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Minneapolis' stadium plan revealed

Posted by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger under Minnesota governor, Gov. Mark Dayton, Minnesota legislature, Minnesota state senators, Vikings Updated: May 8, 2011 - 11:39 PM

By Mike Kaszuba

Minneapolis officials will announce a proposal Monday to build a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings on the Metrodome site that will have the city pay for roughly 25 percent of the project, a source with close knowledge of the plan said late Sunday.

City officials have scheduled a mid-afternoon press conference at the State Capitol to outline details of the proposal, which comes two weeks before the Legislature is scheduled to adjourn.  The city is competing with Ramsey County, which wants to lure the Vikings to suburban Arden Hills, to partner with the team and the state on a new stadium.

The city plan, according to the source, would use sales taxes from the city’s convention center for and provide money for a renovation of Target Center in downtown Minneapolis, the home of the Minnesota Timberwolves.  The proposal would also change the debt structure for Target Center.

No city property taxes would be used for the new Vikings stadium, the source said.

The city’s plan comes just days after Ted Mondale, Gov. Mark Dayton’s chief stadium negotiator, said that the Vikings were pursuing the stadium with the understanding that the team would have to raise its contribution to roughly 40 percent of its cost.

Two Republican legislators, Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, and Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, introduced legislation last month that would have the state, the Vikings and a local government partner pay for roughly a third of the project’s cost.  The latest estimate of the stadium’s cost was just under $900 million.

Mayor R.T. Rybak and City Council President Barb Johnson met Friday with Zygi Wilf, the Vikings owner, and an official from the National Football League but top city officials have until now kept details of the plan secret.

Following the meeting Lester Bagley, the Vikings’ vice president for stadium development and public affairs, said the city had a “vision” for a new stadium at the Metrodome but Bagley declined to provide details.  He said the team was still weighing both the Ramsey County and Minneapolis proposals.

Wilf also met with Ramsey County officials Friday and Dayton, who met with Wilf on Thursday, said the Vikings owner talked “very impressively” of the Arden Hills property, a former ammunition plant.  Vikings and Ramsey County officials have touted the property as giving team a better opportunity to capture parking revenues and provide tailgating for fans than the downtown Minneapolis Metrodome.

Ramsey County officials, who have hinted of using a countywide sales tax to help fund the project, have said repeatedly in recent weeks that they are close to an agreement with the team.

With the Legislature scheduled to adjourn on May 23, and still wrestling with how to solve a $5.1 billion state deficit, the Vikings stadium plan is expected to add a large dose of political drama in the session’s closing days.

Polls have consistently shown that a significant majority of Minnesotans oppose using public subsidies to build a new stadium for the Vikings.

The state’s contribution would consist of a variety of so-called user taxes, including a special lottery game, and would also have the state control revenue from the stadium’s naming rights. Dayton has said the state's contribution would be roughly the same for either location.

Though the stadium has loomed as a large issue awaiting legislators this year, the proposed legislation has not yet had a hearing.  Republicans hold new majorities in both the House and Senate, and a significant number of both Republican and DFL  legislators oppose using taxpayer money to help build the stadium, especially while the state faces major economic woes.

Stadium critics have also argued that public subsidies for the Vikings should not be approved at a time the state is making major cuts to programs for the poor and disadvantaged.

Since 1982, the Vikings have played at the Metrodome in downtown Minneapolis but have announced that they would not renew the team’s lease after the 2011 season.  Wilf has insisted he is not interested in moving or selling the team.

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