Road cost estimate for Arden Hills stadium falls to $131M

Arden Hills rendering
In an image provided by the Minnesota Vikings NFL football team, an aerial view shows a proposed $1.1 billion retractable-roof stadium to be built on the site of the old Army ammunitions plant in Arden Hills, Minn., about 10 miles from downtown Minneapolis.
AP Photo/Minnesota Vikings

It's been the most hotly debated number in football since since the NFL draft.

The state of Minnesota, consultants for the Minnesota Vikings and Ramsey County have settled on a price for the road construction required for a new stadium in Arden Hills.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation pegged the number at $131 million Wednesday, including $46 million in local road improvements and another $85 million in improvements need in nearby trunk highways like Interstate 694 and I-35W.

Initial estimates had put the cost at closer to $240 million.

"I think it's a more manageable number," said Vikings vice president Lester Bagley. "I think it's also very important that the governor and MnDOT are trying to work with us on this, and to give us some momentum and progress toward resolution."

But the new figure is still more than 10 percent of the estimated $1.06 billion project laid out by the team and Ramsey County last week. Gov. Mark Dayton and other state officials say that the road costs will be subtracted from the $300 million Minnesota has pledged to the project in public subsidy.

"It's still a steep mountain to climb," said Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, the sponsor of the stadium bill in the House.

Neither he, the Vikings nor Ramsey County officials had any better idea how to come up with the money than they have since the plan was announced on May 10.

The infrastructure costs remain the biggest roadblock to getting a stadium bill through the Legislature this session. Lawmakers have been working late into the night in the waning days to try and close a $5 billion budget gap, at the same time as stadium supporters try to work on their bill.

Republican lawmakers criticized Gov. Mark Dayton Wednesday, saying his administration was spending more time trying to figure out road projects around the potential Vikings stadium than trying to reach an agreement to end the session on time.

"They seem to be more focused on the Vikings stadium than they are on finishing the budget," said Sen. Ted Lillie, R-Lake Elmo. "They seem to be more focused on talking to (NFL) commissioner (Roger) Goodell and talking about the issue in Arden Hills."

Dayton responded that he hasn't been spending an inordinate amount of time with the Vikings, and was available for budget talks if they showed promise.

Local political activists also weighed in on the Ramsey County proposal. The county's DFL Party issued a joint statement with the 4th Congressional District Republican committee, decrying the plan for a half-cent sales tax to pay the local share of a stadium.

"Putting an additional burden on the taxpayers is simply going to just kill jobs, especially in an area like St. Paul and the rest of Ramsey County where the retail sector is very important," said Republican James Carson.

Other legislators also cast new doubts on the stadium plan. Rep. Terry Morrow, DFL-St. Peter, said rural lawmakers would be watching to see that the stadium didn't come at the expense of other transportation projects.

"If the commissioner can come up with a way to fund this that does not delay other projects that are also badly needed, especially in greater Minnesota, I'll be satisfied," Morrow said. "If, on the other hand, we see delays in projects in order to jump this one to the head of the line, I'm going to have some serious questions."

None of these matters has been formally addressed at the Capitol. Since its introduction more than six weeks ago, the stadium bill hasn't had a hearing or been amended to include local bids from either Ramsey County or Minneapolis.

But stadium bill sponsor Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, said she is still confident a deal can eventually be reached.

"The budget is our first and primary priority," Rosen said. "But we'll do whatever it takes to get a stadium bill passed this year, because it needs to be done."

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