Minneapolis pushes Metrodome site for Vikings

2008 stadium rendering (Ellerbe Becket)

Minneapolis city leaders said the Metrodome site is their preferred location for a proposed new Vikings stadium. Tuesday's Senate hearing brought numerous ideas for financing a new stadium and narrowed the site options.

Minneapolis city leaders on Tuesday put their weight behind a proposal to rebuild a new Vikings stadium at the current site of the Metrodome, saying it would be $215 million cheaper than the team's preferred plan to build a $1.1 billion stadium in the suburbs.

The pitch by Mayor R.T. Rybak came at a hearing of two state Senate panels focused on funding possibilities for a state share of building the stadium. The hearing also touched on proposals to expand gambling as a state funding source, including a new proposal from Northwestern Minnesota's White Earth Tribal Nation to build a Twin Cities-area casino and put some of its proceeds into the stadium pot.

It's the second such hearing in a week on the subject of a Vikings stadium, as the team pushes for state help in replacing the Metrodome. Vikings Chief Financial Officer Steve Poppen said in a presentation that the team is $42 million below the NFL average in local revenues, a lag he attributed to Metrodome deficiencies.

State Sen. Julianne Ortman, who chaired the hearing, stressed the point of the gathering was not to get behind specific funding or location proposals but rather for lawmakers to gather information.

Even though the team's lease at the Metrodome expires at the end of the current season, Ortman, a Republican from Chanhassen, said she was not convinced replacing the Metrodome is as urgent as the Vikings and some of their allies have portrayed.

Rybak, in response to a request last week by senators that the city narrow three possible downtown sites to one, said Tuesday the current Metrodome site would be most cost-efficient, could use existing infrastructure, and that the city could bring local contribution to the table in the form of $300 million from an existing city sales tax.

The Minneapolis offer of $300 million could give it a leg up over the Ramsey County proposal, on the site of a former Army ammunition plant in suburban Arden Hills.

Ramsey County board members hoped to raise a half-cent sales tax to pay a local share, but dropped that approach because it would have required a vote of approval by the public.

Lead stadium bill sponsor Sen. Julie Rosen said the Minneapolis proposal "is starting to look pretty viable." She said lawmakers working on the issue would unveil a bill soon that would have a specific location and funding proposal.

The Vikings have not retreated from support for the Ramsey County site, and team vice president Lester Bagley on Tuesday again told committee members that the team's offer to cover $425 million of construction costs is contingent on building in Arden Hills instead of Minneapolis.

If a stadium does end up in Arden Hills, the chairwoman of the White Earth Ojibwe Nation suggested the tribe could build and operate a casino at the site. Chairwoman Erma Vizenor said the tribe has estimated $300 million a year in profits that would be split between the tribe and the state of Minnesota.

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