Spirited debate over Vikings stadium proposalby Rupa Shenoy, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Minnesota Vikings officials remain hopeful there will be a special legislative session in the fall to consider a bill to fund a $1.1 billion new stadium.
The discussion for and against a new stadium played out at an open house Thursday evening Arden Hills, where Vikings and government officials met with about a hundred residents.
Debate was spirited between nearly everyone in the small room over some aspect or other about the proposed stadium plan.
"I want some development on that piece of property and I think that development of a stadium is as good a development as whatever could go on there," Tom Lemke of Minneapolis said.
For 25 years, Lemke has lived on Schutta Road, which runs adjacent to the 260-acre site of the former Twin Cities Army Ammunitions Plant, where the proposed stadium would be built.
Lemke said the property has turned into what he calls "a real dump." He hopes the stadium plan will improve his property value.
Lemke's neighbor of more than two decades, Karen Iverson, disagrees. Iverson wants her neighborhood to stay quiet and calm.
"If you aren't selling, property values don't matter," Iverson said.
"What happens when you do go to sell? We know we're not all going to be there," Lemke said.
The exchange continued.
Iverson: "Tom, you're never going to convince me."
Lemke: "And you're never going to convince me."
Another neighbor, Pam Gall, doesn't want to pay for a new stadium. The three neighbors spot Ramsey County Commissioner Tony Bennett across the room and move toward him. Bennett is one of the commissioners who made a handshake deal with the Vikings in May to go forward with the stadium.
"You know what Tony? We're sick we voted for you," Gall starts in.
"You won't when this is done," Bennett responds.
"I don't think the taxpayers should pay for this," Gall said. "I've got to have this thing down the street from me, pay for it, when I can't go to a game?"
Bennett explains that as things stand now, the public will contribute $300 million toward the stadium, but only through sales taxes on items such as sports memorabilia, lottery proceeds and stadium fees.
Bennett knows he's taking a risk by backing the plan.
"If this costs me my election, I get Wally the Beer Man's job," he said.
In another corner of the room, Lino Lakes resident John Humenanski speaks with Vikings stadium development coordinator Eric Durkee. He believes a new stadium benefits the team more than the community. However the state, county and Vikings plan to proceed with funding the stadium, the issue should be put up to referendum for taxpayers to decide, Humenanski said
Lester Bagley, Vikings' senior vice president of public affairs, said division among local residents over the proposal is to be expected.
"I think part of it is people don't have enough information," Bagley said.
The Vikings are ready to go before the legislature with the stadium plan and are waiting on Gov. Mark Dayton to call a special session so the debate can move to the legislature.
"Our sleeves are rolled up and we think we have a framework of an agreement," Bagley said. "There's some things that need to be ironed out but we're basically there."
- Morning Edition, 08/05/2011, 6:25 a.m.