receive some legislative support. But in his first talk to the City Council about it on Thursday, he received what could be called less than overwhelming support for his Vikings plan, which would gut and rebuild the Metrodome for about $200 million less than the Arden Hills facility.

And there is the possibility of the team moving if there is no new stadium. NFL officials have said that is a possibility and Bagley admitted for the first time on Tuesday that other communities are interested.

Still, Bagley says the Vikings want to stay in Minnesota, but he loudly complains that the team would be the only one without a stadium lease once it runs out Feb. 1.

Senate Taxes Chairwoman Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen, clearly ended several hours of hearings over two days with more questions than answers.

Now, talks go back behind closed doors where a group of legislators and Dayton aides will continue trying to produce a plan.

White Earth offer a surprise

A proposal by the White Earth Tribal Nation took people looking for Vikings stadium funding by surprise.

Chairwoman Erma Vizenor suggested allowing White Earth to build a casino near the proposed Arden Hills stadium and the tribe would provide enough money from gambling profits to fund stadium construction.

"I don't understand enough about it," Gov. Mark Dayton said, but he added that he appreciates the offer.

Other tribes will oppose the plan, but that may not matter much in a Republican-dominated Legislature not overly concerned about protecting current tribal casinos.

Vizenor's idea is an offshoot of a plan she and Red Lake leaders proposed during the Gov. Tim Pawlenty administration to open a joint Twin Cities casino.

White Earth has a casino, but it is far less profitable than those in or near the Twin Cities.

Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.

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.