The Minnesota Vikings say they will meet with Minneapolis city leaders in the next few days and help them narrow their list of potential stadium sites -- even as the team continues to assert its preference for Arden Hills in Ramsey County.
The thaw in relations came a day after lawmakers publicly urged such a meeting and told the city to marshal its efforts behind a single site rather than the three it has been pitching.
A Vikings spokesman said team officials received a letter from Mayor R.T. Rybak and Minneapolis Council President Barb Johnson on Wednesday and will meet with city officials before next Tuesday's stadium hearing at the State Capitol. Until now, the Vikings have studiously avoided any talks with Minneapolis officials, saying their focus was squarely on Arden Hills.
Jeff Anderson, the team's director of corporate communications, said the team remains committed to Arden Hills site but is willing to "assist the city in their analysis."
"Obviously the goal for them is to narrow it down to one site," Anderson said. "And in whatever way we can assist them in doing that, I think we have to do that."
Anderson said the meeting largely will be "an informational briefing by the city regarding their potential sites."
Anderson said the team would not be "going in there with the intention of telling them what site." Rather, he said, team officials will give feedback that is requested on the Metrodome, the Farmers Market site and a third location on Linden Avenue, near the Basilica of St. Mary.
Rybak said earlier in the day that the Vikings' reluctance to meet was the only factor preventing the city from winnowing its list of stadium sites.
"The hang-up is the Vikings, period," Rybak said.
Rybak endured some jabs at a Capitol hearing Tuesday, when lawmakers said the city needed to come forward with a single-site plan. "You've got three [sites], you've really got none," said Sen. Geoff Michel, R-Edina.
A city divided
On that front, divisions remain within the city itself. Rybak and Johnson have said they prefer to build a new stadium where the Metrodome is now. The Downtown Council, a coalition of Minneapolis business leaders, has not taken a firm position but is leaning toward the other locations to the west.
"Because we like the idea of a stadium district, that implies that preference for west," Downtown Council President Sam Grabarski said in an e-mail. "However, just as the mayor is being courteous to our preference, it is our understanding that he prefers the Metrodome site, so we are still listening carefully to each other."
Rybak said they would "navigate" through the different viewpoints.
"It's a big city with lots of opinions," Rybak said. "But ultimately if the city's being asked to lead this, the city will have to lead the discussion where the site is."
Site selection isn't the only obstacle the city must overcome if it wants to keep the Vikings in town. Rybak faces a high hurdle in persuading the City Council to support a local public stadium subsidy, particularly if it features a citywide sales tax.
A near-majority of council members said in October that they oppose using a citywide sales tax to pay for a stadium. Only Johnson was willing to support it publicly.
Rybak also wants the state to bypass a Minneapolis charter requirement that requires a referendum on stadiums that cost the city more than $10 million. The author of that 1997 charter provision, Gary Schiff, now sits on the council.
Schiff took to Facebook on Wednesday to address comments at Tuesday's hearing that council support for stadium funding is lacking. "Yeah, that's an understatement," Schiff wrote. "Count me out."
Eric Roper • 612-673-1732 Twitter: @StribRoper