Vikings, Ramsey County Strike Potential Stadium Deal
Is this the solution to the Minnesota Vikings stadium issue or is it a last effort that is destined to be held up in political games, causing Minnesota to lose its beloved franchise? It sounds like both parties are excited and they both realize the amount of money the state will kick in, so perhaps there will be a happy ending for Vikings fans.
The Minnesota Vikings and Ramsey County announced an agreement on Tuesday to build a $1 billion football stadium with a retractable roof in Arden Hills, capping a furious day of last-minute negotiations and brushing aside concerns from Gov. Mark Dayton and others that the project may be seriously flawed.
Vikings owner Zygi Wilf, flanked by the team's iconic former coach, Bud Grant, described the deal as purple-clad fans broke into cheers and applause at a county public works facility. The team, trying to build momentum for a plan that already faces heavy skepticism at the state Capitol, showed a film that attempted to link the new stadium to the team's glory days, when it played in the cold at Met Stadium in Bloomington during the 1960s and '70s.
"We believe we have selected the ideal site here in Arden Hills,'' Wilf said. "This establishes a venue for the next generation that our kids and ourselves can be very proud of."
"I'm very happy today. I look to see the future of the Minnesota Vikings in Arden Hills,'' said Ramsey County Commissioner Tony Bennett, who along with fellow Commissioner Rafael Ortega spearheaded the county's efforts to attract the Vikings.
The plan came a day after Minneapolis, seeking to keep the Vikings at the Metrodome site in downtown Minneapolis, announced its own complex plan to use a series of tax increases to build an $895 million stadium and renovate the aging Target Center. But the Vikings reacted tepidly to that proposal.
The Ramsey County site, a former 260-acre munitions plant about 10 miles from downtown St. Paul, is one of the largest swaths of undeveloped land left in the Twin Cities. Wilf plans to build a 1.6 million-square-foot stadium with 21,000 parking spaces and other developments, including a Vikings Hall of Fame. The team would contribute $407 million, or 44 percent. The county, which began its improbable quest for a stadium last summer, would finance $350 million with a half-cent sales tax increase, leaving the state to contribute $300 million.
Even before the deal was made public, signs erupted that the Ramsey County plan faces high hurdles at the Legislature.
House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, said the money needed for road improvements in Arden Hills poses a problem. Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, the stadium plan's chief House author, said he would not move a stadium bill until road issues were resolved. To do otherwise, he said, was "asking for trouble."