The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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August 10, 2011

Vikings: Stadium plan nearly ready

MANKATO — Minnesota Vikings and Ramsey County officials said at Vikings camp Wednesday that a deal to get taxpayer help to build a new football stadium is closer than ever.

Team owner Zygi Wilf, team Vice President Lester Bagley and two members of the Ramsey County Board said after the team’s morning practice that the terms, in principle, are set.

“Agreement is pretty much done,” Wilf said. “We have most of the details worked out.”

None of the sides talked details Wednesday, but as of this weekend, here are some of the numbers being talked about regarding a stadium bill.

Ramsey County is said to agree to cover $350 million of the cost through a sales tax if the stadium were to be built in Arden Hills. County Commissioner Tony Bennett answered that question:

“This is the largest project in the history of the state of Minnesota, and we’re going to put it in Arden Hills,” he said.

The state and team negotiated costs of road expansions to serve the proposed $1 billion stadium in Arden Hills. Stadium-bill sponsor state Sen. Julie Rosen of Fairmont had said the state’s share of the stadium needs to be backed up with a reliable funding source, and it has to be a financing method the Vikings will agree to. The answer appears to be a user-fee based funding to pay for a $300 million state contribution.

The team would cover the rest.

Bennett said the deal is a win for everyone involved.

“I spent 12 years in the Legislature, so I understand the legislative process very well,” Bennett said. “I was there when the Mall of America went through. Everybody thought it was going to kill our shopping centers. It’s a destination, folks. Look at what it’s done all these years. (The new stadium) is going to be a destination.”

Dayton has yet to call a special session for the bill. But Bagley said that during conversations he’s had with Dayton, the governor made it clear there needs to be compelling evidence to show a Vikings stadium plan is in the best interests of all Minnesotans.

Bagley said that evidence exists.

First, he said, stadium construction will create several thousand jobs (something lawmakers on both sides of the aisle can agree on). Second, he said, the costs of building a stadium will increase dramatically if the parties involved don’t move on it now. Third, the team’s lease with the Metrodome expires after this season, throwing uncertainty into the mix.

A fourth factor not discussed much at the news conference was the recent vote in Los Angeles to approve funding for a $1.2 billion stadium, the latest move to bring the National Football League back to LA. With a stadium deal in place, it seems the team would be much less likely to entertain offers to move. The Vikings are routinely mentioned among those that could potentially fill LA’s new football palace.

But as of Wednesday, Wilf, at least, was sounding committed to Minnesota.

“We are hoping to certainly support the Super Bowl here. We’re hoping to certainly be able to have the Final Four and there are many other events, which Minneapolis should be proud to host,” he said. “The northern region of the Twin Cities area has been a spotlight for regional soccer events, regional sports events. The community, I’ve found, is very sports-oriented, and to have a venue such as this that can support all those sports for generations to come is a very exciting prospect for everyone in the region.”

Wilf said he’s excited “to be able to work together with Ramsey, to be able to have a venue to enjoy football, to enjoy tailgating, and be as proud of the venue as we are of the Minnesota Vikings. We’re excited about football this year.”

The Vikings’ last day of its 2011 training camp in Mankato is today.

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