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Our View: It's time to unite behind the Metrodome site

Have you ever taken a test drive in a vehicle that you knew you couldn't possibly afford? Or have you ever wandered through a high-end house during the Showcase of Homes, knowing full well that you'll never be the owner of an indoor pool, a marble shower and a five-car garage?

It's fun to dream, but at some point you have to get serious about making a choice that matches your needs and your budget. We've reached that point with  the Minnesota Vikings and their quest for a new stadium.

Owner Zygi Wilf dreams of a state-of-the-art facility in Arden Hills. Fans would tailgate in the stadium's vast parking lots, and would eat and shop in the new restaurants and shopping malls that would surround it. Some fans might even live in new apartments and condos that would spring up nearby. Wilf is a real estate developer, which means he thinks far beyond football.

But Minnesota can't afford to help him make that dream come true. With an increase in the local sales tax officially off the table, Ramsey County has few viable options to raise its $350 million share of the stadium costs, and legislators continue to talk in only the vaguest of terms concerning new sources of revenue to cover state's $300 million share.

We fear that long as the Vikings maintain their "Arden Hills or bust" stance, little progress will be made on the far-more-viable stadium option, which is to tear down the Metrodome and build a new stadium there, thus breathing much-needed new life into downtown Minneapolis.

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Granted, the "footprint" for this proposal is relatively modest by NFL standards, but not so very long ago — before the Arden Hills was in play — the Vikings' leadership team told our editorial board that the Metrodome and the surrounding land would be adequate for an NFL-quality facility. The team told the Legislature the same thing in letter dated Dec. 22, 2006, declaring that "The Metrodome site provides for the most cost-efficient location in Minnesota."

A new stadium on this site won't be a showplace along the lines of the the Dallas Cowboys' $1.2 billion stadium, but it could offer a quality fan experience and plenty of luxury suites, thus putting the team at least in the middle of NFL pack in stadium-related revenue.

For proof that a great stadium can be shoehorned into a small area at a relatively modest price, the Vikings need look only as far as Target Field. The Twins' new home covers just 8.5 acres — the smallest footprint in Major League Baseball — yet is one of the most highly acclaimed stadiums in the nation. Earlier this year, it was named "Sports Facility of the Year" by Street & Smith's Sports Business Journal and Sports Business Daily, beating out the top facilities in football, basketball, hockey and baseball, of course.

Minnesota needs to get serious about following a similar plan for its professional football team. If the team, Minneapolis leaders and our legislators unite behind the Metrodome site, then the debate about how to pay for the stadium will finally get off the ground.

Recent discussions in St. Paul have been decidedly fuzzy, with lots of talk about electronic pull tabs, racinos, a new state-run casino, a  Vikings-themed lottery game, extra fees on Vikings tickets and memorabilia and even the use of Legacy funds.

But we're convinced that as long as there is uncertainty and debate concerning where the stadium will be built, the crucial coalitions of legislators, business leaders and elected officials won't come together to create and pass a funding plan.

 

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