Hot dish politics: Stadium deal still awaits an exact site

  • Updated: February 25, 2012 - 10:21 PM
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Proposed Vikings stadium site

Photo: Richard Sennott , Star Tribune

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For those wondering why an agreement on a new Minnesota Vikings stadium is taking so long, the devil -- as always -- is in the details.

While there are multiple issues still being negotiated, one is the exact location of a new stadium. For weeks, the football team, the city of Minneapolis and Ted Mondale, Gov. Mark Dayton's chief stadium negotiator, have been trying to determine whether a new stadium can be built adjacent to, and just east of, the Metrodome in downtown Minneapolis.

Building a stadium there would allow the Vikings to continue playing at least some games at the Metrodome during construction, and would mean fewer games at the University of Minnesota's smaller TCF Bank Stadium. The more games at the university, the higher the stadium project's overall cost would be.

In addition, the farther east the new stadium would be moved, the bigger a new plaza on the new stadium's west side could be.

The new plaza, which would sit partially where the Metrodome stands, is now seen as a key ingredient to the project by both the city and the Vikings. The plaza has received "considerable interest and debate," said Vikings spokesman Lester Bagley.

But pushing the new stadium to the east also would mean dealing with 11th Avenue S., a city street that runs just beyond a parking lot on the east side of the Metrodome.

Bagley said stadium negotiators have toyed with the idea of building the stadium over 11th Avenue S., and having the street run under the stadium. Doing that, however, would mean having to raise the elevation of the new stadium by 30 feet, which would create the added problem of having to line up the stadium's elevation with the new plaza.

Then there is the National Football League's concern about security, dating to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Having a public street running under a NFL stadium, with upward of 70,000 fans watching a game, would create obvious security issues. So the street, said Bagley, would have to be closed on game days.

"There's all these complicated questions," said Bagley, the Vikings' vice president for stadium development and public affairs. "It's not a matter of drawing a circle on a map and plopping it down, saying, 'Hey, it's here.' "

It is a dilemma, said Bagley, that cannot be pushed aside to be solved later. Knowing exactly where the new stadium will be located is vital to knowing how much the project will cost -- and a final price tag is needed for a stadium agreement to be complete.

"You have to have a site plan, and you have to know everything that's in the site because that determines the cost," he said. "From the project cost, you then go to the financing, [who] pays for what -- state, city, team."

For now, Bagley said negotiators are trying to settle on a "hybrid" solution -- building the new stadium so that it goes up to, but not across, 11th Avenue S.

"That's one of those issues that is being buttoned up right now," he said.

  • The week ahead

    The state's February economic forecast, a key tool for shaping spending and budget decisions, will be issued on Wednesday. The last forecast, issued Dec. 1, showed Minnesota with a surprise $876 million projected surplus for the two-year budget period ending in June 2013.

    On Monday, Minnesota Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, and Wisconsin Sen. Sheila Harsdorf, R-River Falls, will hold a meeting at the Capitol in St. Paul to advocate for a means of reinstating an income tax reciprocity agreement.

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