Updated at 4:10 p.m.
An unexpected player has jumped into the fray to develop a key parcel of land next to downtown's future football stadium: the Minnesota Vikings.
The team said Tuesday that its development of land around a new parking ramp would be a better deal for the city than a competing agreement with Ryan Companies. The team would build a 16- to 18-story building with residential, retail and television broadcast space (rendering above).
Ryan Companies had previously agreed to pay the city $5.6 million for the right to develop a hotel and apartment tower next to the stadium parking ramp. The hotel fell through, however, and the developer now proposes paying -- in several installments -- $3 million, but only if it can meet a series of development objectives by 2022.
“How can you describe this as anything other than a bait and switch?” council member Lisa Goodman asked Ryan's representatives Tuesday afternoon.
The Vikings, meanwhile, said in a packet delivered to Goodman that they will pay the city $4.6 million up front for the development rights -- without conditions.
Precisely how much the city gets from the sale of the development rights is important at City Hall, since the money is needed to help fund construction of the Downtown East park.
Ryan is already building the parking ramp, a requirement of the stadium legislation, for the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority. Among other things, they had initially hoped to take advantage of the existing stadium spaces for their apartments, said Authority chair Michele Kelm-Helgen.
“They weren’t going to pay us for them," Kelm-Helgen said, adding that they could not legally give up the spots. "They just wanted us to give them those because they were saying we can’t afford to build those under our development proposal.”
Ryan then proposed building 200 additional spots on another level in their new project concept. The Vikings' stadium project executive Donald Becker said in a letter to Goodman that these changes would "adversely impact parking for stadium guests, unless use is restricted in connection with stadium events."
The parking issue flared tensions during a committee hearing Tuesday.
"Are we not right that this is predominantly about parking?" council member Jacob Frey asked Ryan representatives. "The shortfall and the failure of the hotel to go forward? … We’re all talking about parking here and the insistence that you guys build an additional 200 spots as opposed to [relying] on the 1,600 spots that are already there?"
Ryan Vice President Tony Barranco said they had wrongly assumed they could take advantage of the existing parking ramp. "When you’re building a large development on top of a parking ramp, it would seem to be the logical source of parking spaces for the project," Barranco said.
"We said we want … those apartments there to feed into the ramp that our taxpayers are helping to build, that needs to be full to pay off our bonds," Goodman said. "Now the state, and the [Authority] has said nope, you can’t do that. Now you have to build even more parking next to a transit stop, which has made it more difficult for Ryan to be able to support that price.”
Frey later criticized Vikings vice president Lester Bagley for the assertion that Ryan's parking stalls would impede stadium parking access. "I would be blown away if it was more than ...10" people leaving on game days, Frey said.
Bagley said that the ramp is used for all events at the stadium, not just football games. "This is a bigger issue than just the Vikings organization," Bagley said.