With no payment plan in place, Vikings push $954M stadium project

Proposed stadium
An artist sketch of the interior view of a Vikings stadium.
ROMA Design Corp.

The sports facilities commission is pitching its plan as more than just a facility for the Vikings, whose Metrodome lease expires in 2011. They say it's a way to transform the entire area.

In addition to a brand-new retractable roof stadium on the site of the current Metrodome, the plan includes a strategy to improve the surrounding neighborhood. The laundry list of amenities includes a wide plaza and winter garden that would be open to the public for events year-round. Officials say such spaces would knit the stadium into downtown.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty
Gov. Pawlenty says he is willing to meet with the Vikings after the current legislative session ends. He says the problem facing the Vikings is the same problem they've had for the past ten years, money.
MPR Photo/Tom Scheck

By bringing more people into the neighborhood, officials say the plan will spur development. After it's complete, they estimate thousands of units of new housing, retail, office and hotel space would follow.

The plan would redraw parts of the surrounding streetscape, open a new transit hub connected to existing public transit and Saint Paul. It would also provide what officials are calling a "new front door for the city."

"The result of this effort would be to create a whole new district that would break down the barriers that currently exist and would help to create activities throughout, create an enhanced pedestrian environment, create opportunities for incubator businesses as well as keep many of the existing viable businesses in the area and offer a new opportunity for urban living," says Boris Dramov, the site designer.

The sports facilities commission offered no proposal for funding the project. But Minnesota Vikings vice president Lester Bagley says team owner Zygi Wilf is committed to making the project happen.

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Basketball venue
Stadium as a basketball venue.
ROMA Design Corp.

"The Wilfs, since they bought the team, have taken an investment approach to the stadium problem," Bagley says. "They are not standing back waiting for a subsidy they are stepping up and and offering to invest in our state and our economy and put hundreds of millions of dollars both into a stadium and also a private development surrounding the stadium."

The sports facilities commission put the total price tag at $954 million. So, even with the team kicking in some unspecified hundreds of millions of dollars, hundreds of millions more would have to come from somewhere else.

With such a high price tag, the project would need a sponsor in the Legislature. And there is little stomach left at the Capitol this year for stadium financing. Republican House Minority Leader Marty Seifert of Marshall says funding for the stadium isn't even on the Legislature's radar.

"If I checked it for vitals I would say we're at the morgue," he said." I don't even want to say it's on life support. They don't even have an author for a bill they've been shopping I think and theres not even a bill author".

Overview of the plaza
Overview of the plaza containing a Vikings stadium.
ROMA Design Corp.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty says he is interested - at least in hearing more about the design. The governor says he's planning to meet with Vikings officials after the current legislative session ends in about a month.

"I can't comment on the plan because I haven't seen it, but in general the plan isn't the hard part here," Pawlenty said. "It's easy to draw up plans the question is who's going to pay for it. Where's the dough coming from? We'll be looking to the Vikings and others to explain how this is going to get paid for and who's paying."

The governor says that after recent negotiations with the Twins over their new stadium plan, Hennepin County officials may be unenthusiastic about their options for raising money for another one. And the city of Minneapolis requires voter approval for any public subsidy over ten million dollars. So for now, the plan for a new Vikings stadium is just that -- a plan.