Minneapolis hopes to keep Vikings

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Minneapolis leaders offered Monday to have the city pay 22 percent of the cost of a new football stadium for the Minnesota Vikings at the current Metrodome site, putting the longtime home of the team in competition with an offer from neighboring Ramsey County.

The Minneapolis plan throws in a sweetener by setting aside money to renovate the aging Target Center basketball arena, relieving what's a decades-long burden on property taxpayers in the state's largest city. Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak called the proposal "two stadiums for the price of one."

"In the long struggle to find a new home for the Vikings, and in the long battle to end stadium debates, today we have a game changer," Rybak said at a Capitol press conference.

Ramsey County has been trying to woo the team out of Minneapolis with a suburban site about 10 miles north of St. Paul, one that would offer the opportunity for new retail, entertainment and hotel development. But with significant environmental cleanup and infrastructure improvement costs attached to the former Army ammunition plant in Arden Hills, the Ramsey County site is likely to carry a higher overall price tag.

Team spokesman Lester Bagley said the Minneapolis offer had good points but that the team was not consulted as city officials assembled it. Bagley said the proposed Vikings share in the Minneapolis plan -- $400 million, or 45 percent of the total cost -- is more than the team wants to pay.

The Minneapolis plan would require the demolition of the Metrodome, and the Vikings would play at the outdoor TCF Bank Stadium at the University of Minnesota for up to three seasons. Bagley said that would cost the team about $40 million in lost revenue, and that team officials are concerned about being fully competitive in the campus stadium.

"We do appreciate the city stepping up and saying here's our proposal," Bagley said. "But we are going to continue negotiations with Ramsey County hopefully to put together a deal."

Either plan requires state legislative approval. There are two weeks left in a state legislative session in which Gov. Mark Dayton and lawmakers are simultaneously trying to erase a projected $5 billion budget shortfall.

"The sooner they choose the better," Ted Mondale, Dayton's point man on the stadium push, said of the Vikings. The governor has said he would sign a stadium bill, saying the team is a statewide asset and touting the construction jobs that would come with the stadium construction.

The Minneapolis plan calls for the city to put up $195 million for a $895 million, covered stadium. The city share would be raised by an admission tax on stadium events, a parking surcharge on NFL game days, extending the downtown Minneapolis hotel, restaurant and liquor tax to the entire city and raising the general city sales tax by 15 cents for every $100 purchase.

It would also set aside $95 million for Target Center renovations. Officials with the NBA's Timberwolves have called fixing up the facility a necessity, and team owner Glen Taylor appeared with Rybak on Monday to endorse the city's plan. The city would turn over ownership of Target Center to a new state stadium authority that would also own the football stadium; Rybak said taking the city off the hook for Target Center upkeep and operations would mean about $50 million in property tax savings to Minneapolis residents and business owners.

The team and the state of Minnesota would pay the rest of the cost for the football stadium. The state would pay $300 million, or about 33 percent of the total costs, which would be raised by through a 10 percent state sales tax on sports memorabilia, a sales tax on luxury seats at the new stadium and on digital video recorders, and proceeds from stadium naming rights and a football-themed state lottery game.

Rybak and City Council President Barb Johnson, who supports the proposal, said they believe they could round up the necessary votes to get it through the city council.

Raising the necessary city sales taxes would require the Minnesota Legislature to vote to override the city's charter commission, which prohibits sales tax increases without a vote by city residents. Several members of the city's all-Democratic legislative delegation said that would be a very tough sell with their constituents, particularly given likely deep cuts to state programs in the face of a projected $5 billion state budget deficit.

"We're constantly hearing that the Vikings are a statewide resource, with statewide benefits," said Rep. Diane Loeffler. "To ask Minneapolis, which is so over-burdened in so many different ways, to step up with additional revenues seems to me very unfair and not the kinds of priorities I hear about from my constituents."