No movement to break Capitol gridlock over Vikings stadiumby Tim Nelson, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — The NFL boosted efforts Tuesday to build the Minnesota Vikings a new football stadium, but with time running out in the legislative session there's still no funding deal at the State Capitol.
The hangup is still the cost of road construction near the proposed Arden Hills site.
The day started with a meeting between the NFL top executive and state officials at the governor's mansion in St. Paul. League commissioner Roger Goodell said he assured the governor and legislators that the NFL would ante up for the deal.
"We are involved in the financing of stadiums," Goodell said. "That's one of the things we will be working in the next several days."
Goodell wouldn't put a dollar figure on the league's involvement, but cited revenue sharing the league has had in place for decades. But that's unlikely to close a nearly $200 million gap in the team's agreement with Ramsey County to build a stadium in Arden Hills, according to Vikings spokesman Lester Bagley.
"That's already been factored into our contribution," Bagley said.
TRANSPORTATION COSTS AT ISSUE
Bagley said the Vikings wouldn't have raised their offer from $230 million to $407 million without that revenue from the league.
"I've gotten a couple questions from legislators about is there an opportunity to use some league financing for the transportation costs," Bagley said. "The answer in no."
That leaves the deal where its been for a week: at a standstill.
To get it moving, supporters say it will take:
• A deal in the bonding bill to pay for roads;
• Gambling proceeds from a casino or Native American tribe, or;
• A phase-in of the road work projects to spread the costs out.
But there was no sign of significant movement on any of those fronts today. If anything, the disagreement widened.
MnDOT Commissioner Tom Sorel said he hadn't been charged with trimming the road project list to close the $175 million gap his engineers calculated last week. Sorel led a meeting with the Ramsey County public works director Tuesday afternoon with the goal of reaching what they called "real numbers" for the added costs of accommodating the Vikings in a new home.
County Commissioner Tony Bennett, one of the architects of the Arden Hills plan, said he thinks that number could come down by $30 million or more.
"I'm told that our people and MnDOT's people will ... by tomorrow have come together on a number," Bennett said. "It's not the [$175 million] we've been talking about."
TENSION OVER PROPOSED STADIUM OPERATIONS
But the roads aren't the only issue still to be resolved.
Gov. Mark Dayton said that he has doubts about the operations of the stadium as outlined by the agreement between Ramsey County and the Vikings.
The deal gives the Vikings revenue from the stadium, like parking and naming rights, as well as the first $41 million of savings from expected construction costs. The team said it's patterned on the deal for Target Field.
"I think the Vikings drafted an agreement with Ramsey County that served the interests of the Vikings, not surprisingly," Dayton said.
Dayton said he wants the state to get some of the action.
"If the state's going to be a third partner in this operation, which we would be, then we deserve one-third of the operating control, and one-third of the revenues, generally speaking," Dayton said. "We have to work out who's going to manage this operation, and who's going to benefit from what aspects of it."
He said that's only fair, since a new stadium would likely be used only a dozen times or so a year for an NFL game, and the Twins stadium has limited other uses.
But the Vikings Lester Bagley said they need the money, because the team will end up paying most of the $14 million or $16 million a year it will cost to run the place.
"We're responsible for most of the operating costs, the capital improvement account, our game-day expenses, police and security, many of those things which are not the case at the current Metrodome," Bagley said.
That will likely have to wait for negotiation of final terms.
- All Things Considered, 05/17/2011, 5:24 p.m.