Time running out for Vikings stadium hopesby Tom Scheck, Minnesota Public Radio
The Minnesota Vikings brought in a heavy hitter in the hopes that they can convince state lawmakers to keep them in the stadium game, but it's looking more and more that the Vikings will be left out of the final negotiations. NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue was in St. Paul on Tuesday to lobby in support of the Vikings stadium financing plans. But several lawmakers say Tagliabue's testimony will have little impact on their decision.
St. Paul, Minn. — The Vikings seem to be running out of legislative plays. NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue urged the stadium conference committee to include the Vikings in any stadium building plans this year. He said the league is in solid financial shape, having secured future broadcasting revenues and a collective bargaining agreement. He told the committee the NFL may not continue to support its loan program for a new stadiums if a deal isn't reached now.
Vikings owner Zygi Wilf is using that program to secure $100 million of his total $280 million contribution. Tagliabue also says delaying stadium construction will only increase costs.
"Construction costs are escalating dramatically now in a way that we haven't seen and that has to do to demand for material from all over the world, not just in the United States. So there's a lot here that's certain and positive that could be uncertain and less positive in the future," he said.
Tagliabue and Vikings owner Zygi Wilf are trying to increase the urgency for a new stadium, even though the Vikings signed a lease requiring them to play in the Metrodome through the 2011 season. Tagliabue said the NFL may bring another Super Bowl to Minnesota if a new stadium is built, but he didn't make any promises.
The commisioner's testimony comes one day after Vikings officials said they were willing to abandon their plan for a retractable roof if it made their proposal more enticing.
Gov. Pawlenty and several state lawmakers are troubled that the Vikings' original proposal would use state money to pay for the roof. Without a roof, the total cost of the Blaine stadium drops by $115 million, for a total of $560 million.
But Anoka County commissioners say they may rethink their support for a county-wide sales tax to pay for the project if a lid isn't included on the stadium.
Vikings owner Zygi Wilf says he won't increase his personal contribution of $280 million to pay for a roof.
"Our commitment of $280 million was from the start a risky investment, but nonetheless something that we felt was necessary to create our new home. We were responsible at that for any cost overruns as we are now and certainly what was a belief that they might go up is a reality today," Wilf said.
Wilf said he is willing to accept any of the three proposals the Vikings have offered. They include a stadium without a roof, the original proposal, which includes a mix of state and county money and a third option that passed the Senate. The Senate proposal uses a metro-wide sales tax to pay for transportation projects and retractable roof stadiums for the Twins and Vikings.
Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, says the the uncertainty over the different proposals isn't helping the conference committee. Lanning and other House conferees say they would prefer to separate the Vikings and Twins stadium proposals, which would likely kill the Vikings stadium chances this year.
"Time is very short and we're going to accomplish a Vikings stadium, we're going have to think quickly and Anoka County and the Vikings are going to have to move and make some decisions quickly. It's been a little bit frustrating that they seem to be still spinning their wheels on reaching an agreement there," Lanning said.
While House Republicans are working to separate the stadium financing plans for the Twins and the Vikings, Senate DFLers say they'll offer other options to keep the Vikings stadium chances alive.
DFL Sen. Steve Kelley of Hopkins, who is also a candidate for governor, says some of the Vikings stadium uncertainty comes from a lack of leadership from Republican Gov. Pawlenty.
"The fact that the governor hasn't said what is it about the Vikings proposal that he doesn't like has left Anoka County and Vikings sort of at sea in trying to figure out how do we fix our proposal to meet an unarticulated objection," Kelley said.
Gov. Pawlenty said one of his biggest concerns is that the Vikings offer has not received enough legislative scrutiny.
- All Things Considered, 05/16/2006, 5:48 p.m.