Monday, May 9, 2011
A Hail Mary in Vikings stadium frenzy
By Kevin Seifert
At long last, the city of Minneapolis has announced a proposal to replace the Metrodome, approximately 12 years after the Minnesota Vikings began campaigning for new facility. The news comes at a sensitive and complex time and requires a re-set of sorts. Here's my best effort:
- There are now two local government entities pursuing the project, Minneapolis and Ramsey County. The Vikings have the bidding war they wanted but appear to have reservations about both sites.
- The Minneapolis proposal, announced Monday by mayor R.T. Rybak, calls for an $895 million stadium that will include a portion of the existing structure. The Vikings/NFL would pay about $400 million, nearly twice their most recent public offer. The city would contribute $195 million through a variety of local taxes, and the state of Minnesota would establish user fees to raise the remaining $300 million.
- In a classic case of, uh, Minnesota Nice priorities, the proposal also sneaks in $95 million to renovate the Target Center for the woebegone Minnesota Timberwolves.
- Among many obstacles to the Minneapolis proposal: The state legislature would have to override a city charter that requires a voter referendum on stadium proposals exceeding $10 million.
- Another obstacle: The city did not consult with the Vikings during its race to put together this proposal. The Vikings reacted tepidly, and in a statement said: "Team officials first saw a broad outline of this plan late last week. The Vikings were not involved in developing the specifics of this proposal and have not agreed to any of the financing elements. While we have concerns about provisions within the City's proposal, the team will examine it in further detail and respond accordingly."
- Under the Minneapolis proposal, the Vikings would play at TCF Bank Stadium for two or three years. The Vikings reportedly would lose $40 million in revenues over three years if required to make that move.
- The Minneapolis proposal was an obvious response to recent reports that the Vikings are close to accepting a site offer from Ramsey County. That proposal hasn't been released, but infrastructure improvements are expected to push the total cost to above $1 billion if the stadium is ultimately built on Ramsey County's site in the suburb of Arden Hills.
- Much of the local business community supports a third site known as the Farmers Market, located behind baseball's Target Field. Rybak, however, prefers salvaging the Metrodome site. The government entity that initially championed the Farmers Market site, Hennepin County, pulled out of the running last week.
- Up to $150 million of the Vikings' eventual contribution was expected to come from the NFL through its G-3 stadium loan program. That program is tapped, however, and won't be refunded before the league agrees with its players on a new collective bargaining agreement.
- A bill with the broad outlines of a stadium plan was introduced to the state legislature last month but has yet to be heard by a committee. The deadline for initial committee hearings has already passed, meaning the stadium bill would require special dispensation to be heard.
- The state legislature adjourns in 14 days.
- The Vikings' lease at the Metrodome expires on February 1, 2012.
A reasonable person could read through that laundry list and wonder how this could all come together in the next two weeks. Politics are fluid and ideas can gain support in a hurry. But count me among those who are having trouble conceiving a conventional path for so much to happen in such a short period of time. If you're a stadium supporter, you have to hope that the frenzy of the past week will jump-start planning for the 2012 session.