Hundreds of people gathered in Minneapolis Tuesday for the formal groundbreaking for the new billion dollar Vikings stadium. Construction crews were poised to begin significant excavation in the Metrodome's parking lot.
Vikings owner Zygi Wilf said the day was a long time coming.
"It feels very exciting. Since the first day we were owners, we always dreamt that we would get a new stadium and a championship," Wilf said. "So we're finally on the way to building a new stadium. It's an exciting day."
Workers have been on the site for about a week already and the schedule calls for cement pouring to begin mid-January. The Metrodome will be deflated and demolition will start about the same time.
Reginald Traylor of south Minneapolis was one of about 100 fans that made their way to the Metrodome to see history being made.
"So I'm a die hard fan, so I needed this ground-breaking to be done, so we could have a new stadium and we could feel better about coming for and supporting our team," said Traylor.
But the groundbreaking triggered renewed criticism from opponents of the project.
The Taxpayers League of Minnesota and other conservative groups held a separate news conference to highlight what they view as a bad deal for the state.
Republican Senator Dave Thompson of Lakeville predicted that funding for the public share of the stadium will fall short and taxpayers will get hit harder. Thompson, who is a GOP candidate for governor, blamed incumbent DFL Governor Mark Dayton.
"Who’s going to get stuck with it? Probably the taxpayer, and not the hated 1 percent," said Thompson. "The regular folks in Minnesota that are getting up every Monday through Friday, going to work, working hard and earning an average living will pay for this stadium. It’s wrong. It shouldn't have been done, and this governor should be held accountable.”
Republicans controlled the Legislature when the stadium measure was passed. Public money makes up about half of the $1 billion project and is being paid for mostly with new corporate taxes, a small amount of new gambling taxes and a one-time excise tax on cigarettes. The Dayton administration has said the funding won't come at the expense of any existing state programs.
Dayton dismissed the cost concerns, saying state and city subsidies are worthwhile investment. He cited a maximum price guarantee the state negotiated with the builder and a $400 million mixed-use development planned just blocks from the stadium.
Voters, he added, will have a chance to weigh in on the project at the ballot box next year when he's up for re-election.
The stadium itself is expected to cost about $763 million to build, and is expected to be under construction for the next 31 months. The Vikings will move their 2014 and 2015 seasons to TCF Bank Stadium and are expected to take the field for their first pre-season game in the new stadium in August, 2016.
Team owners said they think time will heal any hard feelings Minnesotans may still have for the deal.
MPR News reporter Tim Pugmire contributed to this report