Four possible sites have emerged as the team, politicians and landowners jockey for position.
A month into the legislative session that almost everyone says must deliver a Minnesota Vikings stadium, there is still no bill to bring it to fruition, let alone any consensus on public financing for it.
But at least there are four possible locations.
The Vikings confirm that they're looking at the Metrodome site and the former ammunition plant in Arden Hills. They won't divulge the other two sites. But it's likely they're the area west of Target Field on Interstate 94 in downtown Minneapolis, and Target Corp. acreage in Brooklyn Park near Hwys. 610 and 169.
The Metrodome is "the most cost-efficient site," said Lester Bagley, the Vikings' vice president of public affairs and stadium development. "But there are other factors that come into play to sort out the ideal site."
The Vikings have one season left on their lease at the Dome, which is still awaiting roof repairs following damage done during a December snowstorm. A recommended fix for the roof will be announced Thursday.
The most visible alternative of late is Arden Hills. Three Ramsey County commissioners met last week with Vikings President Mark Wilf to talk about the site, which Bagley said the team considers "very viable."
All four sites have been researched and are large enough for a modern football stadium and necessary infrastructure, said Ted Mondale, the new chair of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission.
But some previous obstacles appear no closer to being overcome.
After announcing before Christmas that she would introduce a bill by late January outlining a taxpayer-subsidized stadium, Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, didn't deliver. She said last week that legislation would likely come later this month, but cautioned that it wasn't "100 percent" certain.
Another looming factor is a possible breakdown in National Football League labor talks, resulting in cancellation of part or all of the 2011 season.
A possible lockout "complicates the decision," Rosen said. "You['d] have to do a lot of hand-holding [of legislators], and nurturing and selling, and making sure that we still continue to move forward."
But numerous discussions continue at the State Capitol, at the Vikings' Winter Park headquarters, at the Metrodome offices of the sports commission, and in communities where a new stadium might go.
Arden Hills: Bombs away
The northern Ramsey County city offers 430 vacant acres on a former site of an Army ammunitions manufacturing plant. A stadium could be built near the junction of Interstate 35W and Hwy. 10; those highways and nearby Interstate 694 make it easy to reach.
Acquiring the property shouldn't be complicated -- the only owner is the federal government -- and it's expected to be put up for auction this year. There's more than enough land for parking, tailgating and other development that the Wilfs might want to pursue.
The site is polluted, but the Army is expected to clean it to industrial standards, good enough for a stadium.
But the site also would require highway expansion and a large investment in infrastructure. It's not connected to current or proposed rail lines. The site also is the farthest from the team's ticket base in the western and southern suburbs.
Brooklyn Park: On Target
The Hennepin County city is home to Target Corp.'s large northern campus, which has undeveloped acreage suitable for a stadium complex.
The Vikings have toured the site and are said to like it, although they've declined to comment. Mayor Steve Lampi said Target and the Vikings have had ongoing discussions.
As with Arden Hills, a purchase deal should be relatively simple because there's just one owner. It's near the intersection of Hwys. 610 and 169, major roadways with freeway links. But it also needs infrastructure and may be a bit off the beaten path for some.
North Loop: Riding the wave
Downtown Minneapolis' North Loop area is hot, thanks largely to Target Field. Now the Vikings are said to be weighing possibilities for a site between the ballpark and I-94.
Parking ramps and much of the infrastructure are in place, and it's close to a transit hub.
But the cityscape may yield a tighter footprint than the other sites. Traffic could be a mess if the Vikings go up against Twins or Timberwolves games.
Perhaps the toughest problem would be site acquisition: nearby properties belong to businesses, nonprofits and the city of Minneapolis. The Farmers Market and Mary's Place, a charity that provides for the poor and homeless, probably would have to be relocated.
Metrodome: The favorite
The Dome is thought to be the Vikings' first choice. "The Metrodome is the most cost-effective site," Mondale said. "It's paid for, it's available, it's downtown and it's already next to infrastructure."
The site has another advantage: a design for a 65,000-seat facility with a pitched retractable Teflon roof. The plan was commissioned by the sports commission for $2.5 million and drawn up by HKS Architects of Dallas, which designed recent stadiums in Dallas and Indianapolis. Estimated cost when it was unveiled 14 months ago: $870 million.
No funding plan yet
But the Vikings still lack a local funding partner, such as Hennepin County with Target Field, and a feasible financing plan. So far, the only party talking money is the Vikings.
The team has pledged to pay one-third of the estimated $700 million cost of a stadium without a roof. Vikings owner Zygi Wilf has said he prefers an open-air stadium.
But recent signs suggest that the team could budge on its share of the cost.
For instance, Dayton and legislators say they won't support putting public money into a roofless stadium used only on a limited basis each year. A roof probably would add at least $200 million to the price tag.
While Bagley last week didn't back off the team's refusal to pay for a roof, he acknowledged a "need to have a facility that can benefit the entire state and host all-season events."
In an e-mail message Thursday to Minnesota Public Radio, Bagley also seemed to suggest that the team might put more money into the stadium after a deal is done.
According to an MPR story, he wrote to a producer: "The Twins added additional funds after the [Target Field] bill was passed. Which is likely to occur in a Vikings scenario as well."
Asked about the e-mail, Bagley said only that it's not unusual for teams to spend dollars for stadium upgrades beyond what they originally committed to the project.
Mondale said he understood the Vikings' reluctance to publicly pledge more money to the project at this point.
"As far as I know there's not a concrete proposal on the table where that kind of discussion would go forward,'' he said, "and I don't think it makes sense for the Vikings to negotiate in the media either."