Local CEOs Join the Vikings Stadium Debate

A group of eight to 10 top executives from local companies reportedly have banded together and hired a lobbyist to help shape the outcome of the stadium debate-although they don't yet appear to be backing a specific proposal or site.

As debate continues around the construction of a new Minnesota Vikings stadium, it appears that some of the Twin Cities' influential business leaders are serious about joining the conversation-serious enough to shell out cash.

A report by the Star Tribune indicates that between eight and 10 local CEOs have contributed $25,000 each to hire Jac Sperling-a sports executive who has registered as a lobbyist for the corporate coalition, which has been dubbed the Minnesota Competitiveness Fund. According to the Minneapolis newspaper, Sperling played a central role in landing the Minnesota Wild in St. Paul, as well as attracting Major League Baseball to Denver and having Coors Field constructed there.

The roster of business leaders backing the initiative reportedly includes Ken Powell, chairman and CEO of General Mills; Richard Davis, chairman and CEO of U.S. Bancorp; and Douglas Baker, chairman and CEO of Ecolab.

Documents filed with the state's Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board indicate that Sperling registered as a lobbyist for the group earlier this month. They also show that Davis serves as treasurer of the group.

The business leaders have been in behind-the-scene discussions with the Vikings for more than a year, and the hiring of Sperling as the group's “facilitator” illustrates how serious they are about the stadium debate, the Star Tribune reports.

But the group does not currently favor one site over another-their primary goal appears to be getting the thing built.

“We will be completely agnostic when it comes to where the stadium will be built,” Davis told the newspaper. “We are all about keeping the Vikings here. We don't have a favored location. When there is a plan that looks doable, we will roll out our support.”

Last week, the Vikings and Ramsey County together unveiled plans for a new 65,000-seat retractable-roof stadium in Arden Hills-a proposal that carries a price tag of roughly $1 billion, but would also require costly road improvements.

The Arden Hills plans were released only one day after the City of Minneapolis floated a proposal for a Vikings stadium at the Metrodome site. That plan would cost an estimated $895 million, but it is not favored by the NFL team.

The group of local business leaders reportedly has met with Governor Mark Dayton, as well as NFL officials, including Commissioner Roger Goodell. An Associated Press report indicates that Dayton and state lawmakers who are sponsoring the stadium bill met with Goodell on Tuesday to ask what financial commitment the league might make toward a stadium-and Goodell will reveal details in the next few days about how much money the league will pitch in.

In other stadium-related news, a group that opposes public funding for a new Vikings stadium-which has rallied around Web site NoVikingsTax.com-believes that if it gathers enough signatures, it will be able to put a referendum on the next election ballot that would overturn any state measure to ban a stadium referendum. Both Minneapolis' plan for the Metrodome site and the Ramsey County and Vikings plan for Arden Hills call for the project to come to fruition without a public vote-which was how the Twins' new stadium was built in Minneapolis.