The Minnesota Vikings say they think a 200-page report issued by the Metropolitan Council Wednesday is a road map to their new stadium in Arden Hills.
The report says there are several hurdles to the plan — including the cost and the timeline. But Vikings owner Zygi Wilf says there are no problems the team hadn't already identified.
"It beared out what we thought from day one, that this site is ideal, and the costs that were both in the report and what we anticipated are close to being solvable," Wilf said. "We are encouraged."
The report puts brackets around the cost of the proposed stadium in Arden Hills. It's a site that's been mostly the subject of conjecture for the last year, as supporters and opponents have debated how much it would cost.
The council put the cost at more than $1.2 billion on the high end, and $100 million less than that in a best-case scenario.
Metropolitan Council Chairwoman Sue Haigh said cleaning up 430 acres after decades of ammunition production at the site was perhaps the biggest variable.
"The cost range for remediation between the Vikings and the county is actually at $30 million. We think this is on the low end of the range. We are projecting that land acquisition and remediation costs could range from $23 to $70 million," she said.
She also said delays — for construction, clean up or even politics, could add more than $40 million a year to the cost of an Arden Hills stadium.
CUTTING THROUGH UNCERTAINTY
Despite the variables, the report paints the clearest picture yet of what the project would cost.
Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission chairman Ted Mondale said that may be what finally brings a new stadium within reach of the Vikings.
"I would say the biggest cloud on this project was the uncertainty, and many, many, many of those clouds have been removed by this report," Mondale said.
Gov. Mark Dayton issued a statement hailing the study — although it said he could support a stadium in Arden Hills or in Minneapolis. That could leave the door open for yet more turf battles over the state's NFL franchise.
But the Vikings, fresh from escaping a Ramsey County requirement for a stadium referendum last night, said there's no looking back now.
"There is no Minneapolis proposal," said Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley.
The report means a stadium deal is now a numbers game, not a debate over whether it's possible, Bagley said.
And both Wilf and Bagley said that the team is coming to terms with writing a bigger check for their new home. Bagley noted the team originally offered $407 million.
"It's still in negotiations. It's north of $407 [million]," Bagley said. "What we need is for state leaders to sit down and sort that out."
He said the Legislature and the governor also need to lay out where their share will come from.
Mondale said that all the principals in the deal will get together next week to start sorting that out. That would include the team, Ramsey County officials, the Dayton administration and legislative leaders. Sources familiar with the talks say that could begin as soon as Monday afternoon.
Mondale also said that he expected the deal could move quickly from there.
"There is a sense of urgency here, that I believe that he has and I think that the legislative leaders have as well, that we need to try and resolve this issue as quickly as possible," Mondale said. "Having said that, you know, consensus is not exactly in the air these days."
PETITION COULD BE TROUBLE FOR PLAN
There could be one other hiccup. The Ramsey County charter commission has decided not to put a stadium tax on the ballot next year. But the Minnesota Voters Alliance said Wednesday they're going to try and do it the hard way, with a petition directly from voters.
"We believe that the charter commission let down the people in fulfilling its number one duty to the citizens, which is protecting the charter," said Andy Cilek, the group's founder.
They'll need more than 14,000 signatures to try to block a stadium deal at the ballot box.