Who Has Upper Hand in the Vikings Stadium Debate?

Media reports indicate that Tuesday's Senate hearing about a new Vikings stadium seemed to focus on Minneapolis' efforts-and it left some Ramsey County leaders frustrated. But key state lawmakers still seem split over which potential site has the upper hand.

A Tuesday hearing focused on possible funding mechanisms for a new Vikings stadium reportedly left Ramsey County officials-who support an Arden Hills facility-feeling left out, despite the fact that the Vikings are still backing the Arden Hills plan.

One of the biggest takeaways from the hearing was Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak's announcement that the city has narrowed its proposal to building a stadium at the Metrodome site.(Twin Cities Business on Tuesday reported on Rybak's announcement, as well as several other statements made near the beginning of the hearing, which spanned about five-and-a-half hours.)

The Metrodome proposal carries a price tag of about $895 million, compared to the Arden Hills plan, which would cost an estimated $1.1 billion. Rybak also told senators that the city wants to use the nearby Minneapolis Armory to create an enhanced game-day experience for fans, according to a report by the Star Tribune.

The Minneapolis newspaper quoted Ramsey County Commissioner Tony Bennett, who said he is frustrated with the seemingly pro-Minneapolis direction the process has taken. “It seems like I'm back in the Legislature and everything is done in the back hallway,'” the former Congressman told the Star Tribune. “We have gone through every single hoop we have been asked for by the Legislature and everyone, and they won't give us the time of day.”

The Pioneer Press reported that Republican Julie Rosen of Fairmont, the key stadium negotiator in the state Senate, was asked following the hearing whether she believed Minneapolis had the upper hand.

“Minneapolis has been willing to come to the table and discuss what they are willing to put forward,” Rosen told the St. Paul newspaper. “And frankly, if they prefer the Metrodome site and it's approximately $200 million less for that site, I think that's getting to be a very viable option.”

“And if Ramsey County can come up with some other option that is not a local sales tax or a tax of any kind, then they better bring it fairly quickly,” she added. Rosen also said that a stadium bill-which will be drafted “hopefully very soon”-will be specific to a single site.

At a stadium hearing last week, Ramsey County officials were told to come up with local financing options for $350 million that the county previously planned to generate using a countywide sales tax, according to the Pioneer Press. Lawmakers shot down that proposal, and on Tuesday, they said that a new plan from the county to raise $25 million annually through food, beverage, and hotel taxes was “not acceptable.”

Vikings executive Lester Bagley on Tuesday said that the team questions the cost details presented by Minneapolis for the Metrodome plan. He also said the team's planned $425 million contribution is for the Arden Hills site.

Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission Chairman Ted Mondale, Governor Mark Dayton's point man on the stadium project, warned of the importance of moving forward with a new stadium quickly-and Bagley said the Vikings have heard from two cities seeking an NFL team: Los Angeles and another he would not identify, according to the Star Tribune.

Still, a separate report by the Star Tribune indicates that state representatives are still split over the possible locations. Representative Morrie Lanning, the lead author of House stadium legislation, described Minneapolis' pitch for a stadium as “quite inadequate.”

Minneapolis claimed that it could contribute $300 million toward a new stadium without raising taxes-but Lanning called that statement “very misleading,” because much of the money would not be immediately available, according to the Star Tribune.

Lanning also told the Minneapolis newspaper that the Arden Hills proposal has received much greater scrutiny than any Minneapolis stadium plan has.