By Brian Bakst
St. Paul, Minn. — A cadre of Minnesota legislators opposed to putting public money into a deal for a new Vikings stadium acknowledged they would let the team flee the state rather than let themselves be strong-armed into cutting a deal at any price.
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, meanwhile, laid out two financing options and three possible sites in a bid to keep the team from bolting from the city to the suburbs, or beyond. His plan relies on new sales and lodging taxes or proceeds from a potential downtown casino.
The Vikings have four games remaining on their Metrodome lease, and have made it clear that they won’t re-up without assurances that a new stadium will get built. Team owner Zygi Wilf has stopped short of threatening to leave the state, but other cities craving an NFL franchise are paying attention.
“We don’t want them to leave, but if they’re going to leave I guess that is going to happen,” said Sen. David Hann, a Republican.
Added GOP Sen. Dave Thompson, an assistant majority leader: “I have to do what I believe is right. I wouldn’t be making the Vikings leave. It would be the ownership of the Vikings making a decision to leave if they do and the NFL allowing them because they don’t get what they want.”
Wilf prefers a suburban Ramsey County site that could result in a price tag topping $1 billion, with half or more coming from state and local revenue streams. The team reiterated that it regards the Arden Hills site as “the ideal stadium site for the state, the Vikings and our fans.”
The statement came in reaction to Rybak’s announcement of three stadium sites in Minneapolis, including one on the current Metrodome property. The project’s costs would range from $895 million to about $1.05 billion.
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