State Sen. Roger Reinert introduced a proposal Thursday to move the Minnesota Vikings to Duluth by planting a new stadium on the site of an old U.S. Steel plant.
Reinert said the site is ready now, sparing state leaders from complex land issues that are dogging several potential downtown Minneapolis sites.
“Minnesotans already come to Duluth to recreate,” said Reinert, a Duluth DFLer. “Most importantly, we have a site, 500 acres, with buildable land around it.”
Reinert said a new passenger rail line will be operational by 2015, allowing Twin Cities residents to quickly get to Duluth for games and other events at a new stadium. He said the distance between Minneapolis and Duluth is the same as from Milwaukee to Green Bay, where the Packers have a successful franchise and a thriving stadium.
Reinert said the Packers’ arrangement allows more statewide buy-in and state money, something that could become crucial as legislators try to wrestle votes for an eventual deal.
It is far from certain whether the Vikings would leave a metropolitan area with 3 million residents for one with about 280,000. It is also not known if a Duluth stadium would be utilized by other events as much as a Twin Cities stadium.
To help pay for the new stadium, Reinert wants to open up the state for Sunday liquor sales, a cause he has unsuccessfully championed before. Adding Sunday liquor sales would bring in about $10.6 million a year, Reinert said, which is about $20 million shy of the money the state will need to pay its share of the debt for a stadium.
But a 2011 Minnesota Department of Revenue estimate of Sunday liquor sales predicted the change would bring in far less, around $500,000 a year.
Some liquor store owners in border towns, like Duluth, argue they lose money to neighboring states where Sunday sales are allowed. Some smaller liquor store owners oppose the change, arguing it would hike staffing costs without increasing profits.
Reinert submitted the proposal to DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, who has been leading the push to build the Vikings a new stadium in the Twin Cities. Vikings owners and state leaders have yet to find a workable site and a way to pay for it.
Dayton and legislative stadium backers want a vote this session, but so far they have not introduced a stadium bill for legislators to consider.