By Pat Condon
St. Paul, Minn. — Minnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wilf and his allies say they see nothing in a critical analysis of their plan to build a new stadium that would stop the project.
Wilf joined two Ramsey County board commissioners at a news conference Wednesday after the release of the analysis. The Metropolitan Council report raised concerns about delays and cost overruns on the $1.1 billion proposal to build the stadium in the Twin Cities suburb of Arden Hills.
Wilf didn’t close the door on the Vikings paying more than the $407 million they have pledged. And commissioners Tony Bennett and Rafael Ortega said they thought the issues could be addressed.
They said they don’t think the county would have to go above its $350 million share envisioned earlier.
The plan to build a new stadium in Arden Hills would take longer and cost more than estimated by the team and strain Ramsey County’s tax capacity, according to agencies asked by Gov. Mark Dayton to analyze the proposal.
Dayton commissioned the study in August. Metropolitan Council Chairwoman Susan Haigh and Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission Chairman Ted Mondale discussed details Wednesday after the report on the proposed stadium site in Arden Hills was released.
The Vikings won a victory Tuesday night when a Ramsey County panel rejected calling a public vote on a proposed half-cent sales tax increase to pay the county’s share of the project. Only six members of the county’s Charter Commission supported the countywide tax referendum, with 10 opposing it.
County residents testified by about a 2-to-1 margin against the tax increase at a public hearing preceding the decision.
The Vikings had complained that putting the half-cent tax hike before voters would delay the project by two years and add at least $110 million to the stadium proposal.
The Vikings also have noted that the Twins got money from a Hennepin County sales tax for Target Field without a referendum.
But the study by Dayton’s administration raised some red flags. Mondale said the construction schedule, to complete the stadium in time for the 2015 NFL season, was “too aggressive.”
The report also expressed concern that environmental cleanup of the site would take longer than the year estimated by the team and the county. And it expressed concern that St. Paul, the seat of Ramsey County, would assume the highest retail tax rate in the seven-county metropolitan area.
The Vikings are in the final year of their lease at the Metrodome and there is concern the team might leave without a new home. The joint proposal by Ramsey County and the Vikings calls for transforming 430 acres of a polluted former Army ammunitions plant into a stadium with ample parking for pregame tailgating plus future residential and commercial development.
The cost of the entire project is estimated at more than $1.1 billion, including a $407 million contribution from the team, $300 million from the state, $15 million from the MSFC and $350 million from the county via the sales tax hike.
Dayton said he’d meet with Vikings owners, legislative leaders, local officials and others in the coming days to discuss the project.
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