By Mike Kaszuba
A top National Football League official, after meeting Tuesday with Gov. Mark Dayton, gently upped the pressure for a new Minnesota Vikings stadium by saying that a political stalemate on the project could mean “opening the door” for the team to move.
Eric Grubman, the NFL’s executive vice president of NFL Ventures and business operations, said that there was no imminent plan to move the team, and said he was “optimistic and encouraged” after meeting with the governor and DFL and Republican legislators.
Grubman’s meeting with the governor came a day after Dayton said he wants a special legislative session by Thanksgiving to decide whether the state should contribute financially to a $1.1billion Vikings stadium in Ramsey County's Arden Hills. Dayton, in announcing more stadium-related moves, said he would meet Wednesday with the Vikings, Ramsey County officials and representatives of Block E in Minneapolis, who want to build a casino on the downtown Minneapolis property and perhaps use some of the revenue to help finance a stadium.
“We’re worried about a stalemate, and a stalemate means there’s no lease, or the lease is about to expire,” said Grubman. “There’s no plan for a stadium, and there’s an alternative plan in another city.
“That’s a stalemate, and the alternative wouldn’t include Minnesota,” he said. “That’s the way we look at it, [it’s] a crisis.” Grubman deflected questions about the Vikings possibly moving to Los Angeles, the largest U.S. market without a professional football team, but said “to me, if I were a Minnesotan, any alternative other than Minnesota would be equally as bad.
“If the moment is now” for a stadium deal in Minnesota, Grubman added, “. . .then let’s take this moment.”
The Vikings have announced they will not renew the team’s lease at the Metrodome, where the team has played since 1982.
Grubman acknowledged that Minnesota’s economic struggles, and state budget deficits, made a public subsidy package for the Vikings difficult. “We know our fans in a lot of markets are struggling,” he said.
“[But] great cities are defined by the great institutions that they support,” he added. “People are attracted to cities, not for the traffic jams.”
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