Even as the Minnesota Vikings push ahead with plans to build a new stadium in Arden Hills, a third possible site for the project has emerged in downtown Minneapolis.
An informal group of business leaders are pushing a 41-acre site just north of the Basilica of St. Mary, not far from another proposed stadium location that includes the city's Farmers Market. Both sites are close to the Minnesota Twins' Target Field and on the other side of downtown from the Metrodome, where the team has played since 1982 and which is the preferred site for city officials.
Minneapolis City Council President Barbara Johnson said she was shown the new proposal a week ago, although city officials were unclear which business leaders were pushing the project. The drawings of the project show not only a new stadium but an amphitheater, art garden and an area for outdoor sports. City officials said the proposal's biggest draw is that the city and Xcel Energy own about 75 percent of the site, making it potentially less complicated to assemble the land package.
But the Vikings, who were briefed on the new location within the past two weeks, were dismissive of the plan.
"We've been asked if we would be interested in looking at it. We said no," said Lester Bagley, the team's vice president for stadium development and public affairs. "Any discussion about Minneapolis is counterproductive" to the team's goal of building a $1 billion, taxpayer-supported stadium in Ramsey County, he said.
Johnson said the latest downtown Minneapolis plan drove home an important point. "It confirms the desire of the community here, the business community in particular, to keep the Vikings here in Minneapolis," she said. "People are looking" at alternative locations in the city for the team's new stadium.
The individuals pushing the newest plan remained largely a mystery Friday.
City officials indicated that AECOM, an architectural and engineering firm that recently merged with Ellerbe Becket, had produced the drawings but said those leading the project were not altogether known. AECOM officials did not respond to an interview request.
"The site as configured would be large enough to hold a new Vikings stadium," said Chuck Lutz, Minneapolis' deputy development director. "It is a prominent, visible site and has connections to parking."
While the city is not pushing the project, said Lutz, "we're not dismissing any site."
Chuck Leer, a developer and chairman of 2020 Partners, a group focused on development surrounding Target Field, said he knew little about the new proposal. "It's interesting, but the site we've been focused on is the Farmers Market site," he said.
The Farmers Market site includes roughly 20 different landowners.
The Vikings are awaiting the results of a feasibility study that Gov. Mark Dayton has asked be conducted of the Arden Hills proposal. State officials are being asked to contribute $300 million to the project, but Dayton and others have raised questions about the roadway improvements they say are necessary for the project. Ramsey County, which would contribute $350 million through a countywide sales tax increase, is meanwhile wrestling with whether to require a voters' referendum on the project.
"Until it's all nailed down, anybody can try to get in the game," said Leer. "It's encouraging because we're percolating ideas and trying to figure out the best place for it."
Mike Kaszuba • 651-222-1673