Searching for a detour around limits on state funding for a proposed Minnesota Vikings stadium, the team and Ramsey County suggested Monday a combination of state grants, borrowing and tax exemptions to help pay for $131 million in road improvements needed at the Arden Hills site.
But state transportation officials warned that the plan may be more of a dead end.
Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley and Ramsey County Commissioner Tony Bennett described the plan Monday, calling on the state to contribute $46 million in grants and a $ 4 million sales tax exemption on construction materials. The balance of $60 million to $81 million would come from either local borrowing or an interest-free loan from the state, which the team would repay.
Even before they had revealed the funding plan to reporters, however, the Minnesota Department of Transportation had indicated that any state money used for roads near the stadium would count against the $300 million maximum state contribution that Gov. Mark Dayton has set for a stadium.
The team wants to use the entire state contribution on the $1 billion stadium itself.
Dayton's office said Monday he had not seen the new plan and deferred comment to MnDOT, which released a letter that Commissioner Thomas Sorel sent Friday to stadium bill sponsor Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, saying that the $300 million limit included road construction.
Officials for the Vikings and Ramsey County said the plan was an initial offer open to further negotiation.
"If this gets rejected, we'll continue to work until the train leaves the depot," Bennett said.
The Vikings and Ramsey County announced a deal last month requiring the team and the National Football League to pay $407 million. The county would pay $350 million from a county sales tax increase of half a cent.
Bagley said Ramsey County also could issue up to $81 million in bonds for the road construction that would require debt payments up to $4.9 million annually for 30 years. In another scenario to get the roads built, the state would provide an interest-free loan that would require payments of up to $2.7 million annually.
The team would pay off the bonds or the loan through increased sales tax collections at the stadium. The team also would use a $3.50 per-car surcharge on non-Vikings events at the stadium and a game-day surcharge on concessions.
The proposal also would redirect Ramsey County's $20 surcharge on new and used vehicles that's already in place.
Many of the proposed roads upgrades would involve installing managed lanes on Interstate 35W. The lanes would go in one direction during the morning commute and the other for the evening.
The argument is whether the state should help cover the cover the cost of the so-called sane lanes because they would be used mostly by commuters during rush hours. The Vikings only would need the lanes for about 10 home games a year.
Bennett and Bagley denied that time was drawing short to pass a stadium bill -- even though hearings would need to be held before a legislative special session. The Legislature must return to pass a budget with or without a government shutdown. The Vikings want the stadium on the special-session agenda.
"We want to get this done," Bagley said.
Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, chairman of the House Taxes Committee, said he's had little time to think about the Vikings because he's focused on budget issues. "Until we get the budget deal done, the Vikings are the last thing on my mind," he said.
Rochelle Olson • 651-735-9749 Twitter: @rochelleolson