As the Minnesota Vikings field interest from stadium sites in Ramsey County and Minneapolis, a central question has yet to be answered: How much will a new facility cost in 2011 dollars?
No official estimates have been announced for either site, making it difficult to pinpoint exactly how much public money the team would seek. But over at SavetheVikes.org, blogger Cory Merrifield has made an educated attempt at projecting costs.
The bottom line: A domed stadium and associated infrastructure costs at the Ramsey County site in Arden Hills likely will fall between $1 billion and $1.2 billion. A new domed stadium on the Metrodome site, which wouldn't need much in the way of infrastructure improvements, would come in around $920 million. Both figures are based on approval in this spring's state legislature session.
I exchanged e-mails this week with Merrifield, whose site is unaffiliated with the Vikings but is dedicated to helping the team find a new home in the state of Minnesota. The estimates are based on the last official cost estimate, which came in December 2009 from the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission (MSFC): $870 million for a new Metrodome on the existing Minneapolis site.
Taking into account a $50 million rise in construction costs, the same plan would be at least $920 million if approved this year. The Arden Hills site could require an additional $100 million to $200 million in infrastructure costs, pushing the total above $1 billion.
With a funding bill not yet on the floor, Vikings owner Zygi Wilf hasn't made a formal financial pledge for this year. Historically, the Vikings and NFL have committed to paying for about a third the cost of an open-air stadium. Subtracting about $200 million for the roof, that puts the Vikings/NFL contribution to either a Minneapolis or Ramsey County stadium at around $215 million.
(The Vikings argue they shouldn't share in the cost of a roof because its purpose would be to make the stadium useful for events other than football games.)
Based on those calculations, the Metrodome site would require about $705 million in public money this year. In Ramsey County, the public cost would range from $785 million to $985 million.
Again, these are all educated estimates based on year-old projections and commitments. But a stadium bill is reportedly on the horizon, and we're going to hear some very big numbers that will look something like those above. They're not meant to frighten, discourage or sway you. It's simply a reality check of where we likely are headed. As always, stay tuned.