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Vikings face long odds of playing in new stadium

By Brian Johnson
Dolan Media Newswires

Minneapolis – The Minnesota Vikings are still hoping for the legislative equivalent of a last-second, game-winning Brett Favre touchdown pass to secure public help for a new stadium in Minneapolis.

The Minnesota Vikings could be playing at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome for awhile longer if the Legislature (AP Photo/David Stluka)

The Minnesota Vikings are looking for public help to build a new stadium that would replace the aging Metrodome. The team’s lease at the Metrodome expires at the end of the 2011 season. (AP Photo/David Stluka)

But some lawmakers and analysts say the odds are against any kind of meaningful stadium deal coming together before the end of the session.

Lester Bagley, the Vikings’ vice president of public affairs and stadium development, said team representatives have met with business and legislative leaders in recent days. He said he’s confident that there’s an opportunity to move on the stadium issue.

“It’s a challenge, but we have to move the discussion forward, and there is a window,” he said. “We look forward to rolling our sleeves up and working on a plan that fits for Minnesota and keeps this team here for the next generation of fans.”

In December, the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission unveiled a plan for an $870 million retractable-roof facility.

“We have evolved our thinking on that,” Bagley said. “We may be willing to consider a fixed roof.”

A fixed-roof stadium proposal is estimated to cost $698 million, according to Bagley. Fixed roof, retractable roof, or no roof, the stadium effort continues to face an uphill climb at the Legislature.

With the state facing a large budget deficit and with cuts to social services, elected officials would have to dig deep to find the political will to approve public stadium subsidies that would be viewed by many as a bailout to billionaires.

Rep. Bobby Champion, DFL-Minneapolis, represents a part of Minneapolis that includes the new Twins stadium and Target Center. While Champion said he wants to keep an open mind, he’s not quite ready to start rowing on the Vikings stadium ship.

“I am always willing to listen,” he said. “But I have to have something that would justify us doing that in light of cutting all these things,” including early childhood development, health care and aid for higher education.

Asked if the stadium effort seems to be picking up yardage at the Capitol, Champion said, “I don’t see a lot of movement. If I was a betting man, which I am not, I would not bet on it right now. It would be tough.”

Stadium supporters say there’s a sense of urgency to move on a stadium plan soon, because the team’s lease at the Metrodome expires at the end of the 2011 season, and the team has said it does not plan to sign an extension.

“The Metrodome no longer works,” Bagley said. “There’s a reason the Twins and the (University of Minnesota) Gophers wanted out. It no longer works revenue-wise … and it doesn’t work for our fans.”

Meanwhile, backers of a new stadium point to the thousands of construction jobs the project would bring to an industry that’s starving for work. According to the team’s stadium Web site, the project would put 7,500 construction workers to work and generate $21 million a year in tax revenue.

Financing is the biggest roadblock to a new home for the team.

Bagley said the idea is to generate money from “those who would use or benefit from the facility, so of course that means the team, that means our fans, through NFL memorabilia,” as well as hospitality taxes from restaurants and lodging.

An idea that the governor has raised is a lottery scratch-off game. A similar approach has been used for stadiums in Seattle and Baltimore, Bagley said.

But in a bad economy, it would be tough to persuade many legislators to raise taxes for a Vikings stadium. And expansion of gambling is always controversial.

Bottom line, a Vikings stadium deal this session is “very improbable,” considering that the Legislature has so many other pressing needs on its plate, according to Phil Krinkie, a former state legislator, longtime critic of stadium subsidies, and now president of the Taxpayers League of Minnesota.

“Obviously the Vikings feel they have been walked down the aisle many, many times by a variety of legislators and then got jilted,” Krinkie said. “So, is there enough spark there to get things going? I would never say it’s an impossibility. I would say, in my view, it’s very improbable.”

2 comments

  1. Maybe they could move the team to ………..hmmmmmmmmm………… say, Nebraska. Oops, they already have a better professional football team: The University of Nebraska.

  2. Lets not even mention the fact of this teams playing record before they obtained bret farve, IF they want a new stadium so badly pay for it yourselves! I would say the same thing about the twins stadium even though its already built at the tax payers expense of course AND the twins are atleast a better team. Unless you can fund the stadium yourselves live with the metrodome its not right that tax payers that some would not even watch football would have to finance your new stadium that you dont even need. Very well put BAILOUT for billionaires

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