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Gov. Mark Dayton

David Denney, Star Tribune

Stadium pitches get deadline from governor

  • Article by: MIKE KASZUBA and ERIC ROPER
  • Star Tribune staff writers
  • January 6, 2012 - 6:47 AM

Gov. Mark Dayton is giving Minneapolis and Ramsey County until next week to submit final proposals on a new Minnesota Vikings stadium, and he said Thursday that a location for the much-debated project soon will be "clear cut."

"I think the facts will speak for themselves," Dayton said of what will be the final, competing proposals. "One of them will show ultimately to be a better option."

While the Vikings have insisted for nearly a year that they want to build in Arden Hills, team spokesman Lester Bagley acknowledged Thursday that others will influence the decision.

"If the public is going to put in approximately 60 percent of the deal, the public's going to have a fair amount to say about the site," he said, reacting to supporters of a site in Minneapolis. "Who chooses? Do we choose? Who chooses?"

Sounding a note of urgency, Dayton set a deadline of 5 p.m. Thursday and said he wants to choose a stadium site and funding plan by the time the Legislature convenes Jan. 24. Recently elected Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem has said any stadium plan would "move deliberately" through the Legislature.

Acknowledging that previous deadlines had come and gone, Dayton said the ongoing stadium debate has been stuck in a "semi-Twilight Zone, where we know some of the facts, we don't know all of them, and some people [are] showing cards, and some people [are] not showing cards."

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said Thursday that the city will stick with its proposal to build on the site of the Metrodome.

"If the Vikings ultimately want to go to another place or another government body wants that, then they have to find a way to come up with some more money for it," Rybak said. "Let's be especially clear about it: Doing it at the Metrodome is less expensive. So that makes it easier to finance. We are putting what we think we can realistically put on the table. But there may still be a gap there. We're working on that."

City officials said their proposal represents a "three-in-one" solution that would build a new Vikings stadium while financially stabilizing the city's convention center and Target Center.

The Star Tribune owns five blocks near the Dome that could be involved in a stadium deal. In 2007 the Vikings struck a tentative $45 million deal for that property but withdrew, citing turmoil in credit markets.

Ramsey County Commissioner Tony Bennett expressed frustration Thursday, wondering whether the latest timetable was "the last hoop" in his efforts to bring a $1.1 billion stadium to suburban Arden Hills.

"We've walked so many different aisles with the governor and the Legislature. I don't know if the janitor and the night sweepers have checked us out yet, but everybody else has," said Bennett, who said he did not expect the county to markedly change its proposal.

In a day of multiple stadium developments, Minneapolis officials again promoted the site of the 30-year-old Metrodome as the best and cheapest choice for the project. Meanwhile, Dayton's top stadium negotiator said that with the uncertainty surrounding a new stadium, he would meet with the Vikings to extend the team's lease at the Metrodome through this coming season.

With a week to finalize the plans, all four stadium sites -- three in Minneapolis and the one in Arden Hills -- have advantages and some distinct flaws.

The Vikings say the $895 million plan to rebuild the aging Metrodome does not include the cost of having the team play at the University of Minnesota while a new stadium is built. The Arden Hills proposal may rely on a local option tax that a leading legislator already has criticized.

A city official said two other Minneapolis locations, one near the Minnesota Twins' Target Field and another near the Basilica of St. Mary, could have added costs because there has not yet been any analysis of the soils.

"We haven't invested any money doing that work because, very frankly, I don't want to spend any money if, indeed, [the Vikings are] going to go to Arden Hills," said Chuck Lutz, the city's deputy director of community planning and economic development.

Staff writers Jim Spencer and Rochelle Olson contributed to this report. mkaszuba@startribune.com • 651-925-5045 eroper@startribune.com • 612-673- 1732

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