Near-Metrodome stadium site pushed

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 9, 2012 - 9:39 AM

A little cooperation between city and state politicians could get a bill passed to build the Vikings a new home.

There is a lot of work being done behind the scenes by the Vikings, the city of Minneapolis and the Legislature to prepare for the possibility of a stadium vote in the next two weeks.

The chance of this happening will be contingent on favorable action being taken by the Minneapolis City Council and the Legislature.

The only site on the table now is the one adjacent to the Metrodome. The plan is similar to what was done in St. Louis, when the latest Busch Stadium was built for the Cardinals. The Vikings would continue to play in the Metrodome while about 75 percent of the stadium would be built on the current Metrodome parking lot and land east of 11th Avenue South. The stadium could be built over the Elliot Park Substation owned by Xcel Energy.

Vikings vice president of public affairs and stadium development Lester Bagley has been meeting with University of Minnesota authorities on a regular basis to work out a plan for the Vikings to play at TCF Bank Stadium for one season while the final 25 percent of the stadium is built. This could happen if the stadium site is moved just east of the Metrodome.

The stadium would be modeled after Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, which just hosted the Super Bowl.

Mayor R.T. Rybak has made a great proposal for the city of Minneapolis, but if the city council won't cooperate, we will probably see the Vikings move like the Lakers and North Stars did when decent facilities weren't available.

This is an opportunity for some 7,500 local jobs but knowing the personality of this city council, which rarely does anything constructive when it comes to sports, I look for them to be blamed two or three years down the line for the loss of the Vikings. Then they will build a stadium that will cost four or five times more to get an expansion team.

Dayton optimistic

Gov. Mark Dayton, while hoping a stadium bill can pass the Legislature this year, believes the odds are 50-50 of it getting done because this is an election year.

"Some people would rather wait until they're re-elected to vote on something controversial like this," Dayton said. "But if we don't get it this year, and I hope and believe we will, we'll get it next legislative session."

Dayton said there have been a series of site eliminations, with the site next to the Metrodome the only one on the docket now.

Dayton added: "Mayor Rybak ... and all of the labor and downtown business leadership is supportive of it. If everybody who does support a stadium will call members of the Minneapolis City Council and tell them to get on board, it would really help."

Dayton pointed out that one-third of all property taxes in the city of Minneapolis are paid by people living and businesses located downtown, so having a healthy downtown is crucial.

"It's why I think we'll get it, it'll be close, they always are," Dayton said. "The Metrodome financing was a close vote, Target Field was a close vote, this will be a close vote. But once you're over the hump and it's a real project and people are excited about it, then it's a winner."

Dayton agrees with many that the events a new stadium can attract to this area is one reason it should be built. And the truth of the matter is that while everybody calls it a Vikings stadium, the team will play only 10 games (plus possible playoff games) in the stadium each year. But there is an opportunity to hold great events such as the Super Bowl, the Final Four and so many other national events, as builders of stadiums in Dallas and Indianapolis have learned.

"People lose sight of that, but it's a great economic engine and of course a great way for people to spend their time," Dayton said. "I'm hopeful this year and very optimistic that we'll get it next year if not this year."

Rubio's route to Wolves

Flip Saunders -- who was the coach of the Wizards in 2009 when the Timberwolves sent Mike Miller and Randy Foye to the Wizards for the fifth choice in the first round of the draft, which the Timberwolves used to draft Ricky Rubio -- said at the time, Wizards club ownership didn't want to spend the money for a first-round draft choice and for that reason made the trade with the Timberwolves.

Saunders, who was fired Jan. 24 by the Wizards, has one year remaining on his four-year contract. He has coached the Wolves, Pistons and Wizards, and said he would accept another NBA job if the club had a chance to win.

Jottings

• One of the early candidates for Gophers athletic director could be Jim Fiore, athletic director at Stony Brook (N.Y.) University, where current University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler was provost.

In his ninth year at Stony Brook, the 42-year-old Fiore is overseeing nearly $80 million in athletic facility upgrades and also elevated the football program from no scholarships to the full NCAA FCS scholarship level. Rest assured that if Fiore has interest in the Gophers job, he will be interviewed.

• The word is that Trevor Mbakwe, the Gophers forward who suffered a torn ACL in November and is out for the season, took out a $1 million insurance policy before the season that protects him if he never plays basketball again.

• Former Vikings defensive line coach Karl Dunbar has been named defensive line coach for the New York Jets. Dunbar's son, Karmichael, who was an outstanding lineman at Prior Lake, has signed with Louisiana-Lafayette.

• Former Gophers men's basketball coach Dan Monson has guided Long Beach State to a 10-0 start in the Big West Conference and a 17-6 overall record and received votes in last week's AP Top 25 poll.

• Former Gopher Phil Kessel has four goals and three assists in his past five games, giving him 30 goals and 28 assists in 54 games for the Toronto Maple Leafs. He is tied for third in the NHL in scoring. ... Speaking of the Maple Leafs, former Minnetonka star Jake Gardiner is tops among NHL rookie defensemen in scoring with two goals and 15 assists in 47 games.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. • shartman@startribune.com

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