MnDOT: Stadium road upgrades to cost $131 million

  • Article by: ROCHELLE OLSON and KEVIN DUCHSCHERE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 18, 2011 - 11:59 PM

The estimate for road improvements for the proposed $1 billion Minnesota Vikings stadium in Arden Hills dropped $44 million in a detailed proposal released Wednesday by the state.

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Zygi and Mark Wilf on the ground at the proposed site for a new Vikings stadium in Arden Hills at Interstate 35W and Hwy 10.

Photo: Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

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The Minnesota Vikings welcomed a $44 million drop in estimated road improvement costs for a proposed $1 billion Arden Hills stadium, even if team officials don't yet know how to finance the enhancements.

"It's progress and this makes it more manageable," Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley said Wednesday after the state Department of Transportation released the lower estimate of $131 million, down from a minimum of $175 million. The estimate doesn't include $20 million in Interstate 35W improvements that were already in the works.

MnDOT Commissioner Thomas Sorel put the estimate in a two-page letter he sent to Gov. Mark Dayton a day after meeting behind closed doors with state and Ramsey County engineers to try to agree on a number. The Vikings had suggested the road upgrades could cost as little as $80 million.

The jockeying among the team, Dayton and the Legislature seemed to point more definitively at focusing stadium talks for the rest of the legislative session on the Ramsey County site, and away from a possible last-ditch effort for a Minneapolis proposal at the Metrodome site.

The Vikings say they and the NFL will contribute $407 million toward the stadium, with $300 million coming from the state and another $350 million from a half-percent Ramsey County sales-tax increase.

Dayton and legislative sponsors of the stadium bill emphasized again Wednesday in a letter to team owners Zygi and Mark Wilf that $300 million is the cap on state contributions.

To state leaders, $300 million includes any state help for road work. But Bagley said the cost of the stadium is $1 billion, not including roads. "We've got to find creative financing," Bagley said.

One possibility is Ramsey County's bonding authority. It could issue tax-free bonds to be paid off with up to $8 million annually over 20 years. No one has suggested a revenue source for paying off the bonds.

Still, Bagley was upbeat. "Now that we have a number, we know what we have to solve for," he said.

Other issues remain, including the state's role in a stadium.

Dayton and the legislative sponsors told the Wilfs the state needs to be "full partners" in a new stadium's construction, ownership and operations. That vision doesn't entirely align with the agreement between the team and Ramsey County that gives the Vikings sole authority over construction and design.

The letter, signed by Dayton, Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont and Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, said they are "neutral about where the Minnesota Vikings make their new home, so long as it is Minnesota."

Bagley said, "The solution is to make Arden Hills work. The solution is not to kill Arden Hills and bring the Minneapolis deal in the back door. The Minneapolis proposal is not viable. Introducing a Minneapolis bill makes no sense and we will not support it."

The latest roads proposal includes improvements at the Interstate 694/35W interchange, auxiliary lanes on 35W, reconstruction of the 35W/County Road 96 interchange and the Hwy. 10 site entrance. An internal site road is estimated at $5 million. The roads will be updated to accommodate some 21,000 cars expected to be driven to games.

raolson@startribune.com • 651-735-9749 kduchschere@startribune.com • 612-673-4455

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