Ted Mondale, head of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission (MSFC), has been working hard to make a new Vikings stadium a reality. He is convinced a stadium bill will be introduced in the Legislature in the next few days, with a good chance of passing later in the session.
"My understanding from the bill authors is we're getting close," Mondale said. "How they want to handle it is obviously up to them. It's to the point now where the majority over at the Capitol now have their bill together and they're going to bring it out."
Mondale said his guess is that you really can't finish a stadium bill until after you see the larger budget framework. Profits from naming rights would have to be shared or all go to the state, he said.
"I think it can happen this year. I think it's probably as good a shot as ever," Mondale said. "The governor [Mark Dayton] would like to see it, and has laid out what he'd like to see. You can't pass a bill like this unless the governor is supportive of it. [Former governor Tim] Pawlenty was saying, 'Maybe, yes, no,' and when he said, 'I'm not going to vote for it,' it just can't get done."
Mondale doesn't believe that anybody at the Capitol is going to put state money into an open-air stadium. But if a deal was cut between the team and a local unit of government to build a stadium without a roof, the Metrodome -- with a new roof and turf that currently books 300 events per year -- could last for a long time at a cost of $7 million to $8 million per year.
Each Vikings home game brings in $9.6 million in spending by fans, and Mondale said he was told by downtown city council members that 10 percent of the hotel occupancy in Minneapolis comes from people participating in non- Vikings events at the Dome.
"We have to have all these other events, so we have to have a climate-controlled environment, and I think there's pretty well consensus that's going to be the case," Mondale said.
"So the biggest thing here now is we have a governor who sees the importance of this both from the economic development standpoint for the state, for our businesses here, and also on behalf of a lot of jobs for people who are out of work. That would be a big job boost if we could get that going right away."Competing for the site
Mondale said he knows Ramsey County is trying hard to bring the stadium to Arden Hills and officials are meeting with the Vikings.
"I'm going to be meeting with those guys, [Ramsey County] Commissioners [Tony] Bennett and [Rafael] Ortega, later this week," Mondale said. "I know Hennepin County is looking at something and I think Minneapolis is talking, too. So I think there's three sites that are kind of in play. Maybe there's a way to have one ready by May 1 or May 15, when the bill gets done, or maybe you have to do a site selection process just like the Dome."
Mondale said there are positives to all three sites, although the downtown Minneapolis site near Target Field has the problem of relocating Mary's Place, a homeless shelter. The word is that Hennepin County would get involved financially if that site was picked.
"The Arden Hills site [the former Twin Cities Army Ammunitions Plant], they have the land," Mondale said. "They've got plenty of land, plenty of room for tailgating. On the minus side, you have a lot of infrastructure cost, highways and that type of thing for that particular site.
"The Metrodome site is the most cost-effective. The Target Center site is probably, from a cityscape [standpoint], you create this huge entertainment complex downtown ... to have a blimp fly over and see Target Field, Target Center and maybe Target Field again."
Hennepin County likely would get involved with excess baseball tax money if the Target Center site was picked.
Mondale added: "You've heard the naysayers so far, but when that bill comes out, you're going to see some of the top CEOs in town come out and say, 'This is important to grow jobs in this area. We're competing against Denver and we're competing against Seattle and we can't lose an NFL franchise. We need to be seen as a winner city so we can keep the smartest people here and attract people here.' You're going to see the labor people come forward and say this is really important for jobs. And I think you'll see the fan base come forward and say we want the Vikings here for another 30 or 40 years."
Mondale believes the great success of Target Field will help and that not one politician who voted for Target Field lost his elective seat.
"Everyone has seen the economic benefit," he said. "I think, in a strange way, the roof going down has made the case that a controlled-climate facility like the Metrodome is critically important for sports across the state. I know my kid's team at Macalester, they're headed to Milwaukee to play so they can get a dry field. I know the St. Olaf team has gone down to St. Louis to play somewhere.
"Before, it was teams coming from elsewhere and they'd stay in the hotels and you'd see the games at night. Maybe not too many Macalester students there, but certainly the team from Illinois you'd have all the families of all the kids there and they're staying in hotels and they're going out to eat at places like Murray's and all over downtown. It's a big impact."
If a stadium is built, give Ted Mondale a lot of credit. Nobody has worked as hard as he has. And he is a great salesman just like his dad, Fritz Mondale, a chip off the old block.Jottings
Some prominent Gophers hockey alumni are trying to put the pressure on athletic director Joel Maturi to not give an extension to hockey coach Don Lucia, who has one year left on his contract, even threatening to run an ad in the paper. Some ex-Gophers hockey players did have a meeting with Maturi. But the AD made it clear Wednesday that Lucia is his hockey coach and will get the extension.
Two new panels have been installed at the Metrodome, and dome officials are convinced the new roof will be completed in time for the Vikings' first home exhibition game if there is a season.
The MSFC has received a check for $1.5 million from the FM Global Insurance Company that issued the interruptible policy on the dome. The average rental income from the Vikings is about $685,000, and the insurance payment covers the two games the Vikings missed plus some other cancelled events because of the collapse of the roof. Apparently all of the insurance companies involved with the MSFC and the Vikings are paying off on the interruptible insurance.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. • firstname.lastname@example.org