Hartman: Dayton still expects stadium to be built

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 25, 2013 - 11:09 PM

The governor doesn’t think the Wilfs’ recent troubles will prevent the project from being completed on time.

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Speaking about the status of the new Vikings football stadium and the legal issues that the Wilf family, owners of the Vikings, are dealing with in New Jersey, Governor Mark Dayton said that the legal problems should not keep the stadium from being built.

“I think that is extremely unlikely,” Dayton said. “Anything is possible, but I think we’ll have a stadium built.”

The governor also said he hasn’t talked to the Wilfs about the problem that has developed over the past few weeks.

“It depends on what the facts show, but I hope it shows it was an unusual situation and not [their] usual way of doing business, but the facts will speak for themselves,” Dayton said.

Also when talking about the problem facing the Wilfs at present Dayton said that the NFL is taking a neutral position right now.

“They obviously are supportive of the Wilfs, as they are of the other owners, but I think it’s a case now where the investigative auditors need to go in and make sure that the people of Minnesota got a square deal,” he said. “And the representations were accurate and honest, and we have a basis for going ahead together. They own the Vikings, so we don’t have a choice of who we’re dealing with in this situation.”

There is some concern that the legal problem facing the Wilfs could delay the start of construction and thereby alter the date the stadium would be ready. The stadium is currently set to open in 2015.

“It could [alter that] and I’m not going to borrow trouble, as [the Vikings] said September 15 is the drop dead date for keeping it on time, and that probably has a little slack to it,” Dayton said. “But there’s no question this has to get resolved quickly.”

Dayton said he has talked to a couple of judges here who said they’ve never heard one making the kind of comments that Federal Judge Deanne Wilson made about the conduct of the Wilfs, using phrases such as “civil fraud,” “racketeering” and “evil motives.”

“I mean, that’s concerning,” said the governor. “And we need to do our due diligence and make sure we’re going to be protected. But as I said, on the other hand they own the Minnesota Vikings. We have to deal with them. There is no one else to deal with.”

Still the governor said that he’s remaining optimistic that the legal troubles in New Jersey won’t affect the building of the Vikings stadium.

“We’ll get the stadium built,” he said. “I can’t have you mad at me for the next year and a half. As I said, I think it would be extremely unlikely that it’s not [built]. But I’ve learned in this line of work to never rule anything out.”

Excited about plaza

Dayton is excited about the proposal that Ryan Companies has made to develop a gigantic section on the east side of downtown.

“I think if all of the city, county and everyone else in the bureaucracy can get out of the way and let them do this project it will be incredible,” he said. “The Metrodome was criticized because nothing ever happened around it. This stadium hasn’t even begun and they already have a $400 million project with 5,000 jobs in there and people living and the beautiful parkway.

“So this stadium is going to anchor that eastern part of Minneapolis — which is pretty dilapidated now. This is going to show why the stadium, in addition to keeping the Vikings in Minnesota, is worth everyone’s support, because it’s about jobs in Minnesota. And that’s just the first; that will trigger other projects. It will be a total transformation of that area.”

Does Dayton believe that the Vikings could be moved if the stadium deal were to blow up because of the Wilfs’ legal issues?

“If the Vikings move I’ll probably have to move to Bolivia or Argentina or something. I certainly want them to succeed, I want them to stay in Minnesota and have a great season. I want to see a Super Bowl victory before I pass on. I lived through those four agonizing Super Bowl experiences. I want one more crack at it.”

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