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Minneapolis and Minnesota Vikings officials said Monday they're scrutinizing a parcel of land next to the Metrodome in hopes of continuing to play at the old stadium while the new one is under construction.
Even as the owner of a major technology center on the site insisted that he's not selling, Vikings' Vice President Lester Bagley said they want to see whether building at the Dome location can be done without having to spend the $48 million it would cost for the team to play up to three seasons at the University of Minnesota.
"We're trying to be smart about making that work, and it's in everybody's best interest to limit or eliminate any time spent playing at the university," he said.
On the other hand, if it winds up costing three times as much to build next to the Dome as to play at the U, he said, "What's the worth in that?"
Attention has turned back to the Dome site since Gov. Mark Dayton told Vikings' owners Zygi and Mark Wilf that it's their best bet to get a stadium this year. That's because the site is less expensive than proposed locations in Arden Hills and Linden Avenue on the west end of downtown Minneapolis, and has fewer complications.
Dayton, local officials and stadium proponents in the Legislature hope to get a bill on a public financing package for a new stadium introduced soon.
Chuck Lutz, the city's development director who also sits on the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, said city officials are comparing the price of building on the 20-acre site with that of moving the team to the U's TCF Bank Stadium if a new stadium had to be built on the Dome's footprint.
So far, Bagley said he hasn't seen "a viable proposal" that would allow the Vikings to build southeast of the Dome. That's partly due to Minneapolis entrepreneur Basant Kharbanda, who owns the 511 Building, a telecommunications center of high-tech firms that's considered the Twin Cities' portal to the Internet.
Kharbanda said Monday that he's not selling the property and that he would take the city to court if necessary to protect his high-tech tenants.
No can do
Relocating those firms, he said, "is not possible technically and would take too much money to do it. For that amount of money, the Vikings could refurbish TCF stadium and play there."
That could be, Bagley said. But first they want to find out.
The Vikings estimate it would cost them $48 million to play three seasons at the U, including $11 million they say would be needed to upgrade the stadium into an NFL-style arena.
That's why they've been taking a fresh look at building next door to the old stadium, as other pro baseball and football teams have done to save the cost of playing elsewhere.
Bagley said that the location shouldn't be considered a fourth possible stadium site along the same lines as the Dome, Linden Avenue and Arden Hills.
Two blocks, too narrow
The Vikings months ago ruled out building on parcels north of the Dome owned by the Star Tribune. Available property there, bordered by the light-rail line on one side and historic warehouses on the other, would be two blocks wide and thus too narrow to accommodate a 21st-century stadium with wide concourses and plazas.
On the other side of the Dome, there might be enough room on a 20- to 22-acre site (including a large Dome parking lot) straddling 11th Avenue S. if Xcel Energy substation and Kharbanda's building were out of the way.
Preliminary sketches place the stadium squarely on top of 11th Avenue, which would have to be removed between S. 4th and 6th Streets.
The city's analysis is planned for release later this week, Lutz said. But he said it was clear that the 511 Building and the other major building in the way, Xcel Energy's Elliot Park substation, "would be high-ticket items."
Xcel Energy officials met Friday with city officials to provide information on the substation, which supplies power to businesses and homes in the downtown area.
"At this point we haven't even started an analysis of what it would take [to move the substation] and what the impact could be. We haven't said it could or couldn't be moved. We'll do our part to accomplish that," said Xcel spokesman Tom Hoen.
Kharbanda, who also owns the 1010 Metrodome Square building kitty-corner from the 511 across 6th Street, said he has talked to the Vikings for several years about property in the Dome area. Among other things, he said, they've discussed putting in skyways linking his parking ramp to a future stadium.
"We like the Vikings' owners and we have a very cordial relationship with them," he said. "I told them we will develop our site in such a way that it complements their efforts."
Kevin Duchschere • 612-673-4455