Vikings wrap up training camp, say they're staying in Minn.by Tim Nelson, Minnesota Public Radio
Mankato, Minn. — Minnesota Vikings officials said they're closer than ever to a new stadium, after meeting with some of the major players involved in stadium negotiations Wednesday in Mankato, site of the Vikings' training camp.
They also downplayed the prospects of the team moving to Los Angeles, a day after that city gave the thumbs up to an NFL stadium that doesn't yet have a team.
Vikings owner Zygi Wilf rolled out the red carpet for Ramsey County officials and business leaders in Mankato, and he hopes they'll soon return the gesture.
They were visiting Wilf to talk about a $1 billion stadium deal they're hoping to wrap up by the middle of the football season.
Team vice president Lester Bagley said he thinks the team is working out the final details of the proposed stadium in Arden Hills, particularly the cost of the highway improvements that will be needed.
"The road costs have come down in the $100 million range," said Bagley. "We're fine tuning this deal, and we have a framework of an agreement."
But that plan might be outpaced right now in California. The Los Angeles City Council Tuesday greenlighted the outline of a deal to build a $1.2 billion football stadium -- even without an NFL franchise lined up for the facility.
The Vikings are considered a prospective tenant, along with the teams from Jacksonville and San Diego. Vikings management met with the LA stadium developer earlier this year. But Wilf ruled out a move to California.
"No. We have momentum in Arden Hills," he said Wednesday.
That momentum has been stalled for months. The team reached a deal in May proposing to split the cost of a stadium with the state and Ramsey County. But it never got a hearing at the Capitol, and Gov. Mark Dayton has been skeptical of the idea.
Dayton said Wednesday he's still open to a stadium deal, calling it a work in progress.
Bagley, the team's vice president, said the Vikings think they can win him over.
"Last week the Wilfs, Mark and Zygi Wilf, met with the governor and had a great conversation about the issue and about moving it forward," said Bagley. "The governor said he was willing to call a special session but it has to be collaborative, it has to be bipartisan, and there has to be a compelling reason."
The Los Angeles deal may well be part of what's compelling.
But Ramsey County leaders and the Vikings said today there are reasons closer to home to get the deal done. They say a stadium would employ 7,500 construction workers at a time when many people are looking for jobs. They also say that waiting even a year would push the pricetag up by $53 million.
Ramsey County Commissioner Rafael Ortega said he'd like to see a deal wrapped up by Halloween.
"We need to act, and we need to act now," said Ortega. "Ramsey County has stepped up to the plate, and we will continue to work to make this happen hopefully by the end of October."
State Sen. Julie Rosen, a sponsor of the stadium bill, told the Mankato Free Press this week that she is optimistic about a deal. Dayton said he'd asked the Metropolitan Council to expedite a review of stadium issues. But he hasn't committed to a timeline.
In the meantime, the Vikings are showing signs of shifting into a hurry-up lobbying effort.
Marqee players like quarterback prospect Christian Ponder and defensive end Jared Allen greeted the Ramsey County delegation in Mankato.
Ramsey County Commissioner Tony Bennett said he could use some help from the team as he presses ahead for the stadium deal.
"Can I borrow four of those linemen?" Bennett asked head coach Leslie Frazier. "I want to see the governor about a special session. If that's what we've got to do, we'll do it. We'll send Jared Allen, we'll send Steve Hutchinson."
Frazier and his team will wrap up training camp this week. They'll play their first pre-season game Saturday in Nashville against the Tennessee Titans.
- All Things Considered, 08/10/2011, 5:20 p.m.