In meetings with key political leaders Tuesday, Minnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wilf indicated the team may be warming to a pair of downtown Minneapolis sites for a new football stadium.
Newly elected Senate Majority Leader David Senjem said Wilf displayed maps showing how a new Vikings stadium would fit at a location near the Basilica of St. Mary or at a so-called Farmers Market site nearer the Minnesota Twins' Target Field. Team officials, however, remain skeptical of building on the site of the Metrodome.
While the Vikings remain publicly committed to building a $1.1 billion stadium in Ramsey County's Arden Hills, the day's events included several wrinkles in the high-stakes political maneuvering by the team, Gov. Mark Dayton, legislators and business leaders. The negotiating continued as stadium supporters -- with an eye on a legislative session that begins Jan. 24 -- remained undecided over where to build the project and how to pay for it.
Meanwhile, Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, that chamber's lead stadium proponent, said Tuesday she wants to unveil a final plan for the project by the time the Legislature convenes and then move quickly toward a vote.
"This is my personal goal [to] have something right away at the beginning of the session that we can get an up-or-down vote, and get it done," said Rosen.
Her timetable would be ambitious, especially for a project that has been debated for years and which public polls show most Minnesotans oppose.
Senjem seemed to distance himself from such an aggressive approach, saying that any stadium plan would "move deliberately" through the Legislature and would have public hearings that likely "would take a while."
The Senate majority leader, who was elected just a week ago following a major political shakeup at the Capitol, met separately Tuesday with Wilf and Dayton. Although Wilf showed drawings of the two Minneapolis locations, Senjem said he felt that much work still needs to be done.
"It just seems like there's a lot of balls up in the air," Senjem said. "I'm not sure the balls have moved a lot on this one. That's not being critical -- it just really hasn't."
'In the works shortly'
Senjem said the Vikings owner, at one point, showed him maps of a $1.03 billion stadium near the Basilica of St. Mary, the least studied of the Vikings' possible new homes. The team acknowledged last week that it was conducting an in-depth analysis of the site.
Senjem said Wilf's presentation on the Basilica of St. Mary location included road maps that outlined "an idea where it could go, possibly.
"If it was there, here's where the parking lots might be and things like that," Senjem said in describing the briefing at the hourlong meeting.
Wilf struck an optimistic note after the meeting, saying the project was "going to be in the works shortly." Rosen called the session "just a real good meet-and-greet."
Ted Mondale, Dayton's lead stadium negotiator, said last week that stadium supporters hoped to have a site chosen by mid-January.
While the Vikings want a stadium in Arden Hills, Minneapolis officials have said the Basilica of St. Mary, Farmers Market and Metrodome sites are all less expensive. City officials said they prefer a new stadium at the Metrodome, the team's home for 30 years.
The Vikings have pledged $425 million toward the Arden Hills project -- an amount that would likely include a loan from the National Football League -- and the team wants state and local government to contribute $650 million.
Despite months of meetings, no public funding plan has emerged.
On Sunday, the Vikings played their last game at the Metrodome before the team's lease expires. The Vikings have said they will not renew their lease unless a stadium agreement is reached.
Mike Kaszuba • 651-222-1673