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Continued: Minneapolis kicks off $1 billion stadium 'game changer'

With the legislative clock ticking down, Minneapolis officials on Monday unveiled a billion-dollar "game changer" that would build a new Vikings stadium at the Metrodome site, fix up city-owned Target Center and cut property taxes, too.

The plan includes a bevy of new or expanded taxes: admission taxes on stadium events, higher street parking fees on game days and extension of a downtown hotel, liquor and restaurant tax citywide. It also would institute a 0.15 percent sales tax, similar to one that Hennepin County imposed to help build Target Field.

The proposal, introduced by Mayor R.T. Rybak at a State Capitol news conference, would have the Vikings paying 45 percent -- $400 million -- of an $895 million roofed stadium on the Dome site.

The team reacted coolly.

Lester Bagley, a Vikings' vice president, said the Vikings appreciated the proposal but that a $400 million contribution was too much. He also noted that playing in the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium for three years while the new field was built would cost the Vikings $40 million in lost revenue.

"$440 million for the site does not work, and it's not something we can support," Bagley said. "Three parties need to negotiate a deal, and this does not accomplish that."

The team also is in what it describes as serious discussions with Ramsey County about a new stadium in Arden Hills.

Monday's announcement marks a startling reversal in Minneapolis' public stance in the ongoing stadium debate. Until now, Rybak and others have insisted the city had no new resources to help finance such a project.

The plan would extend taxes currently used to pay off the city's convention center once the bonds are paid in 2020, a notion Rybak once had called "a non-starter."

The Minneapolis plan has the city contributing 22 percent, or $195 million.

It calls for the state of Minnesota to kick in 33 percent, or $300 million -- same as the current stadium bill, which outlines a three-way cost share among state, team and local government partner. The Minneapolis proposal has not yet been introduced as legislation.

The city's new revenue also would finance a $95 million renovation of the 20-year-old Target Center, home of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The plan would enable the city to direct $5 million a year to pay off the remaining $50 million in debt on Target Center, giving city property taxpayers up to a 2 percent savings on the city portion of their bills.

It would transfer ownership of Target Center to a new stadium authority that also would manage the new Vikings facility and the convention center.

The plan, Rybak said, is "sensible, affordable and builds on the investment we already have" at the Dome site.

He said the project would create up to 9,000 construction jobs and take two to three years to complete. It would require the Vikings to play at the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium, which would cost the team millions.

Who else is on board?

It wasn't immediately clear how much support the plan enjoys among the 13 City Council members, a body that includes several opponents of public financing for sports facilities. Only Council President Barbara Johnson and Council Member Diane Hofstede were seen at the news conference.

Minneapolis legislators also were absent, but Rybak said the city's delegation has never been a huge supporter of pro sports facilities.

Sam Grabarski, the executive director of the Minneapolis Downtown Council, stood behind Rybak at the news conference. Grabarski and downtown business leaders had expressed great interest in the Farmers Market site before Hennepin pulled out of the stadium sweepstakes.

But he praised city leaders Monday for coming up with "such a compelling proposal ... You're building not only a modern version of the Metrodome, you're also doing substantial renovation of Target Center. We must be supportive of an idea as practical as this."

For months Rybak and city leaders have been grappling with budget issues in the wake of state aid cuts that have jacked up property taxes. Rybak has said the city's best stadium contribution was the comparatively inexpensive Dome site.

Rybak said the city came forward now because of Hennepin County Board Chairman Mike Opat's decision last week to take the county out of stadium discussions for the remainder of this legislative session. Unless the city stepped up, the Vikings might have been left without a Minneapolis stadium site option.

"We were hoping the county would do it and when they didn't, we did," Rybak said.

Ramsey County in the hunt

The city is now vying with Ramsey County, which wants to lure the Vikings to a former munitions plant site in Arden Hills and partner with the team and the state on a stadium.

Ramsey officials haven't come forward with a financing mechanism, but it is widely thought to be a countywide sales-tax increase.

Ramsey County Commissioner Tony Bennett declined to comment Monday on the Minneapolis proposal. "We've got a great site and we'll let it stand on its merits," said Bennett, who expects to meet again with the Vikings as early as Tuesday.

Wolves owner Glen Taylor called the Minneapolis plan "a real proposal" that offers a practical solution to Target Center's deficiencies and avoids new construction costs.

The Vikings have said they would pay a third of the cost of a stadium. Late last week Ted Mondale, chair of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission and Gov. Mark Dayton's chief stadium negotiator, said the team understood it would have to raise its stake to roughly 40 percent.

Team officials said they first saw an outline of the Minneapolis plan late last week. They have not expressed a site preference.

The Star Tribune owns five blocks near the Dome that could be involved in a stadium deal. In 2007, the Vikings struck a tentative $45 million deal for that property but withdrew, citing turmoil in credit markets.

Rybak: 'A people's solution'

The city's plan envisions preserving 30 to 40 percent of the Dome structure in a new stadium, Rybak said, reducing construction costs.

Rybak said property tax relief was an essential element of the proposal. The plan, he said, is "a people's solution" that would build what Dayton likes to call "a people's stadium" and provides wide-ranging city benefits.

The Legislature would need to override the Minneapolis voter-approved 1997 city charter amendment that prohibits using more than $10 million in city funds for a pro sports facility without a referendum.

Meanwhile, a citizens group against stadium taxes is planning to meet Sunday at the downtown Minneapolis library to organize opposition to the proposal.

kduchschere@startribune.com • 612-673-4455 raolson@startribune.com • 651-735-9749 sbrandt@startribune.com • 612-673-4438

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