As you might have heard by now, the Minnesota Vikings have cultivated a suburban site option for a new stadium. It's about 20 minutes north of the Metrodome, in a wide-open expanse with literally hundreds of acres available for development.
Stop me if you've heard this one before.
Yes, the Ramsey County Board voted Tuesday to green-light negotiations and a site study in the suburb of Arden Hills. The stadium would be built near the junction of Interstate 35W and Highway 10 on part of a 430-acre parcel of land, the site of a long-abandoned ammunitions factory.
If they haven't already, county and city leaders would be well-advised to brush up on their history. The last time the Vikings partnered with a Twin Cities suburb, they openly used it for leverage to secure funding at their preferred site in downtown Minneapolis. Ultimately, Anoka County leaders terminated their partnership agreement with the Vikings in 2006 and left the team without a local entity willing to host construction.
After Anoka County committed $280 million to a project that would have expanded the National Sports Center, the Vikings began working with the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission (MSFC) to develop plans for a downtown stadium. Steve Novak, Anoka's stadium point man at the time, was livid at Vikings owner Zygi Wilf and said: "Handshakes in Anoka County work pretty well. I guess we're discovering that maybe handshakes in New Jersey don't work quite as well."
(Wilf lives in New Jersey.)
There was nothing illegal or even unethical about the way the Vikings handled the Anoka County proposal five years ago. They were not exclusive partners with Anoka. But if nothing else, the episode should be a reminder for Ramsey County that stadium politics are as bitter and cold as an arctic winter. Before they spend up to $1 million on a site study, Ramsey County leaders should be aware of the possibility that they will be pawns in an effort to bring the larger -- and richer -- Hennepin County to the negotiating table.
Vikings vice president Lester Bagley was on record as recently as last week as saying that the current Metrodome site, located in Hennepin County, is "the most cost-efficient site." Infrastructure for an NFL stadium is already in place there, and it's more centrally located for fans in the southern and western suburbs.
The bottom line: If the Vikings had to choose between a stadium in Arden Hills and nowhere, the answer would be easy. But if this ever becomes about choosing between Arden Hills and Minneapolis, there is no doubt what choice the Vikings will make.