By Rochelle Olson
Vikings owner Zygi Wilf said Wednesday Minnesotans don’t need to be nervous about the NFL stadium momentum in Los Angeles.
He responded at training camp in Mankato to a question about Tuesday’s unanimous vote by the Los Angeles City Council’s approving the framework of a $1.5 billion stadium deal. “No, we’ve got momentum here in Arden Hills,” Wilf said.
He spoke to reporters after chitchatting with 18 Ramsey County officials on the field during the Vikings’ morning practice. The team invited the policymakers and civic leaders down for a tour and lunch. The officials stood on the sidelines during practice talking with Vice President Lester Bagley and Wilf. A reporter who tried to accompany them was escorted off the field by team public relations official Jeff Anderson.
Wilf disclosed for the first time that he met with Gov. Mark Dayton last week. Dayton also issued a letter late Friday saying he wanted an in-depth review by the Metropolitan Council and Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission Chair Ted Mondale about the Arden Hills site.
Wilf and Bagley talked of their hopes for a fall special session for the stadium. Both repeated that a deal is close. Bagley said Dayton “is trying to eliminate as much risk for the public as possible.”
The Vikings and Ramsey County have proposed a $1 billion stadium on a former munitions site in Arden Hills. The plan got nowhere in a special legislative session last month but Dayton has said he’s open to calling a special session this fall.
After practice, the Bagley and Anderson shepherded players over to meet the officials. Ramsey County Commissioner Tony Bennett, a stadium proposal sponsor,. wanted to meet quarterback Christian Ponder. Bennett told the rookie he should be starting soon. Ponder said, “I hope so too.”
Bennett told Ponder he’d help him find a house in Arden Hills. “You all take care,” Ponder said. “Let’s get this thing done.”
Vikings defensive lineman Jared Allen stopped by the pack of Ramsey County officials. “Let’s get it built before I retire.”
Wide receiver Percy Harvin quietly and politely shook hands with the officials, then turned around to see a bank of television cameras. “Do I do interviews too?” he asked Bagley, who quickly said no.
County Commissioner Rafael Ortega strode around the field like he was ready to help call plays. He thanked coach Leslie Frazier for calling his daughter to wish her a happy birthday. “She’s Mrs. Vikings,” Ortega said.