Secrecy shrouds Vikings stadium deal

The Vikings say $1 billion stadium plan, despite the absence of key details, would be ready to be part of a state budget solution.


The proposed Vikings Stadium site at Arden Hills.

Photo: Minnesota Vikings

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

For the past six months, the Minnesota Vikings' $1 billion plan to build a new stadium with taxpayer money has been crafted mostly behind closed doors.

Now, as Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican leaders conduct their own private meetings to resolve the state's $5 billion projected deficit ahead of an expected Friday government shutdown, the Vikings say their stadium proposal will be ready for inclusion in any state budget solution.

But the stadium legislation, despite being released in early April, has yet to have a public hearing at the State Capitol.

The proposal, which features $650 million in public money, continues to be refined in private. Those with a stake in it are saying little or claiming, with some exasperation, to know even less.

State Transportation Commissioner Tom Sorel recently paused in a lunch line to say that talks over how to pay for road improvements at a new stadium were continuing, but that he knew few details.

Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, said, "I'm really wondering what really is going on, and why aren't we more transparent. I'm a member of the [Senate] Tax Committee ... you'd think I might be in on some kind of loop."

Hints of new details, meanwhile, routinely evaporate.

Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, the chief House author of the stadium legislation, said in late May that lawmakers were studying revisions submitted by the Vikings and Ramsey County to their original, 12-page principles of agreement. Nearly a month later, no details have been released.

As recently as a week ago, Dayton administration officials hinted there would be new details on how the Arden Hills stadium would be operated and owned. The day of the purported announcement came and went without a ripple.

Public hearings still possible?

But evidence suggests that Dayton and an influential group of public officials have been working on the project and talking optimistically of it coming together. Lanning and other legislators have insisted -- though somewhat vaguely -- that public hearings would be held before the project was voted upon.

"It's frustrating for me as a co-author" of the stadium legislation, said Rep. Michael Nelson, DFL-Brooklyn Park, who said he, too, has been largely left in the dark.

Nelson said that with the state budget deficit taking center stage, there may not be much happening.

"You can't do [negotiating] in public,'' Nelson said. "If you do that, you're locked into your position ... it would be detrimental to negotiations."

Vikings stadium spokesman Lester Bagley said this week that the team was close to resolving a series of stadium-related issues and could be poised to have the project included in an overall budget agreement.

"I think we're close enough so [if] we were advised to wrap it up, we could sit down and hammer out the final agreement," said Bagley, the Vikings vice president for public affairs and stadium development.

Bagley said "a handful of issues," which he would not identify, were "being buttoned down" by negotiators.

Media 'on this like ... flies'

In response to those calling for more transparency, Bagley said, "This [stadium] conversation has been going on for more than 10 years, so I think the issues are pretty clear."

Ramsey County Commissioner Tony Bennett, one of the county's main stadium proponents, said when he goes to public meetings, he rarely is asked for stadium details. "You guys are on this like tsetse flies," he said to a reporter. "When something changes, then bang, it's on the front page. I've never seen something so transparent."

3 moments, elusive details

Three episodes show how details of stadium negotiations have proven to be elusive.

On April 14, Vikings owner Zygi Wilf suddenly appeared at the State Capitol. With the House in session, Wilf stood at the end of an adjoining hallway as a series of legislators approached and spoke to him privately. "I got a note that these folks wanted to talk," said Rep. Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights, who went to speak with Wilf.

What did the two talk about? "I had some input in terms of things that I thought were working, and things that I thought were working against him," Atkins said with a smile.

Wilf later that afternoon spoke to reporters for about six minutes in a Capitol hall but provided little new information. "I won't go into specifics of the bill," the owner said.

The second happened on May 17, after National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell met with Dayton privately. State transportation officials huddled separately with Ramsey County officials about road improvements needed near a new Arden Hills stadium.

State officials had earlier said the improvements would cost at least $175 million, which Sorel said that day still had "some validity." The next day the state dropped the cost to $131 million. No explanation was offered for how the cost fell. The figure has reportedly been lowered a second time.

The most recent example came June 13 when Bagley and Bennett suddenly unveiled a new plan for paying for the road changes.

The next day Wilf and his brother, Mark, flew into the Twin Cities to meet privately with Dayton. After a nearly two-hour meeting, the parties said they were making progress, but revealed few details. A subsequent report said the Wilfs had increased their contribution to the project, though it has not been confirmed.

Ted Mondale, who chairs the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission and is Dayton's chief stadium negotiator, said the negotiations by necessity need to be kept private. "There's no sense in bringing out something that's not finished," he said.

Mike Kaszuba • 651-222-1673 Rochelle Olson • 651-735-9749 Twitter: @rochelleolson

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


Tennessee 13 FINAL
Jacksonville 21
Philadelphia 12/20/14 3:30 PM
San Diego 12/20/14 7:25 PM
San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
New York 97 FINAL
Chicago 103
New Orleans 99 FINAL
Houston 90
Milwaukee 108 FINAL
Sacramento 107
Oklahoma City 109 FINAL
Golden State 114
Florida 2 FINAL(SO)
Philadelphia 1
Colorado 0 FINAL(OT)
Pittsburgh 1
Toronto 1 FINAL
Carolina 4
Washington 5 FINAL(OT)
Columbus 4
Anaheim 2 FINAL
Montreal 1
St. Louis 4 FINAL
Los Angeles 6
Edmonton 3 FINAL
San Jose 4
St Thomas (TX) 61 FINAL
Rice 72
Stony Brook 59 FINAL
Canisius 60
Temple 82 FINAL
Delaware 62
Long Island 69
Lehigh 65 FINAL
Quinnipiac 80
South Alabama 54 FINAL
Richmond 65
Seton Hall 89 FINAL
South Florida 69
Ga Southern 76 FINAL
Stetson 67
Yale 57 FINAL
Vermont 56
Cleveland State 54 FINAL
Virginia 70
Wright State 69 FINAL
Western Carolina 56
Nicholls 54 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 79
Morgan State 48 FINAL
Rider 62
Idaho State 72 FINAL
South Dakota St 75
Oakland City 52 FINAL
Austin Peay 76
Eureka 38 FINAL
Bradley 80
Appalachian St 65 FINAL
Charlotte 75
Connecticut 56 FINAL
Duke 66
Southern Miss 46 FINAL
Jackson State 66
Coastal Carolina 68 FINAL
Ole Miss 71
Montana State 53 FINAL
South Dakota 55
UAB 70
Ohio 69 FINAL
Evansville 81
CS-Dominguez 50 FINAL
Cal State Fullerton 72
Walla Walla 39 FINAL
Idaho 86
DePaul 59 FINAL
Oregon State 90
Nevada 65 FINAL
Pacific 69
Portland State 40 FINAL
San Francisco 77
CS-Bakersfield 56 FINAL
Utah State 57
Nevada 12/20/14 10:00 AM
Utah State 12/20/14 1:20 PM
Texas-El Paso
(23) Utah 12/20/14 2:30 PM
Colorado State
Western Mich 12/20/14 4:45 PM
Air Force
South Alabama 12/20/14 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Niagara 76 FINAL
Cleveland State 58
High Point 59 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 81
Towson 64 FINAL
Wake Forest 74
Presbyterian 50 FINAL
Charlotte 66
Chicago State 62 FINAL
Bradley 59
Northwestern Coll 58 FINAL
Drake 102
Vanderbilt 67 FINAL
Marquette 80
Temple 78 FINAL
Howard 48
Southern Miss 66 FINAL
Ole Miss 68
Rider 67
Miami-Florida 74 FINAL
St Mary-KS 51 FINAL
South Dakota 115
William & Mary 71 FINAL
Wofford 51
Troy 82 FINAL
Evansville 94
Loyola Marymount 54 FINAL
USC 96
St Francis-PA 52 FINAL
Duquesne 92
Indiana-Southeast 45 FINAL
Delaware State 52 FINAL
Detroit 74
Tenn Temple 48 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 68
West Virginia St 58 FINAL
Radford 52
Fairfield 47 FINAL
Seton Hall 79
Dartmouth 44 FINAL
New Hampshire 60
Ball State 47 FINAL
Pittsburgh 59
Jacksonville 61 FINAL
Tennessee St 64
Trine 45 FINAL
Western Mich 81
Tenn Tech 53 FINAL
Lipscomb 72
Samford 56 FINAL
Tulane 57
New Orleans 55 FINAL
Tulsa 78
Incarnate Word 61 FINAL
TX-Pan American 65
Ark-Little Rock 42 FINAL
South Dakota St 67
CS-Northridge 77 FINAL
Northern Ariz 71
Santa Clara 88 FINAL
Oregon 92
(19) Oklahoma St 55 FINAL
Weber State 49
Washington 69 FINAL
San Diego State 48
Cal Poly 68 FINAL
New Mexico 84
(10) Louisville 65 FINAL
Grand Canyon 51
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters



Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon




question of the day

Poll: Will Christian Ponder ever be a full-time starter in the NFL?

Weekly Question