State leaders say Vikings stadium is a no-go in '08

  • Article by: KEVIN SEIFERT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 3, 2007 - 10:39 PM

Meeting with three NFL executives, Gov. Tim Pawlenty and top legislators cited other priorities such as the economy.

State leaders said Monday they almost certainly won't consider plans for a new Minnesota Vikings stadium during the 2008 legislative session.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty and members of all four state legislative caucuses communicated that message during meetings with three National Football League executives in St. Paul.

Pawlenty said, "We've got other priorities right now." House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, said it was "highly unlikely" there would be any support for public financing.

Kelliher and Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis, said concerns about job creation, Minnesota's infrastructure and a state deficit projected to reach $373 million by mid-2009 will eclipse any talks about the stadium.

Eric Grubman, the NFL's executive vice president of finance and strategic transactions, said he left the meetings "informed and encouraged" about the issue but acknowledged the state's financial hurdles. Grubman said the legislators supported the idea of a new stadium from a "1,000-foot level" but expressed concerns as the issues "moved closer to 100 feet."

Chief among those issues, Grubman said, is how Vikings owner Zygi Wilf will propose to pay for the stadium. Wilf has pledged $250 million toward a $954 million retractable roof facility proposed for the Metrodome site. The Vikings have yet to propose a financing plan for the public's share, expected to exceed $700 million.

"What they said to us was that they'd like to see a [financing] plan emerge," Grubman said. "That's probably the next step, to get into the specifics of that."

By closing the door on 2008, however, state leaders have triggered a complicating factor that could motivate suitors to lure the team for relocation.

Construction of a stadium generally takes four years from its approval to its opening, but the Vikings' Metrodome lease is scheduled to expire after the 2011 season. Because a new stadium will not be approved before 2009 at the earliest, it wouldn't open before 2013.

Grubman confirmed that timetable but said: "There are no lines in the sand."

But he added: "What we're faced with is that this is the best time to build and it's not going to get any better. All that will happen as we get closer to the expiration of the lease is that speculation will erupt and outside parties will attempt to introduce themselves. So the NFL wants to make all of our 32 teams as successful as they can be in their home markets. We think that benefits everyone."

Staff writer Joy Powell and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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