Vikings would pay for third of stadium

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Though Minnesota state lawmakers appear likely to insist that a roof be part of any public deal for a new Vikings stadium, the team is sticking with its offer to pay about a third of the bill -- minus whatever a roof would cost.

Vikings vice president and stadium point man Lester Bagley said in an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday that the Vikings would prefer an outdoor stadium, but understood that might not win legislative approval when lawmakers in February take up the team's request for a stadium funded in part by taxpayers.

State Sen. Julie Rosen, likely lead sponsor of the stadium bill at the Capitol, confirmed that hunch. She said most lawmakers want a facility like the Metrodome that can host not just NFL football but also dozens of high school and college tournaments and other public events.

Bagley said the Vikings wouldn't insist on playing outside, despite team owner Zygi Wilf's recent comments that he preferred an outdoor stadium. But Bagley said the Vikings saw it as precedent that the Minnesota Twins ponied up about a third of the cost of outdoor Target Field.

"A roof does not provide any benefit to the Vikings," Bagley said in the interview at team headquarters in Eden Prairie. "It also costs a couple hundred million dollars more in capital costs, in addition to the operating costs that are much higher for a covered facility."

With the team's lease for the currently snow-damaged Metrodome set to expire after next season, Bagley said the team is hoping lawmakers act this year to replace a building he called "not a viable NFL facility" and ensure the Vikings stay in Minnesota.

An outdoor stadium has been estimated to cost at least $700 million, with a permanent or retractable roof likely to add another few hundred million dollars to the total price. But a roof could also be the cost of getting the bill through the Legislature, said Rosen, R-Fairmont. "If you're going to put this much capital, this much sweat and tears into it, you're going to need a 365-day facility like the Metrodome," she said.

Rosen said she expected to introduce her stadium bill in mid-February. She and Bagley offered few hints as to its contents, but said it would include a location for the new stadium, a total price tag and funding mechanism, and the type of stadium.

Sites previously discussed as possibilities have included the current site of the Metrodome, a few other locations within the city of Minneapolis or one of several Twin Cities suburbs. Both Rosen and Bagley indicated the funding proposal would in some ways mimic a previous plan to in part tap stadium users directly through taxes on football jerseys and similar items.

"It's not going to be a clean mechanism like it was with the Twins," said Rosen, referring to the Target Field financing plan that dealt about a third of the cost to the Twins and the rest to Hennepin County taxpayers. "It's going to be a cobbling together of many sources."

With a more than $6 billion budget deficit facing down state lawmakers, Bagley refused to speculate what would happen if the Legislature failed to act on the Vikings' request this year. Other American cities are seeking pro football teams, including Los Angeles, where two firms are currently competing to build a new NFL stadium in hopes of enticing a team there.

The president and CEO of one of those groups, Anschutz Entertainment Group's Tim Leiweke, said he and Wilf are "not in the middle of extended talks" about the team's status. Leiweke said he and Wilf spoke as recently as late December, but emphasized their business relationship and Wilf's interest in developing an entertainment district similar to what AEG has created in Los Angeles.

"My assumption is that Minnesota is going to try to get their situation resolved in the near future, so we don't get too worked up about it," Leiweke said in a phone interview. "Zygi made it real clear he'd like to solve his problems there and get a stadium built. We do business there, and we're going to be very careful not to do anything to harm the process. So from a personal standpoint, I hope they figure it out."

Commissioner Roger Goodell, during a visit to Minnesota last month, said he "certainly" hopes the Vikings don't move.

"Our focus is entirely on making sure they're successful here in this market," Goodell said.

Rosen, the state senator, said that's where Minnesota lawmakers come in.

"I do feel the Vikings could easily pick up and move," Rosen said. "Because it is a business. You have to ask yourself what would the Legislature be doing if, say, Target was threatening to move out of state? It demands a response."