Gov. Mark Dayton, the state's most important booster for a subsidized Vikings stadium, said Monday that the team should pay a larger share of the cost than they have publicly pledged.
Both the recently introduced stadium bill and team officials say the Vikings would pay one-third of the cost, along with one-third from the state and another third from a local government partner yet to be named.
Team officials declined to comment on the numbers Monday, while a stadium bill sponsor said it's widely assumed the Vikings would have to put up more cash.
When asked on Minnesota Public Radio's "Midmorning" program what the team's share should be, Dayton said it should be higher than a third.
"I think somewhere between a third and a half, probably closer to between 40 and 50 percent ... because I think that's an appropriate share," he said.
Pressed by host Kerri Miller to explain why the team shouldn't pay even more, Dayton said that wasn't realistic. He said that most sports stadiums are financed by public-private partnerships and that the Vikings' lease at the Metrodome is up at the end of this season.
"That's my assumption and belief, that if we don't build a new stadium, that within the next couple of years they'll either move the team or sell the team to somebody who would move it elsewhere, and we'll lose the team," Dayton said.
Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, the lead Senate sponsor of the stadium bill, said that Dayton's statement "doesn't change a thing."
Stadium bill backers, she said, have always maintained that the team needs to come up with more than a third of the cost.
"The Vikings are going to have to commit to more than what they have been saying previously," she said. "We appreciate him jump-starting the conversation."
Lester Bagley, the Vikings' vice president of public affairs and stadium development, declined to comment specifically on Dayton's remarks. "We're glad the governor continues to be engaged in trying to resolve the stadium issue this year and we look forward to sitting down and working through the elements of an agreement," he said.
Team owner Zygi Wilf, when visiting the State Capitol two weeks ago, said only that the Vikings were committed to a "substantial private investment."
The cost of a new stadium is estimated at $700 million to $900 million, depending on whether it has a roof.
The team says that the Dome is fiscally obsolete and that it won't renew its lease there after this coming season without a new stadium deal.
The stadium bill requires the team to pay at least $1 for every $2 of state and local money. It lists various funding sources for the state's share, including a sports memorabilia tax, a surcharge on the income of pro football players, a sales tax on luxury boxes and the sale of stadium naming rights.
Ted Mondale, chairman of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission and Dayton's point man on stadium matters, said the numbers are going to be fluid until details are fleshed out and a local partner emerges. But he said the public wants to know that the Wilf family will be paying their fair share.
"The Vikings' public position has been, 'We'll pay a third of an open-air stadium,' which doesn't really work. I think the governor's saying their number needs to be significant," Mondale said.
Dayton and many legislators have said they oppose a stadium without a roof, which would add at least $200 million to construction costs, because that would limit the building's use outside of football season. The governor suggested Monday that a roofed stadium might be built for $700 million to $750 million.
Dayton addressed the stadium issue toward the end of the hourlong interview, most of which dealt with the problems of erasing the state's forecasted $5 billion budget deficit.
He said he disagreed with sports economists who say the economic impact of a sports stadium is negligible. As many as 8,000 people could be employed for three years building the stadium, he said. Then the stadium would be used full-time for the Vikings and other events, he added.
Callers weigh in
Told by some callers that it would be wrong to use taxpayer money to help millionaires build a stadium at a time when state programs are being cut, Dayton said that public money would be used only for bonds that would be paid off by stadium users and visitors going to hotels and restaurants. He said another funding source could be a car rental tax, which isn't listed in the bill.
"I don't believe the taxpayers are part of the financing scheme that I've proposed," he said.
Of three potential stadium sites, Dayton commented only on the Arden Hills location promoted by Ramsey County; the others are the Dome site and an area near Target Field, also in Minneapolis.
The governor said he understood that the proposal for Arden Hills included an open-air stadium, which would be cheaper, but it would require $300 million to improve local freeways to accommodate stadium traffic.
Ramsey County Commissioner Tony Bennett said that Dayton was wrong on both counts. He said they would prefer a roofed stadium, and that the cost of improving Interstates 694 and 35W would be $160 million, with another $80 million for infrastructure on the site itself.
"No new roads would be built if the stadium goes to Minneapolis," Bennett said. "With our stadium, people would get a benefit, not only those who live here but the people who travel through" to vacations up north. And unlike the Minneapolis sites, Arden Hills would have plenty of room for tailgating, he said.
Dayton said he remained hopeful about a deal this year, but said that legislators would have to initiate it. Rosen said they remain convinced the legislators can strike a stadium deal.
"There's a lot of movement behind the scenes to get it through the political process," she said. A final stadium deal, she said, "is going to change dramatically from what it is now."
Staff writer Baird Helgeson contributed to this report. Kevin Duchschere • 612-673-4455