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Minnesota Vikings stadium saga continues, studies go on

By Burl Gilyard
Dolan Media Newswires

MINNEAPOLIS, MN — Ted Mondale and Lester Bagley are seeing a lot of each other these days.

Mondale is the newly appointed chairman of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission. Bagley is the vice president of public affairs and stadium development for the Minnesota Vikings, who continue to strategize for a new football stadium in the Twin Cities.

On Tuesday morning, Mondale and Bagley spoke at the regular monthly meeting of the local chapter of NAIOP, a commercial real estate trade association.

At the moment, several sites are being bandied about, but there is no financing plan and no stadium legislation introduced at the Capitol.

But Mondale noted that there is no shortage of analysis of stadium ideas and options.

“There’s literally $5 million worth of studies on this topic,” Mondale said.

Bill Lester, the executive director of the sports commission, said that to date, the public agency has spent about $4 million on various analyses of stadium development options.

“There’s a lot of analysis that’s been done,” Lester said. “There’s no tax money that funds us — it’s all money out of revenues generated by stadium operations.”

Lester recalled that the agency first studied a possible renovation of the Metrodome in Minneapolis in 2001.

In 2007, the commission tapped San Francisco-based Roma Design Group for a comprehensive look at potential redevelopment of the area around the Metrodome.

“We hired an urban design team out of San Francisco to look at all of Downtown East. That was more of an urban plan for this area of downtown,” Lester recalled.

In 2008, the architectural firm Ellerbe Becket completed a study that called for an $853 million “extreme makeover” of the Metrodome. The study argued that a reconstructed Metrodome would be $100 million cheaper than a new stadium.

Dallas-based H.K.S. design firm did a study in 2009, which outlined plans for a new $870 million stadium on the current Metrodome site.

The sports commission also tapped RSM McGladrey to pull together an analysis of tax money generated by stadiums contrasted with public investment in the facilities. Lester noted that the commission does not have any studies currently under way.

A Vikings spokesman said the team has largely deferred to the commission on stadium studies.

“Most of it we’ve left to the sports commission,” said Jeff Anderson, a spokesman with the Vikings. We’ve used their studies. If we came out with a study, it doesn’t hold as much credibility as an independent study.”

At the moment, four – and possibly five – stadium sites are in play. Those include the current Metrodome site, another in downtown Minneapolis near Target Field that is being billed as the “Farmer’s Market” site, a site in Arden Hills and another in Brooklyn Park. On Tuesday, Mondale floated another potential site near the dome on land owned by the Star Tribune newspaper.

The Metrodome sits on a 20-acre site.

In a letter to state leaders last week, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and City Council President Barb Johnson made a case for the Metrodome site, noting: “While the Metrodome site would require infrastructure improvements as well, the other Minneapolis location (near Target Field) could cost $150 million more than the Metrodome.”

On Friday, Rybak met with team officials on stadium issues.

“The city’s position has been … that the Metrodome is the best site. It’s ready to go; the city has already invested in the infrastructure around it,” said John Stiles, a spokesman for Rybak’s office.

Ramsey County officials also have begun courting the Vikings, trying to lure the team to the former Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant site in Arden Hills. The site is owned by the federal government, which plans to put 430 acres there up for auction.

On Feb. 15, the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners took a symbolic vote in favor of negotiating with the team. So far, Ramsey County has not conducted any study or feasibility analysis of the Arden Hills site for a prospective stadium.

“We’re really at the beginning of the process right now,” said Art Coulson, a spokesman for Ramsey County. “Nobody wants to do overlapping studies.”

The current working concept calls for an undefined mix of money from the team, the state and local government.

Mondale said that no one can get everything he or she wants out of the negotiations.

“If we do a good job, I think everyone’s going to be mad,” Mondale said.

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