Appealing for City Council support for a new Vikings stadium, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak surrounded himself with construction workers on Monday and said the project would create more jobs than any "single action that you can take."
Rybak and Barb Johnson, the City Council president, did little to disguise that the press briefing was an overt attempt to apply political pressure for the project, which does not appear to have the backing of a council majority. Rybak did not directly answer when asked whether he had majority support for a city subsidy package and chose instead to remain optimistic about the project's political chances.
Union leaders used Monday's event at the Metrodome to declare that they had reached an agreement with the Vikings to abide by union contracts should the stadium be built in Minneapolis. They also acknowledged that the news was largely expected since the team had generally agreed to do so.
At one point, Rybak asked the helmeted construction workers to call out which city neighborhoods they lived in -- and one by one the workers shouted back, naming a succession, including the Jordan, Seward, Phillips, Longfellow and Camden communities.
"The momentum is on our side at City Hall," Rybak said. "We need to get the last couple of votes there."
But Rybak and Johnson were joined by just one other member of the 13-person City Council at Monday's briefing, Diane Hofstede.
"It's no slam dunk," Rybak said. "Clearly, we have issues."
Ramsey County presses on
Rybak's news conference came as Ramsey County, which is competing with Minneapolis for the project, tried to show it also was inching toward securing a new Vikings stadium.
On Tuesday, Ramsey County is expected to consider a $20.6 million contract for soil cleanup at the former munitions plant in Arden Hills -- the Vikings preferred stadium site -- that would cap the cost for hazardous material abatement, demolition and remediation. The action would move the county closer to buying the 430-acre site from the federal government for $28.5 million.
Ramsey County already is seeking bids from architects for the stadium.
But both actions do not deal with a larger issue: How Ramsey County would raise $350 million locally for the project.
Legislative leaders have already rejected two Ramsey County funding proposals for the $1.1 billion Arden Hills stadium. County officials have promised a third proposal but have been vague on when it might be ready.
At Rybak's briefing, Hofstede said those thinking of supporting a new stadium in Minneapolis needed to focus on jobs. "This is the face of our community," she said, nodding to the construction workers who surrounded her. "I urge all of you to look at the faces that are behind me."
But fellow Council Member Elizabeth Glidden, who did not attend the news briefing, questioned how much progress Rybak was making toward winning City Council support. "I would ask him, you know, what's changed?" she said.
"He's the one that's saying that things have changed, and, so, I guess he should say what's changed," she added.
Asked whether council members would be pressed further on the stadium issue, Glidden said: "This is what happens on every single issue."
But, she added, "this is obviously a big, high-profile state issue."
Staff writer Rochelle Olson also contributed to this article. Mike Kaszuba • 651-925-5045