Poppe, Sparks: Vikes stadium not a priority

Published 7:57 am Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Legislature is still trying to strike a deal for a new Minnesota Vikings stadium, but local legislators say it’s not their top priority.

“Right now, we have five days to go,” Sen. Dan Sparks, DFL-Austin, said Wednesday. “We’ve got to stay focused on the budget. If we can close up the work on that, then perhaps a Vikings stadium can come forward.”

Gov. Mark Dayton and legislators say the state won’t pay any more than $300 million.

Email newsletter signup

The Vikings prefer a $1.1 billion stadium in Arden Hills, but there’s a dispute over cost to build roads to the site and who will pay.

Estimates last week put the road improvement cost between $175 million and $240 million, but Ramsey officials believe it can be done for less.

That is one stumbling point in a deal that would involve a $300 million contribution from the state, $350 million from Ramsey County and $407 million from the team.

Dayton and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell met Tuesday to discuss the NFL’s contribution toward the stadium. Goodell said the league would contribute an undetermined amount to stadium construction costs, likely through a club seat waiver program, where visiting teams forfeit their share of club seat revenue.

Rep. Jeanne Poppe, DFL-Austin, said there’s still plenty of work to be done.

“I don’t think anything is in cement yet,” she said, referring to stadium plans. “It seems like it’s in a lot of sand.

“I think passing a Vikings stadium before the budget is resolved is probably ill-timed.”

Although the Vikings say they will not play at the Metrodome after the next football season, Poppe said she doesn’t see the team leaving anytime soon.

“(The stadium) could wait until next year,” she said. “Right now, it’s not the priority.”

Sparks said the deal needs more time, not just because of other priorities, but because of its massive price tag.

“We have to be very careful when we look at using taxpayers’ dollars to support a Vikings stadium,” Sparks said.

At this point, it doesn’t appear Austin residents — or anyone outside of Ramsey County — would see increased taxes to fund it. Sparks said an extra sales tax in Ramsey County would pay for the bonds.

Poppe said there’s always the possibility of finalizing a Vikings bill in the summer if lawmakers have to come back to work on the budget.

“I think we are constitutionally obligated to conclude on Monday the 23rd,” Poppe said. “But from all I’ve heard, I would suspect we’d be coming back in the end of June to try to come up with a plan for the budget and perhaps spend some time on (the stadium) this summer.

“There’s too many questions yet.”

—The Associated Press contributed to this report.