Dayton to mull over competing stadium plans

1:22 AM, Jan 13, 2012   |    comments
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SAINT PAUL, Minn. -- Governor Mark Dayton said Thursday he'll spend the next week pondering three competing Vikings stadium options, in anticipation of recommending a single plan to lawmakers when they return to the Capitol January 24.

But he still can't say for certain whether any plan to build a new home for the state's NFL team will be voted up or down in 2012.

"It's really up to the legislature to determine if they're going to take this issue up this session or not, and I'm hearing different things about that," Gov. Dayton told reporters.

He said he'd rather see lawmakers take up the issue early, rather than let it linger throughout the 2012 session, only to be "torpedoed" at the end.

"The Vikings are not the opposition here," Dayton remarked. "This is a collaborative partnership between the state, the team and a local partner."

Whether that local partner takes on a financial responsibility or simply agrees to host a new stadium is also up for debate, depending on which financing mechanisms can win approval from the legislature.

Senate Majority Leader David Senjem, a Rochester Republican who favors creating racinos as a revenue stream for the state, told KARE that the state's share of such a project will not come from fees or taxes on those who don't use the stadium.

"If it does come together it's going to take a state share, and more than likely that state share is going to be involving gaming," Senjem said.

Three municipalities -- Minneapolis, Shakopee and Ramsey County --answered Dayton's "final call" for stadium proposals by his deadline Thursday at 5 p.m.  The Shakopee plan is the only one that relies on gambling, in the form of a racino at Canterbury Park.

Ramsey County's proposal for an Arden Hills stadium features a three percent restaurant food and beverage tax that would also have to win approval of lawmakers.  A previous statewide beverage tax proposal was branded as "dead on arrival" by Rep. Morrie Lanning of Moorhead, the chief author of stadium bill in the House.

County commissioners who delivered their Arden Hills plan to Gov. Dayton's office Thursday said losing the beverage tax wouldn't be a deal killer if the state's going to pay for the public's share with gaming proceeds.

"We've had a solid proposal since last May and it's still the most solid proposal," Ramsey County Commission Chairman Rafael Ortega said.

"We're still here. We haven't gone away. We think we have a real proposal."

The stadium would be built on the site of the former Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant. The Army has agreed to sell 430 acres of land to Ramsey County, with 260 acres going to the stadium complex and 170 set aside for future private development.

The county's original offer gave team owner Zigi Wilf the first right to develop that land private land, which created some resistance to the plan at the State Capitol. But that development option is not set in stone according to the team's point man on the stadium issue.

"We need to resolve the stadium issue," Bagley told KARE. "The 170 acres is a secondary issue. We're open to recommendations on how to resolve it."

The Minneapolis offer would take local tax revenues currently used to retire debt on the city's convention center and reroute those to fund some stadium operations, Target Center renovation and convention center upkeep.

The Mill City Thursday also narrowed its stadium plans from three viable options to one, the site of the current Metrodome in a project dubbed "East Downtown Stadium."

City Council President Barb Johnson said the site is more familiar than other two under consideration in west downtown, known as the "Linden Avenue" and "Farmers Market" sites.

"We're comfortable with the numbers, comfortable that we can get people in and out of there," Johnson told KARE, noting that Minnesotans are always impressed with practical plans and bargains.

She also maintained the transportation infrastructure in that area is already fully capable of moving fans in and out on game days.

"That's a superior fan experience because you can take public transportation, you can ride your bike, and you can park in a lot that costs you $40 or four bucks."

The Vikings still consider Arden Hills a viable option, according to Bagley, but if at some point the menu of venues is limited to Minneapolis the team may prefer the Linden Avenue site in west downtown over the land around the Metrodome.

"We've looked hard at the Linden Avenue site," Bagley said. "We do believe it's intriguing, but there are some issues that need to be resolved."

Earlier in the week the team sent a letter to Council President Johnson and Mayor R.T. Rybak citing added costs of losing access to the Metrodome site during construction.  The Vikings estimated it would cost the team at least $67 million to relocate temporarily to the TCF Bank stadium on the University of Minnesota campus, because of lost revenue, facility upgrades and parking acquisition.

But Bagley said getting the green light from lawmakers in 2012 is more critical than the team getting its preferred location.

"There's great urgency to get this resolved," Bagley said. "The lease has expired at the Dome. This conversation's gone on ten years."

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