The chief House author for a new Minnesota Vikings stadium denied Wednesday that negotiators were about to announce that they had resolved the remaining issues surrounding the project.
“We still don’t have a deal to announce,” said Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead. “Frankly, nothing would be announced anyway. Even if we had it, it wouldn’t be announced until after the [state] budget [deficit] is resolved.”
Lanning’s comments capped a day that began with reports that a stadium deal was close to being made public. The reports came as Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican legislative leaders continued meetings to resolve a $5 billion state budget deficit ahead of a state government shutdown Friday. The reports also came after a Vikings spokesman said the team was “close enough” so that it could “hammer out the final agreement” in time to be included as part of an overall state budget plan.
Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, said the early reports sent stadium opponents scrambling, and led to a conference call Wednesday that included her and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman. “It’s just clear that something was in the air,” said Hausman. “Now, nothing’s in the air.”
Sources reported early Wednesday that stadium negotiators had dropped the cost of the $1 billion proposed project by nearly $200 million, the Vikings had upped their contribution from $407 million and the state, Ramsey County and the team had resolved who would own and operate the stadium in suburban Arden Hills.
In addition, they said, an announcement could come later Wednesday.
“You’re headed in the right direction,” Sen. Doug Magnus, R-Slayton, a Senate co-author of the stadium legislation, said early Wednesday. Magnus however did not confirm specific figures, but said an announcement could come Wednesday.
The early reports came as negotiations over the project, which has yet to have a public hearing at the State Capitol, continued to be largely held in private.
Under a preliminary agreement announced in May, the Vikings would contribute $407 million toward the project, the state would add $300 million and Ramsey County would contribute $350 million, largely through a county wide sales tax increase. The team, county and the state however have been at odds over several issues, including road improvements needed in Arden Hills.
Lester Bagley, the Vikings vice president for public affairs and stadium development, said early Wednesday that “there are no hard and fast numbers. Ideas are being exchanged every day.”
But Bagley had earlier this week said that stadium negotiators were close to solving the project’s sticking points, and could have the project ready for state legislators to tuck into the overall solution to the state’s $5 billion budget deficit. “I think we’re close enough so [if] we were advised to wrap it up, we could sit down and hammer out the final agreement,” he said.
Dayton, a stadium supporter, had said that there would have to be substantial progress Wednesday toward solving the deficit in order to avert a government shutdown.
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