The kickoff to the real propaganda campaign for a new Vikings stadium occurred Thursday, when the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission called in the media to listen to a presentation from the architectural firm Ellerbe Becket.
This was beautiful stuff. The message was this plan would save $100 million by reusing parts of the Metrodome. There was even a suggestion on the Star Tribune sports pages that Ellerbe's idea was for a "reconstructed Metrodome."
Bill Lester, the commission's long-serving and highly effective executive director, was asked how many of the current 63,000 seats in the Metrodome would be salvaged with this "reconstruction."
"I think we're going to save the Puckett seat," he said.
This would be the seat in left- center field where Kirby Puckett's winning home run landed in Game 6 of the 1991 World Series.
The chair probably will wind up as a trophy in the Twins' new ballpark, since the Dome reconstruction offered by Ellerbe would preserve only a bare east wall and part of the foundation as a starting place for the new facility.
Allegedly, the use of that wall would reduce the cost to a paltry $853 million. The Vikings have suggested owner Zygi Wilf would be good for $250 million, including any NFL contribution.
That leaves the taxpayers to come up with roughly $600 million for the actual stadium, as well as whatever millions would be required in surrounding infrastructure.
The idea that using one wall (and no seats) would make this a reconstructed Metrodome can now compete with the impact of the 35W bridge collapse as the No. 1 myth surrounding the Vikings' stadium effort.
We're approaching the first anniversary of the bridge falling into the river. The Vikings would like us to believe this event somehow caused them to step away from a stadium effort that was building momentum.
Hogwash. The only time there was real momentum for a Vikings stadium was in the spring of 2006.
That was the legislative session when Hennepin County received approval for funding its portion of a new Twins ballpark without a referendum. Simultaneously, the decks were cleared for Anoka County to come back in 2007 and get a final blessing to do the same for a Vikings stadium.
The Vikings soon chose to back away from Anoka County and its proposed $280 million contribution. There has been zero momentum for a Vikings stadium since then.
The reason hasn't been the bridge collapse but the horrific size of the millions being bandied by the commission -- with Ellerbe's $853 million now seen as the low end.
The actual Twins structure was budgeted at $390 million, with Hennepin County providing two-thirds. The Twins' portion was one-third, plus overruns.
Two-hundred sixty million, plus infrastructure ... that's not so frightening for 81 dates in a cozy outdoor ballpark. But $600 million, plus infrastructure, for 10 dates in a new Vikings football studio?
After a decade of lobbying, the Twins took what they could get in a new ballpark. So far, the Vikings have not dealt with the reality of "take what you can get." If they had, construction would be underway on a peat bog somewhere in Anoka County.
The commission, more than the Vikings, has insisted on the need for a roof on a new stadium at the Metrodome site. The retractable roof adds $225 million to the cost, and a modern permanent roof isn't much cheaper.
An open-air stadium would drop the public's donation to roughly $400 million -- and you would be talking about a number easier for Purple-loving taxpayers to digest.
"I can't imagine that I would be living in a state where we would have three new stadiums [Twins, Gophers and Vikings] and none with a roof capability," Lester said. "It's not possible for that to be the case in the second decade of the 21st century."
Lester and his commission cronies can rattle off all the auxiliary events housed with a dome.
What they are telling us, when they say that, is it's worth $225 million to play the Prep Bowl indoors.
Sorry, but the real goal isn't a world-class facility. In these lousy economic times, the goal should be to be find the minimum investment required to get the Vikings to sign up for another 30 years in Minnesota and then build that stadium.
Patrick Reusse can be heard weekdays on AM-1500 KSTP at 6:45 and 7:45 a.m. and 4:40 p.m. email@example.com