The Big Story Blog

Vikings stadium: What we know

Posted at 4:32 PM on October 12, 2011 by Paul Tosto
Filed under: Sport

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It was a roller coaster news day for the Minnesota Vikings and the quest for a new football stadium. It ended with the team owner and Ramsey County officials arguing the proposed site in Arden Hills is still doable despite the problems of potential delays and cost overruns laid out in a new report.

Here are some of the things we learned today.

Bullet dodged. Ramsey County officials pushed aside a measure that would have put a half-cent sales tax plan for the Vikings stadium to a county-wide public vote next year. This happened late last night but was crucial to all the news Wednesday. The Vikings were adamantly against a referendum. Odds are it would not have passed.

'Aggressive, unrealistic'. Hours after the Ramsey County decision,the Metropolitan Council offered a skeptical assessment of the Arden Hills site, saying that the Vikings plan to clean up the old munitions depot and build a stadium to open in 2015 was "aggressive" and "unrealistic," setting off rounds of hand wringing about the site and its viability.

Step back and two basic cost issues surface in the report: The Vikings and Ramsey County hadn't identified how to pay for $39 million of project costs in the $1.111 billion proposal and a one-year delay would raise the price of the stadium by $45 million.

Add it up and it comes to about $85 million in potential increases, roughly 8 percent more than currently projected. In that light it doesn't sound like a deal killer.

No worries? Everything's cool. That was the message from Vikings owner Zygi Wilf and Ramsey County officials later in the day.

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Wilf told reporters there are no problems detailed in the report that the team hadn't already identified.

The report bore out "what we thought from day one, that this site is ideal, and the costs that were both in the report and what we anticipated are close to being solvable," Wilf said. "We are encouraged."

Vikings officials indicated the team would be willing to consider kicking in more than their expected $407 million contribution and, Met Council report aside, Ramsey County officials expressed hope the stadium could open for football in 2015.

That doesn't mean the Vikings are out of the woods. While Ramsey County officials Tuesday night stopped a plan to force a public vote on the Vikings half-cent sales tax, people who want a referendum are still trying to force the issue.

MPR News reporter Tim Nelson checked and found it would take about 15,000 signatures.

Joe Mansky updates: sigs needed for RAMCO charter referendum petition based on registered voters, not turnout, so stadium vote needs 14,874.
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And, as Gov. Mark Dayton reminded folks, a Vikings stadium financing package will still require legislative approval. Dayton has the power to call a special session this fall but has indicated he wants a deal in place. He stayed neutral on the Arden Hills site and challenged the Vikings today to decide quickly if they're OK with paying more and/or waiting past 2015 for a stadium.

Given the added costs, it was natural for people to wonder if Wilf and the Vikings might shift their sites away from Arden Hills and back to downtown Minneapolis, where they've tried but failed to pull a plan together.

Wilf, though, said no. Right now it's Arden Hills and no turning back.20110517_vikingssite4_field33.jpg
(Polluted former munitions depot or field of dreams?)


About Paul Tosto

Paul Tosto

Paul Tosto writes the Big Story Blog for MPR News. He joined the newsroom in 2008 after more than 20 years reporting on education, politics and the economy for news wires and newspapers across the country.