In a strong show of resolve for a new Minnesota Vikings stadium, Gov. Mark Dayton and National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell met early Tuesday and said they still hoped the issue could be finished before the Legislature adjourns in six days.
Standing with a group of legislative leaders, Dayton however held firm that the state’s $300 million contribution to the proposed $1 billion stadium in Ramsey County’s Arden Hills needed to include state road improvements surrounding the project. He said Tom Sorel, the state’s transportation commissioner, would have a “definitive number” by Wednesday that would be compared with an early estimate that the improvements would total $175 million.
Goodell, who said he toured the Arden Hills site Monday, said the Vikings felt “very strongly” about the proposal to move the team from its longtime home at the Metrodome in downtown Minneapolis to suburban Ramsey County. He also said the NFL was contributing money to the project, but declined to be specific.
“It’s an extraordinary site, and I think it’s very exciting,” Goodell said of Arden Hills.
Under a funding plan released last week by the Vikings and Ramsey County, the team would contribute $407 million to the project. In addition to the $300 million from the state, the county would raise $350 million through a half percent county wide sales tax increase.
Even with time running out at the Legislature, Dayton said the project could still be approved. “Anything is possible,” he said as he stood with Goodell and legislative leaders outside the governor’s mansion in St. Paul. “Stay tuned.”
Although many legislative leaders were in attendance, there were no representatives from the Vikings at the session.
Sorel said he was not under pressure to reduce the state’s $175 million estimate for road improvements to try and make the project workable. “We still feel there’s some validity in that,” Sorel said of the $175 million. The team has disputed the figure, saying it was too high.
But Sorel said he would be meeting for much of the afternoon Tuesday to try to determine a final figure. “I’m pretty confident we can get a better handle on the transportation numbers,” he added.
Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, the chief House author of the Vikings stadium legislation, said Tuesday the transportation issues remained the biggest problem facing the project. “That is the most important issue,” he said.
UPDATE: During a radio interview, Dayton cycled back to the stadium bill late Tuesday morning:
“First of all, it’s a jobs program because several thousand people will be working building that stadium and the ancilliary development for the next few years,” he said.
He reiterated his financial stand: “I’ve said all along there won’t be a single dollar of state general fund money going into that project. I’ve always vowed the $300 million the state would issue in bonds would be repaid entirely by fees generated by revenues of the stadium.”
He said he made that clear to Goodell at their breakfast meeting, adding, “I will stand on that. So no tax dollars from Minnesotans for the state’s share.”
Prospects of a stadium bill passing with six days left in the legislative sessing? “It makes it certainlt more difficult, but anything is possible. .So I don’t rule it out, but the clock is ticking.”
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Still a sliver of possibility, however.