Vikings Vice President of Public Affairs and Stadium Development Lester Bagley.

Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

Vikings issue reminder: Metrodome lease is up

  • Article by: ROCHELLE OLSON
  • Star Tribune
  • January 2, 2012 - 12:12 AM

From the sidelines before Sunday's final Vikings game of the season, Vice President Lester Bagley noted the end of the team's lease at the 30-year-old Metrodome.

The team, however, is expected to be back under the Teflon next season.

As the only remaining major tenant at the Metrodome, the Vikings aren't being pushed out through the turnstiles. But Bagley is trying mightily to use the lease's expiration as a catalyst for legislative approval of a new stadium.

State leaders "want us to give them certainty," he said. "We haven't got any certainty regarding the future of this team in Minnesota."

The team has avoided direct threats to move, and in a one-page ad in the game-day program, the Vikings said, "We're not looking for a new home. Just a new house."

The Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission operates the Dome and Chairman Ted Mondale also serves as Gov. Mark Dayton's lead stadium negotiator. "The Vikings will play in the Dome in 2012 under every scenario," Mondale said.

Maybe much longer.

Both Mondale and Bagley said the deadline may have passed for the team's goal of being in a new stadium at the start of the 2015 season. It is assumed the Vikings would play in the Metrodome until their new home is ready.

"We're confident it will get resolved," Bagley said, dousing his comments in repeated praise for legislative leaders.

The Legislature opens the 2012 session on Jan. 24. The Vikings want a stadium deal at the start of the session rather than the end when tough issues can get tangled up with unrelated matters.

Bagley said he will meet this week with new Senate Majority Leader David Senjem, R-Rochester.

Major questions need to be answered, not the least of which is who would pay for it and where it would go.

The Vikings' top pick is a former munitions site in Arden Hills. The Ramsey County Board of Commissioners has voted three times to move forward with the site. But the Vikings also are studying a site in Minneapolis on Linden Avenue near the Twins' Target Field. Bagley said on Sunday the team's research so far doesn't rule out that option.

Still, he said the team has "no firm answers" on that site, while the Arden Hills site has been vetted.

Also unknown is how to pay for a taxpayer-subsidized $1.1 billion stadium in a time of economic stress. The team has offered to pay more than $400 million for the Arden Hills site only.

Dayton has capped the state contribution at $300 million. Ramsey County sponsors have proposed issuing $350 million in bonds possibly backed by a mix of hospitality or sales taxes. That concept has not been warmly received.

Fan Cory Merrifield, founder of grassroots, huddled under his purple tent in his purple fleece grilling and drinking beer before the game. "I can't believe I'd ever say this, but I hope this isn't the last game in the Metrodome," Merrifield said.

But the tailgating lot was more than half empty and the mood less than celebratory.

"If this were a new stadium, this would be packed and there would be kegs and people giving out free beer," fellow fan John Schreiner said, adding his argument for a subsidy: "Roads, schools, government buildings and stadiums are public venues."

On the sidelines before the game wearing a newly autographed Percy Harvin jersey, Emily Manske of Minneapolis said she likes the idea of a new stadium because it would generate more revenue. "It could do for the Vikings like it did for the Twins and we could hold a Super Bowl," she said.

Rochelle Olson • 651-925-5035 Twitter: @rochelleolson

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