The Metropolitan Council on Wednesday edged closer to funding a $6 million pedestrian bridge at a major light-rail station near the new Vikings stadium in Minneapolis, though some members questioned why the team isn't paying for the project.
The bridge would span the light-rail tracks at the busy Downtown East transit station, a key connection for the Green and Blue lines near S. 4th Street and Chicago Avenue. The structure would be used not only during Vikings games, but at other events held at the new stadium.
The council authorized its staff to continue negotiating with the Vikings and the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA), which is overseeing construction of the $1 billion stadium. However, the council will decide later whether to fund the project, in whole or in part.
Council Member Jennifer Munt, who represents the west metro, said taxpayers' money "should not subsidize a professional sports team."
Member Gail Dorfman, from Minneapolis and its nearby suburbs, said she wasn't "convinced an investment is necessary or cost effective."
But most members appeared to agree that some sort of structure was needed to protect eventgoers from the tangle of street and train traffic at the site, which was purchased by the MSFA in 2013 for $17 million.
Harry Melander, who represents the eastern suburbs, said it was unfair to characterize the bridge as one used solely by the Vikings. "We would be missing the boat by not putting safety first on this," he said.
Council Member Steven Chavez, representing the southern suburbs, said he would be willing to pay up to $3 million, or enough to cover at least the construction of the bridge's footings.
The bridge will provide "safe post-event pedestrian movements and light-rail service" at stadium events for up to 40 percent of Vikings gameday attendees, or about 50,000 rides, according to the Met Council. Beyond the 10 annual Vikings games, the stadium will likely host more than 300 events a year.
Blocks near the stadium and the Downtown East station are being developed into a mixed-use office-retail-residential complex by the Minneapolis-based firm Ryan Cos. The $500 million complex includes two office towers for Wells Fargo & Co. with some 5,000 employees, up to 400 apartments and a public park.
The Met Council agreement also calls for the Vikings to contribute $250,000 to the council annually in promotional support for naming rights for the Downtown East station, with the authority adding another $50,000.