Minnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wilf emerged from a three-hour meeting Wednesday in Gov. Mark Dayton’s office and said he was “optimistic” that the team’s new stadium could be built at the Metrodome.
But Wilf, the governor, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and others painted a disjointed picture of how much progress was being made toward a new stadium, with Rybak again insisting that the city would not participate financially unless there was also monetary relief for Minneapolis’ Target Center.
Wilf and Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, the chief Senate stadium legislation author, also said that Ramsey County’s proposal to build a $1.1 billion stadium in suburban Arden Hills had not been discounted, though Rosen said the county had just days to come up with a new local funding plan. The Vikings, who have preferred the Arden Hills project for nearly a year, were scheduled to meet with Ramsey County officials later Wednesday.
“Arden Hills is not out of the picture,” said Wilf. “We would still like to explore [it].”
Ramsey County has proposed a three percent food and beverage tax to help locally fund the project, but key legislators have balked at the plan.
Rosen said Wednesday that Ramsey County needs “to come back to us with another proposal to keep them alive by the end of the week – then we’ll take another look at it. But at this point, it’s not doable as far as I’m concerned.”
Wilf met for nearly 90 meetings later in the day with Ramsey County officials, who wanted to hear the team's intentions regarding Arden Hills.
Asked on his way into the meeting whether the county would come up with another funding option by Friday, Finance Director Lee Mehrkens smiled and said, "we'll see."
Team president Mark Wilf said said the team did discuss alternative financing options for the county contribution -- currently expected to be $375 million. But Mark Wilf declined to say what those ideas were, saying he didn't want to "get into specifics."
"We focused on exploring options," he said.
The week’s flurry of stadium activity began late Monday when Dayton abruptly announced that only a new Vikings stadium at the Metrodome, where the team has played for 30 years, had a political chance to go forward at the Legislature this year.
Stadium negotiators have estimated the price tag of a new stadium at the Metrodome at $918 milliom, although the Vikings have said that it would cost nearly $50 million more because the team would have to play at the University of Minnesota for three years while the new stadium was built.
Rybak and Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, the chief House stadium legislation author, aired again their differences Wednesday over the city’s insistence on including funding for Target Center. While Rybak has maintained that the project may not be politically possible in Minneapolis without the funding, Lanning has said that including it loses votes at the Legislature.
“I think it’s a doable deal,” said the mayor.
“Target Center needs to be part of it,” said Rybak. “We need to be able to go back to the people I represent and say that we were able to help on serious property tax” relief, including financially restructuring Target Center.
But Lanning was equally clear. “We run the risk of losing some legislative votes -- some people who would vote perhaps for the stadium, but because Target Center is a part of it, may not be willing to vote,” he said.
It was unclear however what happens next regarding the stadium. “I’m not setting any more deadlines,” said Dayton, in describing how quickly a public subsidy package for the project could come together.