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Vikings reexamine options in stadium push

MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wilf met
Wednesday afternoon with Minneapolis leaders about real estate
development opportunities in the city.

They spoke about the Metrodome site as a possible place for the
team's desired new stadium, but that was not the purpose of the
discussion, according to Mayor R.T. Rybak and a Vikings official.

Minneapolis is putting several parking ramps it owns up for
sale, and there are other spots the city would like developed as
well. The Wilf family, from New Jersey, built its wealth in real
estate and bought the Vikings last summer.

A renovation of the Metrodome, much cheaper than the proposed
stadium that's part of a $1.6 billion multi-use complex being
pushed by the team in Blaine, is not an option for the Vikings. The
club is focused on gaining state approval for the project in
Blaine, which calls for a $280 million contribution from Anoka
County via sales tax increase and $115 million from the state
through construction bonds.

But the city and the team each said they'd be open to looking at
building a new stadium where the Dome now sits on the east edge of
downtown.

"We told them we want the Vikings here," Rybak said.

Wilf, who declined comment Wednesday, has decided he doesn't
want a retractable roof on the new stadium, which has put him at
odds with Blaine and Anoka County leaders. Another hitch involves
the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and wetlands on which the stadium
complex has been proposed.

Blaine and Anoka County officials are upset with the Corps over
the way it has handled the approval process for the 740 acres of
wetlands north of the Twin Cities along Interstate 35W.

The Corps issued a news release Wednesday saying it is "neither
for nor against a stadium" and committed to working with the team
on this situation.

Lester Bagley, the Vikings' vice president of public affairs and
stadium development, said the issue has been there all along and
should not be considered a setback.

"If people want to get this project done, we can work through
that," Bagley said.

In another off-the-field matter, Bagley said the team spoke last
week with leaders from Sioux Falls, S.D., about holding training
camp there. The Vikings have a three-year contract with Mankato,
where they'll convene next week for camp, but in that pact they
also have the annual right to opt out.

The Sioux Falls group has made its pitch before, but right now,
Bagley said, the team is "focused on Mankato. We see no reason to
believe that we'll be leaving."