The next two weeks are likely to be key in the Minnesota Vikings' quest for a new stadium.
A day after Gov. Mark Dayton compared the leading stadium proposals and found them all at fault, stadium boosters are seeing signs of hope for the upcoming legislative session.
But obstacles remain. There's no money on the table. No one knows where or when the concrete will start pouring. And neighbors of a leading stadium prospect, the Linden Avenue site near the Basilica of St. Mary, grow more restless by the hour.
That's OK with the Vikings right now. Where others see political impasse, team officials say their quest for a new stadium in Minnesota is again inching ahead.
"You know, we're getting there," Vikings vice president Lester Bagley said. "We feel like we are in position to put this deal together. That we're getting close to a legislative package, we're getting close to being able to announce a deal that says here's the site, here's the finance plan, now let's take it to the Capitol, and work through the legislative process."
Bagley said Dayton's sketch of a prospective deal marked some real progress. In a letter to the team's ownership, Dayton committed the public share to nearly half of the stadium's cost, and lifted his $300 million limit on a state contribution. That has been a major sticking point in the past.
The Dayton administration's draft agreement also laid out its position that a state panel should handle the stadium governance and cost overruns. It stipulates that the team would have the right to sell naming rights to the stadium.
Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission chairman Ted Mondale said he remains optimistic about a stadium winning approval this session. At a commission meeting in Minneapolis today he even broached the idea of figuring out what to do next with the Metrodome site if it isn't reused.
Mondale said a hopeful sign on the Minneapolis front is that the brief proposal submitted by the city showed some movement [by the city] on the size of its contribution. He said city has increased its original proposal by $120 million.
"So their sleeves are rolled up. They're serious," Mondale said. "And they're understanding with any project, there's gaps. But they've come a long way to be able to make this work." But Minneapolis's deputy development director, Chuck Lutz, did have one caveat: He said the city isn't ready to give up on the Metrodome yet, despite the governor's preference for another site.
"The city itself hasn't invested a lot of time in the Linden Avenue site, just because our preference has been the Metrodome," Lutz said. "But we do recognize that if Linden Avenue is to move forward, that we will need to do the additional studies necessary to you know, evaluate and quantify all the impacts that having a new stadium on that site would mean."
In an interview with MPR News, Dayton said he recognizes there are challenges with that site.
"Whether those concerns are resolvable or not, we'll have to find out in the next week or so," Dayton said. "And if they are, then I think we can, I think that's a better site in terms of economic development, if not, then the Metrodome is the fall back position, assuming we can work out the financing."
Dayton may take on one of those issues, opposition from the nearby Basilica of St. Mary on Friday when he meets with the Basilica's rector.
The legislative session starts on Tuesday.