At the behest of Minnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wilf, the Ramsey County Board will vote next week on whether to start seeking qualified architects who want to bid on designing a proposed stadium in Arden Hills.
If approved, the county would issue a "request for qualifications" for architects for a stadium at a former munitions site in Arden Hills. The county would review submissions to determine who is qualified to submit bids for up to $40 million in architectural work. The step is a precursor to a request for proposals.
The action is yet another sign of pushback from Ramsey County and Wilf against a Minneapolis stadium. Wilf sent a letter this week asking board members to approve the request for qualifications. If the action is approved Tuesday, the Ramsey County Board will have voted three times to move ahead on the Arden Hills site.
By prequalifying firms, the bidding process might move quicker, although some say the action is irrelevant and premature.
"There's urgency on this," Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley said. "The sooner we get this design process moving, the more likely it is we can get into a new stadium in 2015. There's no reason to wait until final legislative approval until we get this design process started."
Gov. Mark Dayton's stadium point person, Ted Mondale, said the design contract is probably worth at least $30 million, although much of the work has been done by the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission in the past two years.
"I don't know what putting out an RFQ does for them," Mondale said, adding that he was not aware of the action. "I would think if the state's considering putting up half the money, we would be consulted, but whatever."
Bagley said, "This would be another board vote that supports the Vikings being in Arden Hills and that's a contrast to what we've seen elsewhere."
Ramsey County Board Chairwoman Victoria Reinhardt, however, said she will vote against the action. "The state needs to make a decision. We need to get the financing in place," she said. "Then I'm more than willing to work with them if this is where the Legislature determines [a stadium] should be. Putting us out in front of them takes away their responsibility."
The Vikings' lease in the Metrodome is up at the end of this year and the team doesn't want to sign a new one without a plan for a new field. Team officials have dangled the prospect that other U.S. cities would welcome the franchise.
To pay for the stadium, Ramsey County Commissioners Tony Bennett and Rafael Ortega have proposed a 3 percent hospitality tax on a brew of beverage, food and lodging taxes. The commissioners say the tax would raise $25 million annually, enough to support the sale of $350 million in bonds. The two also say the taxes wouldn't require a voter referendum as their previous idea of a half-cent sales tax increase would. Most concede a referendum would likely fail.
Bennett said the prequalifying request would show the county isn't going "to screw around and wait" and possibly incur an additional $50 million cost for delaying construction.
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak has said he's interested in keeping the Vikings, but the 13-member City Council hasn't taken a vote on any aspect of a plan from a site to financing. The Hennepin County Board helped land Target Field for the Minnesota Twins, but has been silent on the Vikings.
Of the estimated $1.1 billion cost for the Arden Hills project, the Vikings say they would pay $407 million with the state expected to pay $300 million and the county $350 million.
The Ramsey County Board initially agreed 6-1 to move ahead on discussions with the Vikings. Last month, the board unanimously voted to buy the 430-acre site from the General Services Administration provided the state pays the $28.5 million. Reinhardt and Commissioner Janice Rettman noted that their votes were not endorsements of a stadium plan.
Rochelle Olson • 651-925-5035 Twitter: @rochelleolson