Development of the $975 million new home for the Minnesota Vikings moved ever so slightly closer to reality Monday when the Minneapolis Planning Commission signed off on the stadium’s bold and glassy design.
The approval, after nearly an hour of discussion, came after a 25-member Stadium Implementation Committee — made up of neighborhood residents, businesses and local political leaders — OK’d the design at its final meeting in July.
The design plan will be forwarded to the city’s zoning and planning committee next week before going to the full City Council for a vote Aug. 30.
“It’s an important step,” said Michele Kelm-Helgen, chairwoman of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA), the public body overseeing the project.
Groundbreaking for the stadium, which will replace the Metrodome, is tentatively set for October.
Before that can happen, however, the team and the MSFA also must sign off on final lease and development agreements. Votes on both are expected at the authority’s Aug. 23 meeting and before the state issues taxpayer-backed bonds to pay its share.
Several planning commissioners asked Monday that Kelm-Helgen return at a later date with landscape and parking designs related to the $400 million, mixed-use Ryan Cos. development near the stadium.
The authority is still negotiating with Ryan on the parking and skyway portion of the project, which will connect to the stadium. Final design documents are not yet complete.
Six of eight commissioners present for the vote at Monday’s meeting approved the plan; one — mayoral candidate Dan Cohen — opposed it, while another member — Liz Wielinski — abstained.
Cohen criticized the fast-track nature of the project, which won legislative financial approval in May 2012 after years of lobbying and politicking. The Vikings hope to open the new venue in time for the 2016 NFL season, but have less than three years from groundbreaking to meet that goal.
“The financial arrangements for this are a total mess,” Cohen said, referring to the failures of the state’s original plan to fund its $348 million portion of construction with tax revenues from electronic pulltabs and bingo games.
Cohen also cited concerns about the business practices of the team owner, Zygi Wilf, and his family.
He was referring to comments last week by a New Jersey judge, who said that Wilf and his family’s real estate business had committed fraud and breach of contract and had violated that state’s civil racketeering statute in a two-decade-old real estate deal.
Several days later, Gov. Mark Dayton weighed in, questioning the Wilfs’ business ethics and urging the stadium authority to carefully review the stadium deal to ensure that the team and its owners’ commitment to the project are “truthful and accurate.”
“I don’t care to participate as a city official in furthering this thing along,” Cohen said.