Dayton says questions need to be answered in stadium debate

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With less than a week until the legislative session begins, Gov. Mark Dayton is not yet ready to actively push a specific stadium site for the Minnesota Vikings.

At a press conference, Dayton said that questions remain unanswered for each of the three most viable options: Arden Hills, the Metrodome site and at the Linden Avenue site just west of downtown Minneapolis, near the Basilica of St. Mary.

“Regrettably, there is not yet a stadium proposal with a complete and sufficient financial plan, one which assigns equitable obligations to the Vikings, the local partner and the State of Minnesota,” Dayton said. “No site sponsor has adequately resolved the major unanswered questions in order to merit the approval to proceed.” (Read the governor’s stadium analysis.)

Dayton did not give a timeline for wanting answers, but without them any chance for legislative approval of a stadium funding bill this session could be jeopardized.

The governor said Arden Hills may be out of the picture because of the Legislature’s insistence on a voter referendum before Ramsey County could impose any kind of tax increase to help fund the project. That referendum wouldn’t take place until November, thereby leaving the two Minneapolis sites as currently the most feasible.

“While issues surrounding these sites are not all resolved, they are potentially resolvable and should be addressed immediately. Also, the Vikings must reveal their financial commitment to each project,” Dayton said.

Because of its proximity to downtown hotels and restaurants, Target Field and Target Center, Dayton said he prefers the Linden Avenue site over the Metrodome locale. Ted Mondale, chair of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission and Dayton’s point man on stadium issues, said downtown business leaders appear to prefer the Linden Avenue site as well.

However, neither site is favored by the team.

That proposal calls for the construction of a $1.1 billion stadium on 430 acres in Arden Hills, with the team contributing about $420 million, the county $350 million and the state $300 million. The site would also include ample game-day parking and a significant amount of retail.

“Even if the state increased its share from the previously stated $300 million to $400 million, the team’s share would have to be $700 million,” Dayton said. “If the Vikings so want to be in Arden Hills that they will increase their financial contribution to that amount, the project is potentially viable. If not, it is not.” The governor also encouraged the team to unveil its plans for the entire site.

Lester Bagley, the team’s vice president of public affairs and stadium development, said the Vikings won’t pay $700 million toward the Arden Hills site. If the site does not work politically, they’ll work with Minneapolis to come up with a solution.

Nine proposals were submitted to the governor last week.

The Vikings’ lease at the Metrodome is about to expire. Although team officials have not made any public threats, there is a fear amongst many fans that the team will move without a new facility.