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Negotiators are hurriedly finishing a plan that would have a new Minnesota Vikings stadium alongside the Metrodome substantially complete by 2016, requiring the team to play only a handful of games at the University of Minnesota.
Ted Mondale, Gov. Mark Dayton's chief stadium negotiator, said Friday that the fast-moving plan should be completed this week and could dramatically accelerate a decision to select a location for the long-debated project.
Although the newest plan involves an array of details, Mondale said the goal is still to offer an overall stadium plan -- financed partly by money from electronic pulltabs -- in time for a legislative vote this spring.
The latest proposal would have the Vikings play at the Metrodome through 2015. By that time, a new stadium next-door would be 75 percent complete. The Metrodome would be torn down and turned into a large plaza for pregame activities, according to both Mondale and a Vikings spokesman. The space would be large enough to accommodate a $19 million parking ramp for the team.
"I would think 2016 would be the 'go live' year," Mondale said. "Maybe the first two games you play" at the university's TCF Bank Stadium, "but before it gets cold, you'd be ready to go."
Playing at the smaller university stadium, "would be much more of a temporary thing," he said.
Both Mondale and the Vikings acknowledge that the scramble to find yet another way -- and site -- for the stadium is being driven by the team's estimate that it would cost nearly $50 million for the Vikings to play at TCF Bank stadium for three years while a new stadium was built at the Metrodome.
The most recent flurry of stadium activity is already drawing critics.
"I'm a little bit negative about this," said Barb Johnson, Minneapolis' City Council president. "Going from site to site isn't doing any of us any good. [I] think people are getting tired of that."
Since last year, the Vikings stadium drama has involved at least four sites: An abandoned ammunitions plant in Arden Hills -- the team's preferred location; the Metrodome; a farmer's market location near the Minnesota Twins' Target Field in downtown Minneapolis, and another downtown site near the Basilica of St. Mary.
While the stadium competition has narrowed to Minneapolis and Ramsey County's Arden Hills, both the city and the county have local financing plans that face significant financial and political hurdles.
Local funding is being counted on to pay for roughly a third of a nearly $1 billion stadium. State financing, according to the latest estimates, would account for at least $340 million of a new stadium. The Vikings have pledged $425 million toward a new stadium in Arden Hills but have declined to commit to a dollar amount for a stadium in Minneapolis.
Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, the chief House stadium legislation author, last week raised another possible roadblock. He said both the Ramsey County and Minneapolis financing plans could be rejected by legislators as inadequate. That almost certainly would scuttle any immediate chances of public subsidies for the project.
"At this point, either one of those could wind up falling by the wayside," Lanning said.
Despite those and other major issues, Mondale made clear that negotiators were racing to finalize the latest plan.
By later this week, he said, cost estimates from the city of Minneapolis, utility companies, the state Department of Transportation, the Metropolitan Council and others should show the cost differential between building next to the Metrodome site or building directly on the Metrodome, which would require three seasons at TCF Bank Stadium.
"I think the numbers are close enough to warrant a lot of serious work and study," said Lester Bagley, the Vikings' vice president for stadium development and public affairs.
Mondale said the newest plan, pieced together over the past few weeks, would attempt to build the stadium next to the Metrodome without buying a nearby telecommunications center that houses a series of high-tech companies. The building's owner has said repeatedly that his building is not for sale, and Mondale said Friday that the owner's lawyer reiterated that position.
"If this could be workable, we would of course be interested in it," Bagley said of the latest plan. "[But] there are challenges with the scenario that Ted laid out.''
"It's an effort that's being led more by the state" than the team, Bagley said, adding, "We admire [Mondale's] optimism and his tenacity."
There were signs that the Vikings and Mondale, who chairs the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, the owners of the Metrodome, were busy haggling on another front, too.
Mondale said the team had sent a letter contesting whether the Vikings were legally obligated to play the 2012 season at the Metrodome. In November, Mondale said the Vikings were required to play at the Metrodome this year because of a clause in their contract. That clause states that if the Metrodome is damaged and the team is forced to play elsewhere for even part of a season -- as occurred after a December 2010 snowstorm that collapsed the roof -- the lease "shall be extended by one football season."
Mike Kaszuba • 651-222-1673