MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Vikings have won approval to contribute more money toward the construction of their new home.
The Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority on Friday approved $50 million in new private financing for the U.S. Bank Stadium under construction in downtown Minneapolis.
The Vikings originally were to spend $477 million to build the more than $1 billion stadium, with taxpayers picking up $498 million. But Minnesota Public Radio News (http://bit.ly/1UOghmJ ) reports that the team's contribution has since grown by 31 percent, and could approach $630 million by this summer.
"This gives the team more flexibility to put more money in the project in ways that we normally haven't done," Ted Mondale, the sports facilities authority's executive director, said of the new agreement.
With the new stadium set to open next year, not much more time remains to spend a lot more money on the project. But MPR reports the Vikings might well pay $150 million more than the state had asked.
Some critics are asking whether Minnesota taxpayers could have paid less for the stadium, being built on the site of the old Metrodome.
"What can you say?" said Republican state Sen. Roger Chamberlain of Lino Lakes, who voted against the bill allowing public spending for the stadium in 2012. "We told you so."
Chamberlain said the state could have driven "a harder bargain."
But the stadium bill wasn't a bad deal, according to Michele Kelm-Helgen, who helped write the stadium law as part of Gov. Mark Dayton's staff and who now chairs the stadium authority.
"I honestly look at it as just the reverse," Kelm-Helgen said. "I think that we've actually gotten far more benefits from the Vikings than we originally anticipated."
Vikings vice president Lester Bagley said the public is getting more than it bargained for with the new stadium, such as new Wells Fargo offices nearby, a new hotel, a two-block downtown park and a renovated Minneapolis Armory, as well as thousands of construction jobs.
"This was a very fair deal for the private and public sectors," Bagley said.
The stadium's grand opening is planned for July. Besides the Vikings, the new stadium will host the Super Bowl in 2018 and the NCAA Men's Final Four in 2019.
Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, http://www.mprnews.org