Vikings told Arden Hills not workable

  • Article by: BAIRD HELGESON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 9, 2012 - 9:24 AM

Lawmakers' advice has the team taking a fresh look at Minneapolis sites, including near the basilica.

hide

Vikings released this rendering in November of their potential Arden Hills stadium.

Photo: , Credit: Minnesota Vikings

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

The Dayton administration and legislative leaders are quietly and at times forcefully telling the Minnesota Vikings that the $1.1 billion Arden Hills stadium plan is unlikely to work, sources close to the negotiations say. That advice has prompted team officials to re-examine previously spurned sites in Minneapolis.

The subtle signs of shifting momentum on potential stadium sites are increasingly apparent.

Vikings officials have conducted traffic studies of the Linden Avenue site, near the Basilica of St. Mary, and discussed the site in a recent meeting with new Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem. Last week, team officials also got a private tour of the site from Rev. John Bauer, the basilica's rector. Bauer said that he met with Lester Bagley, the Vikings' vice president of stadium development and public affairs, and that the team is conducting preliminary analysis of the Linden Avenue site.

"They asked to meet here, so that we could kind of show them around," Bauer said. "They were trying to look at the pros and cons of each of the sites."

Bagley said Saturday that legislators have asked the team to explore the other sites, but he maintained that the Arden Hills site is "ideal."

Gov. Mark Dayton has made it plain that he expects to arrive at a single site and method of funding for the stadium by the time the Legislature convenes Jan. 24. He has given Minneapolis and Ramsey County until 5 p.m. Thursday to make their best offers -- a move stadium watchers say will highlight Ramsey's lack of financing options.

"A partner without money isn't a partner, it's a friend," said one source close to the talks. "The Vikings are coming to realize that Arden Hills might not work."

But Bagley said the county's plan to raise the restaurant food and beverage tax by 3 percent is viable. He noted that he has not seen a complete financing package from Minneapolis.

In studying Minneapolis sites, Bagley said, the team has found "significant challenges" with the Farmers Market site, particularly elevation differences with Target Field. He said the team's experts have tested the Linden Avenue site and found "no show-stoppers or major challenges."

Problems from the beginning

The Arden Hills site has been dogged by problems since May, when Vikings owners held a news conference surrounded by cheering fans to announce plans for a $1.1 billion stadium with a retractable roof.

Soon, funding issues emerged. The site, an old Army munitions plant, is expected to need significant and expensive cleanup. An attempt to raise the countywide sales tax a half cent was shot down. The plan to raise restaurant and bar taxes 3 percent also faces difficulties. On Friday, Ramsey County opponents launched a petition drive to block the county from raising money to finance the stadium.

The case for Arden Hills appears even tougher at the Capitol, where the Republican-controlled Legislature has firmly opposed tax increases and shown no willingness to let local governments skirt public votes on sales taxes.

A Republican source close to stadium negotiations said legislative leaders have told the Vikings several times point-blank that "there is no viable path for Arden Hills."

Tom Horner, a politically active public affairs consultant who previously worked with the Vikings, said he is not surprised to see the Arden Hills proposal falling apart.

Horner said that Ramsey County Commissioner Tony Bennett "deserves a lot of credit for pushing the Arden Hills site as far as he did, but in the end, a lot of financial cards were stacked against that location."

Sources close to the stadium negotiations say there is no grand plan to force the Vikings to build in Minneapolis, just ongoing attempts to constrict the debate to what is considered viable.

Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, the chief House author of stadium legislation, said plans are under way to retool the Arden Hills proposal before Dayton's deadline to make it more appealing.

The changes could require a bid process to choose a developer for the 170 acres of land surrounding the stadium. The current plan would allow team owner Zygi Wilf to develop the property. But that change would not address a chief complaint -- the lack of a local funding source.

Nick Riley, Ramsey County's chief lobbyist, said it is unnerving to see the Vikings' obvious interest in Minneapolis sites.

Riley said he doesn't believe the Vikings are abandoning Arden Hills, but said, "Frankly, if it is Minneapolis, so be it."

Jockeying for favor

In Minneapolis, community leaders are showing fresh zeal for keeping the team and jostling privately to win favor for one of three downtown sites.

Supporters say those sites offer three key advantages: The potential to tap existing tax dollars for a local contribution, easy access for the wealthy west metro fans who will buy lucrative seating packages, and close proximity to companies most likely to buy stadium naming rights.

But while government officials are cool to Arden Hills, the Vikings are still rebuffing Minneapolis' top offer: Rebuilding on the Metrodome site.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak has said that site is the most affordable, can handle the traffic, and is free of unknown environmental concerns.

"We need to do that in a way that makes sense for us and doesn't mortgage the future of the taxpayers of the city," Rybak said. "If that works for the Vikings, we're thrilled."

But such a move would force the team to play elsewhere during the long construction period and, Bagley said, cause it to lose money.

The Star Tribune owns five blocks near the dome that could be involved in a stadium deal. In 2007 the Vikings struck a tentative $45 million deal for that property but withdrew, citing turmoil in credit markets.

Rybak said the city is prepared to work with the team if the Vikings conclude the Metrodome is unacceptable.

The Farmers Market site would connect the stadium to Target Field parking lots and light rail, but it would be wedged into a comparatively tiny parcel of the land and lack the expansion possibilities of Arden Hills.

Chuck Leer, a developer promoting the Farmers Market site, said team owners are "awakening to the possibilities" of an urban sports corridor, an idea long favored by downtown business leaders that would put the stadium close to thriving hotels, restaurants and an entertainment district.

But the Vikings have appeared more intrigued by the Linden Avenue site, tucked into a little-traveled corner on the western edge of downtown, in a scrubby industrial area dotted with low-slung Xcel Energy storage and maintenance buildings and surrounded on three sides by freeways.

That site poses its own challenges. In a letter that will soon be sent to the basilica's 6,300-member parish, Bauer wrote that he has "serious concerns" about having a football stadium for a neighbor.

"The basilica is currently a beacon on the skyline, and the notion of a major stadium so close to this historic building is not comforting," he wrote. The letter notes that major construction would "do harm to our buildings" and parking for Sunday games would prove "daunting."

The biggest question for a Minneapolis site may be whether Rybak has the political muscle to persuade a skeptical City Council to support the use of tax dollars for a new Vikings home.

Rybak "still governs a city with lots of other challenges," Horner said. "Even in a year with minimal city property tax increases, a lot of Minneapolitans aren't going to happily accept public subsidies for a stadium."

Staff writers Kevin Duchschere, Mike Kaszuba and Jim Spencer contributed to this report. baird.helgeson@startribune.com • 651-222-1288

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Tampa 6 FINAL
Philadelphia 2
LA Clippers 96 FINAL
Chicago 86
Cleveland 47 3rd Qtr
Houston 50
Golden State 5:00 PM
Boston
Philadelphia 5:00 PM
Indiana
Portland 5:00 PM
Sacramento
Charlotte 5:00 PM
Orlando
Oklahoma City 5:30 PM
LA Lakers
New Orleans 7:00 PM
Denver
Los Angeles 0 2nd Prd
Winnipeg 1
Tampa Bay 4:00 PM
Florida
Columbus 4:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Toronto 6:00 PM
Washington
Anaheim 7:00 PM
Dallas
St. Louis 8:30 PM
Vancouver
SMU 73 FINAL
Connecticut 81
Quinnipiac 65 FINAL
Manhattan 69
Fairfield 56 FINAL
Niagara 57
Marist 49 FINAL
Rider 59
Iona 60 FINAL
Saint Peters 68
Oregon State 55 2nd Half 2:30
California 65
South Florida 46 2nd Half 3:30
Houston 69
Marquette 36 2nd Half 11:46
Providence 56
Michigan State 25 2nd Half
Wisconsin 36
Siena 9 1st Half 11:35
Monmouth 12
Pittsburgh 5:30 PM
Wake Forest
Oregon 6:00 PM
Stanford
Purdue 6:30 PM
Ohio State
Arizona State 7:30 PM
Colorado
Washington St 8:30 PM
UCLA
Georgetown 66 FINAL
Providence 81
Binghamton 50 FINAL
UMBC 73
Elon 65 FINAL
Hofstra 58
Virginia Tech 47 FINAL
Boston College 49
(8) Louisville 59 FINAL
Virginia 75
Texas 69 FINAL
West Virginia 76
Creighton 53 FINAL
Villanova 61
Seton Hall 85 FINAL
Butler 76
UNC-Wilmington 76 FINAL
Coll of Charleston 65
(5) Maryland 69 FINAL
(25) Northwestern 48
Saint Josephs 67 FINAL
La Salle 55
Louisiana Tech 53 FINAL
TX-San Antonio 60
Rhode Island 70 FINAL
Massachusetts 78
Richmond 55 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 49
Davidson 46 FINAL
Fordham 54
St Bonaventure 43 FINAL
Duquesne 51
George Mason 45 FINAL
(22) George Washington 80
Indiana 60 FINAL
(20) Rutgers 71
(12) Texas A&M 63 FINAL
LSU 80
Ole Miss 47 FINAL
(11) Miss State 55
Clemson 56 FINAL
Pittsburgh 61
Maine 47 FINAL
New Hampshire 61
Vermont 48 FINAL
Albany 76
Quinnipiac 87 FINAL
Monmouth 48
Saint Peters 47 FINAL
Siena 64
(4) Notre Dame 67 FINAL
NC State 60
Wisconsin 62 FINAL
Penn State 56
Stony Brook 49 FINAL
Hartford 56
Northeastern 47 FINAL
William & Mary 62
St Johns 61 FINAL
Xavier 74
James Madison 74 FINAL
Delaware 71
Towson 45 FINAL
Drexel 50
Illinois State 46 2nd Half 1:15
Bradley 54
Southern Ill 65 2nd Half 0:28
Loyola-Chicago 60
Northern Iowa 53 2nd Half 0:52
Wichita State 59
Minnesota 74 2nd Half 0:37
(17) Iowa 92
(15) North Carolina 61 2nd Half 6:32
(16) Duke 68
Alabama 58 2nd Half 3:20
Auburn 70
(9) Florida State 58 2nd Half 4:17
Miami-Florida 47
Arkansas 41 FINAL
Missouri 57
Georgia 49 2nd Half 1:15
Florida 45
Dayton 95 FINAL
Saint Louis 68
Drake 55 2nd Half 0:20
Missouri State 86
Colorado 21 2nd Half
(10) Arizona State 22
(19) Stanford 30 2nd Half
Oregon 29
Marquette 43 2nd Half
DePaul 46
Southern Miss 35 2nd Half
Texas-El Paso 37
Vanderbilt 4:00 PM
(6) Tennessee
(2) South Carolina 4:00 PM
(13) Kentucky
Utah 4:00 PM
Arizona
Ohio State 4:00 PM
Nebraska
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

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 NoonX37-35
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago NoonX13-9

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: With Adrian Peterson's suspension overturned, what should the Vikings do?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close