Negotiators said Thursday they may have a deal for a new Vikings stadium before the President's Day holiday.
Stadium negotiators are working through the terms of an agreement to put before the Legislature, but say it would keep the NFL team on the site of the Metrodome stadium, and could spare the Vikings from any games at TCF Bank Stadium at the University of Minnesota.
A deal is in sight, said Ted Mondale, chairman of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission and the Dayton administration's chief stadium negotiator.
"We're getting close. You know, we've said that a number of times, but I think we have some consensus with the bill authors and the city of Minneapolis and the Vikings of what the construct and the framework and the deal is," Mondale said. "We understand the Legislature is saying, 'Where's the bill, where's the bill, where's the bill, where's the bill.' "
The outline of that bill has been drafted, Mondale said, and the plan could be in front of lawmakers as soon as a day after the city, team and governor shake hands on an agreement.
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak also said Thursday that he's hopeful about a deal, but said there were some significant details left to iron out. Lawmakers also have yet to see the details of the proposal.
Mondale said plans now call for the stadium to be shifted slightly east of the current Metrodome site, next to a nearby data center. He says there would be a large public plaza on the west side of the new stadium.
"There'd be a front section: we see it sort of as a grassy, sloping hill. You could have a concert out there with 32,000 people. You could host ,you know, la crosse championships, soccer," Mondale said. You'd have the pond hockey in the winter. So it could be really a big, grand, civic plaza for the public — the people's stadium, if you will, and on game days it would be quite a meeting place."
But there have been a number of grand plans for a new stadium. Ramsey County nine months ago announced a similar agreement, including financing, a location and a host of amenities. That plan went nowhere.
But Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley said Thursday that he believes a workable deal is close.
"We're making good progress," Bagley said. "A lot of hard work, a lot of grinding through a term sheet and trying to come up with a package with the city and the state and the Vikings that we can bring to the table and bring to the Legislature for consideration here in the very short term."
"I think the economics of the deal are fairly close to being in order. I think it's some of the other important issues."
Bagley declined to give specifics, but said one remaining issue is control of the construction process.
"That's one of the things we need to work through," he said.
Another sticking point is operating the new stadium, Bagley said. Negotiators say the two sides differ on running the new stadium, including how to share non-football revenue.
The city of Minneapolis represents the third leg of the stadium stool. Rybak said negotiations are moving quickly.
But he was more cautious about the prospects for a deal.
"We're making progress," Rybak said. "And when we're ready to say it's done, we will definitely say it's done."
Rybak visited the Capitol Thursday to fight off a GOP effort in the House tax committee to sunset the hospitality taxes that pay for the Minneapolis convention center.
"Cutting off the sales taxes used in the city of Minneapolis to support the state convention center would be the equivalent of the state punching itself in the face," Rybak said.
The city plans to direct part of the money collected from hospitality taxes to a new football stadium, particularly after the convention center's mortgage is paid.
Republicans questioned Rybak sharply about where the money goes — the taxes collect about double the cost to pay the convention center's bonds.
It is also unclear how much support on the Minneapolis City Council Rybak has for his stadium plan. So far, he has not been able to show majority support on the City Council for his plan.
Formal city approval could make or break the stadium deal, said stadium bill sponsor Rep. Morrie Lanning, a Republican from Moorhead who will likely carry the deal in the House.
Lanning said concerns voiced by St. Paul about aid for Target Center — which would make the Minneapolis facility more competitive with St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center — could be another roadblock at the Capitol.
"I would caution the public," Lanning said. "I would caution everybody that even if and when there's an announcement made, there's still a long ways to go."
But after more than a year of fits and starts, negotiators say they think the plan is finally ready to move forward.
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