Minnesota governor sees special session for NFL stadium

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 17, 2011 7:43 PM
Minnesota governor sees special session for NFL stadium

By David Bailey

MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton said on Monday he intended to call a special legislative session in November limited to discussion about a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings football team.

The Vikings earlier this year unveiled a proposed plan for a $1.1 billion stadium, backed by Ramsey County officials, in a northern Twin Cities suburb on the site of a former U.S. Army munitions plant.

The proposed agreement between the Vikings and Ramsey County officials would include $300 million of funding from the state of Minnesota for such things as environmental cleanup and road improvements that requires legislative support.

Under the team-supported proposal, the Vikings would contribute more than $400 million toward the project and Ramsey County $350 million using a countywide sales tax. The Vikings would be the key tenant and the site later could include offices, retail, hotels and restaurants.

Dayton said he was neutral about where to build a stadium, but needed guarantees on the public portion of the project and planned to talk Wednesday with the Vikings about "their willingness to pay for the additional costs that may be associated with a further delay in the timetable."

The Vikings have long lobbied for a stadium to replace the Metrodome where the team has played since 1982. The Metrodome lease expires at the end of this year and the Vikings have said no extension will be signed until a stadium deal is reached.

Last year, the inflatable Metrodome roof collapsed in a snowstorm, forcing the Vikings to play a home game in Detroit and a second at the University of Minnesota's stadium. The stadium was repaired in time for the current season.

Discussions about a new football stadium took a backseat to a budget impasse that led to a three-week state government shutdown this summer. Dayton said the special session, if one is called, would end November 23, the day before Thanksgiving.

The governor met Monday with Republican leaders who control the state Senate and House and has meetings this week with NFL leaders and the Vikings owners.

Afterward, House Speaker Kurt Zellers said Minnesota was in tough economic times and a funding solution could not be a tax on a certain group of people, activity or product.

"The state of Minnesota writing out a check for $300 million, I don't think you have heard anyone saying that is a good idea," Zellers said.

Last week, a study on the Arden Hills, Minnesota, proposal said the stadium likely would open a year or two later than the planned 2015, with a potential increase of costs of $46 million per year.

Dayton ordered the Metropolitan Council study on the site. He has said the state's funding should be capped at $300 million, including road improvements.

(Reporting by David Bailey; Editing by Jerry Norton)