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ChatWrap: A $175 million funding gap

5/11/2011

Thanks to everyone who participated in Tuesday afternoon's SportsNation chat, which took place about an hour or so before the Minnesota Vikings released details about their proposed stadium in suburban Arden Hills, Minn. As it turned out, one of our primary points of discussion during the chat turned out to be the biggest unanswered question following the announcement: How much road improvement is necessary around the site, who will pay for it and will the issue prove a deal-breaker?

First, the relevant exchanges:

Jim Nobody (Minnesota)

Breaking News: Governor Dayton states that Arden Hills road work would cost too much and he appears to prefer the less expensive Metrodome location.

Kevin Seifert (2:32 PM)

Well, it's too late. The Vikings are going to announce their deal with Arden Hills in about 90 minutes. I'll be interested to see how they propose it is paid for. The state is in for $300M max, including at least $175 million for roads. The Vikings and Ramsey County would have to come up with the rest.

James (California)

What amount are they asking for Minnesotans to provide?

Kevin Seifert (2:34 PM)

The state would contribute $300 million via user fees. Ramsey County residents would be taxed to give another $300 million or so. And I'm guessing the Vikings cover the rest, but we don't know yet for sure.

Jim Nobody (Minnesota)

If Dayton says that they won't fast track the road improvements can the Vikings build in Arden Hills?

Kevin Seifert (2:40 PM)

We'll find out soon. I did see where someone was quoted saying the Vikings could pay the costs to speed up the projects.

John T (Eagan, MN)

Re: the state's contribution to an Arden Hills stadium, I believe the Star Tribune reported the $175 million figure is for infrastructure if the development is stadium-only. If there's additional development, then the price is about $250 million. Which means the state's only shelling out $50 for the actual stadium. I don't know how that going to fly with the Wilfs.

Kevin Seifert (2:52 PM)

I'm guessing they see it as negotiable. But let's say the entire project costs $1.2B including roads and infrastructure. That leaves Ramsey County and the Vikings to put up about $900 million between them. If Ramsey County's cap is $300 million as they have said, would the Vikings cover $600 million? And that's without having the NFL contribution.

Now, let's review what we learned later Tuesday afternoon: The Vikings will contribute $407 million to the project, Ramsey County will provide $350 million in taxpayer money and the state of Minnesota will provide $300 million.

That adds up to $1.057 million but does not include the costs of any road upgrades. Tuesday, Dayton and the Minnesota Department of Transportation said it would require between $175 million and $240 million to upgrade the surrounding roads to accommodate 65,000 fans at an NFL standard, defined as no more than an hour to access or exit the property. That makes the total cost of this project is closer to $1.25 billion.

So at the very least, I agree with Charley Walters of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. From this vantage point, there appears to be at least a $175 million gap in the money committed so far and what the state believes is necessary to do this project.

Maybe the Vikings and Ramsey County believe they can talk the state into covering the difference under the guise of statewide roadwork. Perhaps they have already agreed privately to covering at the last minute if necessary.

Or, in a conspiracy theory I like too much to sit on, maybe they're willing to build the stadium with insufficient roads, live through a year or two of game-day traffic nightmares and then hope that ticket holders pressure the state to address the roads in order to relieve the bottleneck. Stay tuned.