Vikings Expected to Pick Arden Hills Over Mpls. Stadium

A Tuesday report indicates that the Vikings will likely opt for the Arden Hills proposal over the City of Minneapolis' recently unveiled plan for a stadium at the current Metrodome site.

Only one day after the City of Minneapolis floated a proposal for a new Minnesota Vikings stadium at the Metrodome site, a media report states that a deal for a stadium in Arden Hills is “imminent,” with an official announcement on the matter expected Tuesday afternoon.

Minneapolis officials-including Mayor R.T. Rybak and City Council President Barbara Johnson-on Monday convened at the state capitol in St. Paul to unveil a proposal for a new stadium in downtown, as well as renovation plans for the Target Center.

But KSTP-TV Channel 5 Chief Political Reporter Tom Hauser reported early Tuesday afternoon that a Vikings deal with Ramsey County for an Arden Hills stadium is “imminent,” and team officials are wrapping up the final details on the stadium negotiation. The two parties were reportedly discussing these details in “a secret location” Tuesday morning.

A Tuesday afternoon call to Lester Bagley, the Vikings' vice president of public affairs and stadium development, seeking comment on the team's decision, was not immediately returned. The NFL team posted a video on its Web site Tuesday afternoon titled “Arden Hills Stadium Preview,” which includes renderings of the proposed stadium.

The team also announced that it would hold a 3 p.m. press conference featuring Ramsey County Commissioners Tony Bennett and Rafael Ortega, Vikings owners Zygi Wilf and Mark Wilf, former head coach Bud Grant, coach Leslie Frazier, and others. The press conference will stream live here.

If the team officially chooses the Arden Hills site, it won't come as a surprise. A Ramsey County commissioner reportedly said that the Vikings were “very, very close” to reaching an agreement with the county to build a stadium at the abandoned Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant in Arden Hills. The main obstacle for that plan-which could involve using a countywide sales tax to help fund the project-appears to be the high cost of road improvements. Media reports indicate that the Vikings were not involved in the formation of the city's plan for a stadium at the Metrodome site.

Under the terms of the city's plan for a stadium at the Metrodome site-which puts an $895 million price tag on the new stadium-the city would pay $195 million, or 22 percent; the state would cover $300 million, or 33 percent; and the Vikings would pick up the remaining $400 million, or 45 percent of the tab.

The NFL team has reportedly said that 45 percent is more than it's willing to pay.

The city's proposed plan also involves a 0.15 percent citywide boost in sales tax, an expanded restaurant and liquor sales tax, increased parking fees on game days, an admission tax on stadium events, and a reallocation of taxes currently dedicated to paying convention center bonds.

That plan would also form a “Minnesota Stadium Authority”-which would replace the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission. The new entity would own, operate, and maintain the new Vikings stadium, Target Center, and the Minneapolis Convention Center.

“In the long struggle to find a high-quality home for the Minnesota Vikings and put an end to stadium debates once and for all, today we are announcing a game changer,” Rybak said in a statement.

Hennepin County Board Chairman Mike Opat had floated the idea of building a new Vikings stadium at the site of the Minneapolis Farmers Market, but he has reportedly abandoned those plans.

Vikings officials in March made their case for public funding of the stadium, stating that the team generates tax revenue and jobs. Opponents, meanwhile, said that while the state faces a $5 billion budget deficit, other issues should take priority over a sports stadium. A Star Tribune poll conducted in October 2010 found that about 75 percent of Minnesotans opposed using public money for a new Vikings stadium.

The Vikings' Metrodome lease expires after the 2011 season, and team officials have said that they won't consider an extension without a new-stadium deal in place.

Joined by Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, city representatives on Monday also said that the plan for a new Vikings stadium would fund a $100 million renovation of the city-owned Target Center. It's unclear what will occur at the Target Center if the Vikings sign on to the Arden Hills site rather than choosing the city's proposal.

In February, the city and the Timberwolves together announced that they sought a $155 million remodel of the downtown facility. City spokesman John Stiles told Twin Cities Business at that time that the proposed renovation would cost only about a third of the price of building a new facility.