By ROCHELLE OLSON
If the price of a Minnesota Vikings stadium in Minneapolis includes $150 million in renovations for Target Center, that’s too steep, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman said Tuesday.
The upgrades to the Minnesota Timberwolves’ and Lynx facility would put the Xcel Energy Center and St. Paul in a “very very disadvantageous position,” Coleman said a St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce public affairs luncheon at the University of St. Thomas. “Regionalism doesn’t mean the western (cities) get everything and St. Paul gets scraps. We’ve got to stand up and we’ve got to fight.”
The mayor wants a “regional approach,” possibly through a new governing body to oversee the Twin Cities dual convention centers and sports teams, but Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak is pushing the Target Center money as a deal sweetener for the sports-subsidy-averse Minneapolis City Council.
Xcel Energy Center opened in St. Paul in September 2000, causing high stakes competition with Target Center for concerts and events. The result: both facilities operate on the tightest margins and can undercut each other on bids.
“That system cannot continue to exist,” the mayor said. “We need to stop thinking about this from a very parochial standpoint.”
Coleman emphasized that he has carefully avoided taking a stance on where a new Vikings stadium should be built, although he has opposed the use of Ramsey County-only taxes for a facility in Arden Hills. The mayor said his goal is to protect Xcel’s competitive position.
Coleman noted that outside of New York City, no other major metropolitan area in the United States can support two major sports facilities and two convention centers.
“Don’t exacerbate an already bad situation by making the cost of a downtown Minneapolis Vikings stadium the Xcel Center,” Coleman said to roughly supportive 150 corporate leaders.
In the audience was Craig Leipold, owner of the Minnesota Wild, the Xcel’s main tenant. Leipold said the Wild has a list of possible upgrades for Xcel, but he wasn’t prepared to reveal them yet. “We just want to make sure there’s equity,” he said.
If Target Center gets money, Coleman wants some for Xcel, but he didn’t specify how much.
The mayor, however, said he would like the Timberwolves and the Lynx to play at Xcel - a proposition he has made before that wasn’t well received. Just as St. Paul needs the Xcel, Minneapolis relies on Target Center tenants to keep downtown hopping.
Coleman and St. Paul City Council President Kathy Lantry were to meet with Gov. Mark Dayton later in the afternoon where he would again make his regional pitch along with his request to keep $27 million in the bonding bill for a new Lowertown ballpark that could be home to the minor league baseball St. Paul Saints and other state and amateur tournaments.
Also in attendance Tuesday was Tom Whaley of the Saints, who when asked about progress on their efforts said, “I don’t know. We’re doing everything we can do. You do everything you can and you don’t know how it’s going to end up,” he said.