Back to the Dome for the Vikings?

Mall of America Field
Mall of America Field and downtown Minneapolis, Minn., Sept. 28, 2011.
MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson

The 2012 legislative session begins today and Gov. Mark Dayton has told the Vikings that if they want a stadium bill passed this year it's going to have to be one that keeps the NFL franchise on the Metrodome site. MPR News reporter Tim Nelson covers the stadium debate. He discussed the turn of events with Morning Edition host Cathy Wurzer.

WURZER: This was sudden. What happened?

NELSON: In a word, attrition.

Last week, the governor told the other rival host for the team, Ramsey County, that if they wanted to stay in the running, they needed to come up with some money that didn't involve new taxes. On Friday, they said they don't have it. So they dropped off.

Over the weekend, the opposition from the Basilica of St. Mary and the Linden Avenue neighborhood started to rally. They key there seems to be an concession that Minneapolis requires nine of 13 city council votes to sell city real estate, and they don't have that. And the stadium site near the Basilica would require the city to give up its main public works facility.

Interim development director Chuck Lutz told me last week that the city didn't have objections to that per se, but it seems to be pivot point where political opposition in Minneapolis turned against that site.

So, ironically enough, the stadium that collapsed in a blizzard 13 months ago is the last site standing. There aren't any real estate issues, the city has agreed to put some existing taxes towards the site, and in turn they'll likely get a rehab of Target Center out of the deal.

WURZER: So this is a done deal?

NELSON: Oh, no. Not by a long shot. There are plenty of hurdles left here. Let me walk you through some of them.

First, if they rebuild the Metrodome, the Vikings can't use their home field for three years. They'll probably have to go over to TCF Bank stadium, and they estimate they'll lose about $37 million in the process and no one has offered to make them whole. The state will also probably have to add seats and put a heating system under the turf. I talked to the Vikings vice president Lester Bagley last night, and he said the team was quote "extremely frustrated" unquote by this turn of events.

This is the same deal the Vikings literally dismissed last May. Utterly rejected. And they might do that again.

The second hurdle here is Minneapolis politics. The city voters approved a ban on stadium spending over 10 million on sports stadiums in 1997. And this deal has the city putting up about $315 million for a new Vikings stadium alone -- and another $100 million in local sales taxes for the Target Center to boot.

The mayor and City Council president have said that they're willing to ask the Legislature to overrule their own Minneapolis voters. But one of the people that put that $10 million cap in the city charter, Gary Schiff, is now on the city council and there could yet be a revolt in City Hall. They're scheduled to meet and talk about this on Thursday.

WURZER: So what's next? Is the legislature going to get this done now?

NELSON: That's impossible to know. Republican Senators talked about this at a caucus meeting yesterday, but bill author Julie Rosen said the stadium situation is very volatile. Over in the House, the Vikings were huddling with bill author Morrie Lanning into the evening last night. He said the deal isn't done yet, either.

I talked to the governor's spokeswoman, Katharine Tinucci, last night and she said that the governor talked with the Vikings owners by phone yesterday. I believe he also may have spoken with the NFL. The Wilfs are flying in to Minnesota tomorrow to talk to Dayton and other state officials about the situation, and I will venture to guess that those discussions will be what they politely call "frank."

The Wilf's could take the deal, and figure it's the best they can get. Or they could decide to shelve the stadium bid for this year, and maybe wait for this fall's elections to change the equation at the Capitol. Or they might try something in between.

WURZER: And what about other folks, like the Basilica or the businesses nearby?

NELSON: They're hopeful that they've been spared a stadium in their midst. But they're also leery that nothing ever seems to be a done deal when it comes to this stadium.

WURZER: Thanks for the update.