Wilf: Suburb still No. 1 site for new Vikings stadium

BLAINE, Minn. -- Minnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wilf said Thursday that the team's partnership with Anoka County and Blaine for a proposed new stadium remains strong, but skyrocketing construction costs are presenting a problem.

"This is the only viable proposal before us," Wilf said. "I believe the project is second to none."

Wilf met with Anoka County and Blaine officials one day after meeting with Minneapolis officials to discuss several real estate projects.

That meeting, coupled with several sticking points with the Blaine proposal, led to some speculation that the Vikings were considering remaining in Minneapolis, where the Metrodome is located.

But Wilf said Thursday that Blaine "should be and will be the future home of the Vikings."

The Vikings have long ruled out renovating the Metrodome as they press ahead with their "Northern Lights" project off of Interstate 35W in Blaine. They came up short during the last legislative session, when state lawmakers approved financing plans for the Twins and University of Minnesota, but told the Vikings they'll have to wait.

That could be costly.

The proposed stadium is part of a $1.6 billion multi-use complex that calls for a $280 million contribution from Anoka County via sales tax increase and $115 million from the state through construction bonds.

Those numbers could be on the rise, however, because the "significant construction costs are increasing dramatically," Wilf said.

Further complicating the Anoka County proposal is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The site for the stadium includes 740 acres of wetlands, and Blaine and Anoka County officials are upset with the
Corps over the way it has handled the approval process for building on the site.

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.

"No one said this would be easy," Anoka County Commissioner Margaret Langfeld said.

Wilf said "it's something we're dealing with and we're very confident it will get done in the proper way."

The biggest issue right now, Wilf said, is the rising cost of building the stadium. Prices of concrete and steel -- the two biggest materials involved in the project -- are going up by the day.

"The most important issue is the cost of the stadium," Wilf said. "It's something we have to tackle."

Wilf didn't have specific numbers for how much more expensive the project will be. The Twins had a $478 million proposal for a new stadium in 2005 that wasn't taken up by the legislature. The cost rose to $522 million this year, when the ballpark bill was
approved by the state.

"It's a moving target and that target is going up," Wilf said.