Vikings face potential Ramsey County referendum roadblockby Tim Nelson, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — The Vikings haven't found a way to win football games yet this season, and now they face a new challenge to their plans to build a stadium in Arden Hills.
The Ramsey County Charter Commission will meet Wednesday to take up a proposed referendum that would require a public vote over any pro sports team's request for taxpayer funding for building new facilities.
If it passes the commission, the measure would ask voters in 2012 if they wanted to add such a restriction to the county's charter.
Stadium backers are watching developments closely, since the plan could put a significant roadblock in front of the slow-moving effort to break ground on a replacement for the Metrodome.
The 17-member panel discussed the idea in August, but put off formal action to hold two public hearings on the idea. Those meetings start Wednesday night in New Brighton, not far from the proposed site for the new Vikings stadium in Arden Hills. The commission will be taking public testimony on the idea for the first time.
Commissioner Rod Halvorson, who proposed the idea, says he thinks the panel is closely divided. They aren't scheduled to take a vote on the plan until Oct. 11, but they've already spent many hours discussing it in public.
"The question is whether or not there's nine votes," Halvorson said. "I think for sure there's seven votes, and I think there's at least three prospects, just judging by the conversation we've had in the past."
Tony Bennett, one of the county's seven commissioners on the smaller commission, has said in the past that a referendum requirement could kill any stadium deal in Ramsey County. On Monday he said he hopes to close the stadium deal he reached with the Vikings in May, and that a November 2012 vote on the matter might come too late to allow the stadium plans to move forward.
The meeting Wednesday will be at the New Brighton Community Center, starting at 6:30 p.m.
The charter commission will meet again on Oct. 11 for another public hearing on the matter and a special meeting will immediately follow for a vote.
That meeting will be in the formal council chambers at the Ramsey County court house, so the proceedings can be televised.