Vikings: Dome site is no bargain

  • Article by: MIKE KASZUBA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 11, 2012 - 10:28 AM

The team, disputing city officials, says costs make it no better than other options.

The Vikings said Tuesday that $67 million in hidden costs associated with building a football stadium on the site of the Metrodome mean it is not significantly less expensive than other locations, as Minneapolis city officials have claimed.

Playing at the University of Minnesota for three seasons while a new stadium is built would require $11 million to refurbish the two-year-old TCF Bank Stadium to National Football League standards, team officials said.  Another $19 million would be needed for parking at a new stadium at the Metrodome, and team revenues would shrink by $12.3 million annually while the team was playing at the university, they added.

Together, those expenses would bring the cost of building on the Metrodome site to $962 million, the team said.

But even as two stadium deadlines approached, Ted Mondale, Gov. Mark Dayton's chief stadium negotiator, said that a new stadium at the Metrodome site actually would cost just $918 million and that building there is the only way to finish a new stadium by 2015. City officials, who prefer a new stadium at the Metrodome location, had initially estimated the project's price tag at $895 million.

Mondale also said Tuesday that an agreement for the Vikings to play at the U was nearly complete, although a top school official disputed that claim.

Dayton has said he wants final stadium proposals by Thursday afternoon from Minneapolis and Ramsey County, where the team still prefers a $1.1 billion stadium in Arden Hills.

Mondale, too, said that state officials were pushing to select a site, and a public financing plan, before the Legislature convenes on Jan. 24.

Tuesday's developments showed that the Vikings' continuing stadium saga remained, at best, an unfinished story.

Soon after the Vikings released their latest Metrodome cost estimate, the university's chief financial officer said he was "caught off guard" by the team's estimate of costs associated with its potential stay at TCF Bank Stadium. Richard Pfutzenreuter, the school's top financial officer, said that, while there had been "very preliminary and casual" talks with the Vikings, no use agreement was imminent.

He disputed the Vikings' claim that putting heating coils under the field at TCF Bank Stadium would benefit not only the Vikings, but also the university's football team. "We don't play that time of year," said Pfutzenreuter, noting that the U's football season concludes in November.

Multiple developments

While the Vikings said they remain committed to building in Ramsey County's Arden Hills, the team has been exploring three sites in Minneapolis: the Metrodome, a site near the Minnesota Twins' Target Field and a third near the Basilica of St. Mary.

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

With all four possible stadium locations still in play, there were developments Tuesday on multiple fronts.

More than two dozen parishioners and employees joined the Rev. John Bauer, the rector at the Basilica of St. Mary, in saying that a suggestion to build a new Vikings stadium near the downtown Minneapolis landmark had produced "very serious concerns" about the stadium's effect on the aging, and fragile, basilica. Bauer stood on the basilica's front steps, next to a drawing showing that a new Vikings stadium would sit just 315 feet from the church's property line.

"Why should we destroy one of our historic landmarks and treasures for a developer from the East who has no history in this area?" asked Bob Harvey, a basilica parishioner, referring to Vikings owner and developer Zygi Wilf.

At one point, Bauer was asked whether simply giving the basilica money to ensure the church withstood the nearby stadium construction -- as part of a overall stadium agreement -- might be an option. "We certainly are willing to discuss that," he said.

Also Tuesday, John Stiles, a spokesman for Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, said that the city understood the team's concerns.

"They've raised legitimate concerns, and we're taking them into consideration," Stiles said.

In his letter aimed at dispelling portrayals of the Metrodome site as the cheapest option, Vikings President Mark Wilf wrote that "The $67 million in costs identified above brings the total costs to build at the Metrodome site to $962 million."

The team, he added, was also concerned "about the significant disruptions to our football team, our fans and our sponsors and partners."

And so all four sites, and the temporary use of TCF Bank Stadium, remain underdiscussion.

While Pfutzenreuter said that the Vikings and the university were not close to a use agreement, he added that it could be completed in a matter of weeks. The Vikings played at the university's stadium a year ago when a December snowstorm collapsed the Metrodome roof, and Lester Bagley, the Vikings vice president for stadium development and public affairs, said the team also faces the issue that TCF Bank Stadium has fewer seats than the Vikings have season-ticket holders.

Pfutzenreuter added that a series of major issues would need to be settled, including marketing and licensing agreements that bound the university and the Vikings to promoting different commercial products. "There's advertising issues," he said. "They're Pepsi, we're Coke."

Staff writer Eric Roper contributed to this report. Mike Kaszuba • 651-222-1673

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