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Friday, January 13, 2012
Minnesota on the clock for Vikings stadium

By Kristi Dosh

No one knows where it will be, and no one knows where the money will come from, but the state of Minnesota appears committed to keeping the Vikings and giving the team new digs. On Thursday, three formal proposals were submitted to Gov. Mark Dayton by a close-of-business deadline.

The Vikings’ lease at the Metrodome has expired, and team owners have pledged not to sign another one until a new stadium has been approved. That has led to speculation that the Vikings might be an option for Los Angeles, which is seeking an NFL franchise. The Chargers, Rams, Raiders, 49ers and Jaguars organizations have also been mentioned as L.A. options.

One option submitted to the governor -- by the city of Minneapolis -- is rebuilding on the Metrodome site. The advantages include not having to purchase new land and already having infrastructure in place. The Minneapolis Mayor’s Office said that proposal is for nearly $900 million. Public funding is estimated at $313 million, which the city proposes to pull together by redirecting taxes beginning in 2016 that currently support the Convention Center. Construction could begin following the 2012 season, and the team could be in its new home as early as 2015.

The city’s plan – at four pages – was the least formal of the three submitted and didn’t include any dollar figures.

The Vikings are wary of some aspects of the city’s Metrodome plan -- including having to play at the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium for three years. The team estimates a loss of $12.3 million each year at TCF Bank Stadium due to "limitations on stadium space and capacity, available sponsorships, and fan amenities." An additional $11 million in facility upgrades would be needed, according to the team, to meet minimum NFL stadium standards. And another $19 million would be needed to build additional parking facilities. The mayor’s office says the Vikings’ concerns can be addressed.

Rather than re-build on the Metrodome site, the Vikings support a new stadium in the city of Arden Hills, at the site of a former Army ammunitions plant. The costs associated with this option total $1.1 billion -- the most-expensive proposal made. The public portion would be $375 million, which Ramsey County has committed to raise through a 3 percent tax on food service and on-sale drinks. The state would have to approve that funding option, but the county could then implement it without a public referendum. The proposed Arden Hills site is also the only site for which the Vikings have committed money, to the tune of $425 million.

The last proposal submitted was from the city of Shakopee, which is southwest of Minneapolis. The plan calls for the acquisition of land from two land owners said to be ready and willing to sell, and is pegged at $920 million. It would require a $400 million commitment from the Vikings, $29 million a year generated by slot machines at race tracks (not yet approved by the state), and $16 million in fan user fees -- a $5 ticket surcharge, naming rights, and a Vikings license place, among other possibilities.

The Shakopee stadium would seat 75,000 fans, compared to 65,000 to 72,000 at the Arden Hills site. The city of Minneapolis' proposal does not include any specifics about the stadium.

"We would work with the Vikings to give them the stadium they want,” said the mayor's communications director, John Stiles.

The state legislature, which would have to approve any final plan, convenes Jan. 24. Gov. Dayton is expected to identify a frontrunner prior to that date. The Vikings if planning to move, would have to notify the NFL by Feb. 15.