Friday deadline for Vikings stadium?

  • Article by: ROCHELLE OLSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 15, 2011 - 8:10 AM

Optimism to borderline grimness emerged from a meeting of all of the major players in effort to build a new Vikings stadium.

Minnesota Vikings owners and Gov. Mark Dayton emerged from a summit meeting Tuesday pledging to try to plug by Friday a funding hole of up to $131 million in the team's proposed new $1 billion Arden Hills home.

That hole appeared no smaller after Dayton reiterated that a plan offered Monday to address half the gap with state and local grants would count against the state's pledge of $300 million for a new stadium.

"We're committed to getting this project done if at all possible," said Dayton, later adding, "Where there's a will, there's a way."

The governor convened the meeting of Ramsey County officials, team owners Mark and Zygi Wilf, legislative sponsors of a stadium bill and Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission Chair Ted Mondale. After two hours, all emerged from the closed-door meeting preaching optimism, but looking borderline grim.

"We have a lot of work ahead of us," Zygi Wilf said.

Legislators have previously spoken of a Friday deadline, but it's not clear whether it is firm. The idea is to get a bill ready, conduct "informational hearings" without votes next week and have the bill ready for action in a special session at the end of the month.

The potential caveat: Dayton and legislators haven't reached a deal on the state budget. Layoff notices are going out to state employees. No one knows the timing for a deal or when the Legislature might return to session.

Participants said they made progress at Tuesday's meeting, but no one provided specifics beyond their pledge to keep working to whittle down a financing gap of between $80 million and $131 million.

Asked if the Vikings would provide more than the $407 million they previously committed to the deal, Wilf said the team's contribution already is substantial. Dayton reiterated the state's limit of $300 million toward the stadium.

Ramsey County is expected to kick in $350 million by increasing the sales tax by a half-cent countywide.

The remaining gap is the amount of money needed for road upgrades near the site.

The Vikings and Ramsey County offered a plan Monday that would seek state and local grants to cover half the cost. The rest would come in the form of a cash advance either from a Ramsey County bond issue or an interest-free state loan. The bonds or the loan would be paid back through fees and surcharges at the new stadium.

Dayton, however, said state grants for roads would count against the $300 million limit. The governor also said he would prefer something more direct than the "piecemeal financing" road proposal. He insisted that no state general fund money would go to the stadium, but other than that, "I don't rule anything out. ... If we can get a federal grant, great."

If a deal can be worked out, the Legislature could hold hearings next week, said Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead. "That's a pretty big 'if.'"

He and Dayton emphasized that no stadium will be voted on until the budget issue is resolved. The other stadium bill sponsor, Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, added, "This is a huge priority. Negotiations and talking will continue."

Rochelle Olson • 651-735-9749 Twitter: @rochelleolson

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