Reusse: Officials do about-face on Vikings stadium

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 23, 2007 - 9:03 PM

But no one seems to know where the $750 million in public money to fund Zygi Wilf's dream project will come from.

Larry Pogemiller, the state senator from Minneapolis, made it clear throughout the Twins ballpark debate that a public referendum was required to get his support.

Pogemiller continued to vote against the ballpark bill during the 2006 legislative session, even as four Hennepin County commissioners accepted whatever political fallout was required to make sure Major League Baseball would continue for the foreseeable future in Pogey's hometown.

Complications have ensued with the smallish site behind the Target Center parking ramps. Twins owner Carl Pohlad's contribution in the original deal was advertised as $130 million, but team officials have accepted it will be closer to $200 million by the time the slow-moving outdoor ballpark opens in April 2010.

Hennepin County's investment is capped at $350 million, so the Pohlad family figures to wind up with roughly 35 percent of the tab.

Stadium politics now have turned to the Vikings. There have been two shocking developments in the early going:

A) The estimated pricetag, which seems to go up $40 million every time two members of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission are seen in the same room; and B) the positive remarks uttered by Pogemiller in Friday's Star Tribune story on the subject.

Pogemiller is now the Senate Majority Leader. He was interviewed Thursday by legislative reporter Mark Brunswick and the word "referendum" never rolled off Pogey's tongue.

He said the Vikings were a "valuable asset," that it was the "kind of important project" that needs to get done, and he's certain the Legislature will have a "serious and hopefully fruitful discussion about what would be the public participation."

Attempts to get Pogemiller to answer his phone and explain his change of heart on stadiums for billionaires proved fruitless Friday.

The other people who have gone through a transformation are the seven members of the Sports Facilities Commission. For years, the commission pushed the idea that an extensive remodeling of the Metrodome would be perfectly adequate for the Vikings' needs.

Now, the commissioners have become the front men for the effort to get the public to finance 75 percent of a $1 billion Vikings stadium that apparently would open in 2012.

The commission has gone so far as to become the threat-maker for the Vikings. It was the commission, not the team, passing along the information last week that it would raise the price by $41 million -- to $995 million -- if the Legislature were to fail to approve a Vikings stadium in its 2008 session.

This was a twisting of the truth, at best. Consider:

When the $954 million pricetag was offered a couple of months ago, the commission said that was based on starting construction in 2010.

The Twins and the Vikings are both in the Metrodome for the 2009 season. Thus, demolition can't start until January 2010, whether the Legislature makes a decision on the Vikings stadium in the 2008 or 2009 session.

So why toss out the "extra $41 million" propaganda based on nothing? Because Vikings owner Zygi Wilf has high anxiety over whether or not he's going to get a stadium, and he wants assurance ASAP.

But guess what? If the Legislature and Gov. Tim Pawlenty fail to approve a $750 million public contribution to Zygi's profit center in 2008, the Vikings and the commission will be back in 2009, making more direct threats and still vowing a 2010 construction start.

Bill Lester, the commission's executive director, was asked whatever happened to the remodeled Metrodome plan.

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