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Dayton calls a stadium blitz

Posted by: Baird Helgeson under Minnesota governor, Gov. Mark Dayton, Democrats, Republicans, State budgets Updated: October 19, 2011 - 5:17 PM

Gov. Mark Dayton set a swift deadline to have stadium details finalized, saying Wednesday he plans to unveil his recommendations in three weeks.

“The ball’s in our court,” Dayton said at a news conference after a string of rapid-fire meetings on a new Minnesota Vikings stadium.

Dayton hopes to have financing, contract language and other recommendations by Nov. 7, giving legislators and Minnesotans about three weeks to consider the plan before a hoped-for special legislative session.

Dayton met with Vikings owner Zygi Wilf for nearly an hour Wednesday. Afterward, the governor said he told Wilf he wanted to finalize some details of the team’s agreement to build the stadium in Arden Hills. Dayton said he insisted the team pay for any cost overruns developing the old Ramsey County brownfield site and wanted to make sure nobody has a way to back out of the contract.

“I made it clear there cannot be any walk-away rights for anybody in this project,” he said. “We proceed together.”

Dayton said Wilf seemed receptive to his conditions.

An hour earlier, Wilf emerged from a closed-door meeting with Dayton, but declined to take questions from journalists about the chances for a new stadium.

Briskly walking away from reporters, Wilf answered just one question.

Are you happy with the progress?

“I am,” he said.

Dayton wants to call a special legislative session by Thanksgiving to determine the fate of a new stadium. If the deal implodes, the National Football League said this week they are prepared to move the team – which has played in Minnesota since the early 1960s – possibly to Los Angeles.

Dayton and legislative leaders are still working through countless unresolved details, such as the location of the stadium and how the state will pay its share of the facility.

Wilf has an agreement to build a publicly-subsidized stadium in Arden Hills, but with so many political and financial details looming, it’s far from certain where the stadium will ultimately wind up.

Before Wilf’s meeting, Dayton met with a group that wants to build a casino on Block E in downtown Minneapolis.

Developers say the state could take in $100 million a year from the project, which could be used to help pay for the stadium.

We had a “very nice discussion with the governor,” said Bob Lux, a principal with the development group, Alatus Corp. “We are very excited.”

Lux said Gov. Dayton’s staff invited them to meet with the governor, hinting that the governor might be open to expanded gambling to help pay for a stadium. “We briefed him, so he knows what’s going on with our project.”

It remains unclear whether new gambling revenue could be included in the final stadium deal. Native American tribes that already have a lock on casino-style gambling could file lawsuits to block the project, and a bipartisan group of legislators have ironclad resolve not to expand gambling.

Dayton and legislative leaders are left with little time to piece together a complex $1.1 billion stadium deal.

The Vikings and Ramsey County official have a deal to build the stadium in Arden Hills, raising sales taxes for county residents to pay $350 million of the stadium.

The team will kick in at least $407 million for the project, which could include a $150 million loan from the NFL.

There’s still a chance a downtown Minneapolis site could emerge as the preferred location, causing another wrinkle in the rush to complete the deal.

Dayton had another stadium meeting scheduled with Ramsey County officials in the afternoon, before he planned to talk to journalists.
 

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