Arden Hills seeks stadium answers

  • Article by: ROCHELLE OLSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 2, 2011 - 10:53 PM

Development officials say they realize it will take time to resolve all their concerns, especially on roads. The mayor doesn't see "any red flags" to halt the plan.

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The proposed Vikings stadium site at Arden Hills.

Arden Hills development officials have raised concerns about several points in a proposed $1 billion deal for a Minnesota Vikings stadium in the north suburban city, but the city's mayor says he doesn't believe there are any insurmountable problems.

"I don't think there were any red flags for me," Mayor David Grant said.

In a discussion Wednesday evening, Patrick Klaers, city administrator, and Jill Hutmacher, community development director, presented the Arden Hills City Council with a five-page analysis of Ramsey County's stadium agreement with the Vikings.

The five-member council voted three months ago to discuss the possibility of a stadium at the abandoned federal munitions site at Interstate 35W and Hwy. 10.

Since then, the Vikings and Ramsey County have announced an agreement that would require $407 million from the NFL team, $350 million from the county through a half-cent sales-tax increase and $300 million from the state to build a stadium there. Yet to be determined is who pays for at least $131 million in roads improvements and infrastructure.

Arden Hills officials raised several concerns in a March 21 letter to the Ramsey County manager. The report Wednesday from Klaers and Hutmacher analyzed whether those concerns had been answered in the evolving deal between the county and the team.

The pair didn't take a position on the development, but emphasized in an interview Thursday that the city has had a goal of redeveloping the site for decades -- and that remains.

Though it appears many of the concerns have not yet been answered, most involved said it was because it was still early in the process.

Both Ramsey County Commissioner Tony Bennett and Grant emphasized the Vikings deal remains in negotiations and has not been submitted as a bill. Supporters hope a Vikings proposal would be considered in a special legislative session later this month.

Arden Hills Council Member Nick Holmes said it's a waiting game for the city with "so many unopened boxes. The big decision is going to be at the state level."

Here are six of the city's concerns, as noted by Klaers and Hutmacher.

• Concern No. 1: The development must cover its own infrastructure costs. The city isn't expected to pay, but road costs remain a sticking point between the state, the team and the county. Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission Chairman Ted Mondale and Gov. Mark Dayton have repeatedly said the state will pay $300 million for the stadium and no more -- including the roads.

• Concern No. 2: Ramsey County will acquire 430 acres from the site, with the team buying 170 acres and retaining development rights on the remainder. The city wants the development of the site addressed as a whole. The current deal gives the Vikings eight years to decide whether to adopt the remaining 260 acres, raising the possibility the team would decide against developing the land.

But Grant said: "I don't see that happening."

Bennett said team owner Zygi Wilf is looking at building a "first-class hotel" on the land.

• Concern No. 3: The team is responsible for the cost of police, fire, cleaning and emergency services at the site, which won't generate tax revenue unless or until the portion of the land not used for a stadium is developed. The current deal addresses operating costs for Vikings games but not capital costs, the analysis said.

• Concern No. 4: The city retains local authority over land-use approval, plan review, permits and building inspections. The current agreement doesn't address the city's role.

• Concern No. 5: The stadium must provide a benefit to Arden Hills. The analysis said the requirement is met.

• Concern No. 6: A reuse for the stadium site after the team's 30-year lease runs out should be established. City staff said no reuse deal is in place.

Rochelle Olson • 612-673-1747

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