Senators want to see city, Vikings work on Minneapolis site
ST. PAUL — Minnesota Vikings executives should help Minneapolis leaders choose a site downtown for a new stadium despite the team's desire to build in a suburb north of St. Paul, an influential state senator says.
During a joint hearing Tuesday of two Senate committees, Vikings and Ramsey County leaders touted their plan to put a $1.1 billion stadium on the site of a former Army ammunition plant in Arden Hills.
The mayor and city council president of Minneapolis hope to keep the stadium, financed largely by the public, in downtown Minneapolis with promises of lower construction costs and revenue from an existing local sales tax.
State lawmakers will ultimately decide whether and where a new stadium should be built.
Sen. Carla Nelson, R-Rochester, a member of the Senate Taxes Committee, said she's hearing from constituents who don't want the Vikings to leave the state but also don't want to pay for a new stadium with taxes.
There are three potential sites for a stadium in Minneapolis, and Nelson said that "they absolutely have to get that Minneapolis site down to one site."
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said city leaders prefer the proposal to build at the site of the Metrodome, where the team plays now, but that it's been difficult to choose between that and two proposals on the other side of downtown because Vikings officials won't meet with city leaders or select one of the three Minneapolis sites.
Sen. Julianne Ortman, chairwoman of the Senate Taxes Committee, encouraged Vikings executives to sit down with Minneapolis stadium boosters. "I for one think it's in your best interest to help us narrow down these sites," said Ortman, a Republican from Chanhassen.
Lester Bagley, a Vikings vice president, said they would do so. But he stressed that team owners Zygi and Mark Wilf are interested in what they see as a greater "fan experience" offered by the 430-acre Arden Hills site — room for team practice facilities, adjacent parking and tailgating and plenty of adjacent space for related retail, hotel and restaurant development.
The three Minneapolis proposals each offer a cheaper total price tag. The plan to build at the Metrodome site is estimated to cost $895 million. The two proposals west of downtown, near the Twins' Target Field, each are estimated at about $1 billion. Zygi Wilf has said he would contribute less money to a Minneapolis stadium than he would to one in Arden Hills.
Sen. Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, is a member of a bipartisan Vikings stadium working group that has been meeting weekly and hopes to craft a bill that can pass the House and Senate.
Details that need to be worked out with the Vikings, in addition to the site, include how revenue from concessions, suites and naming rights would be divvied up between the team and the state.
Senjem called the Vikings stadium "an issue that the Legislature can't run away from."
Another issue is what form the state funding would take, Senjem said. Nobody in the bipartisan group would push for using general taxpayer dollars, he said. Gaming revenue is an option, though it isn't clear what kind of gaming. Another option is a combination of gaming revenue and something else, possibly an extension of the food and beverage tax in Minneapolis.
Also to be determined is how revenue from non-Viking events at the stadium, such as a rock concert, would be divided, Senjem said.
"I just think that overall, we need to be able to tell the Vikings one way or another what the direction of the Legislature is on this," Senjem said. "That's just being fair to the business.
"If it doesn't work in Minnesota, we'll be forthright and tell them, and they'll make the decision on what they think is best for the team," he said.
Sen. John Howe, R-Red Wing, said he thinks Minneapolis can make an argument for its case, too.
"We need to see what the local entities are going to do," he said. "Certainly we need to get our hands on the financial details. It's going to come down to the financial details."