Vikings, GOP chief tussle over stadium vote timing

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A Minnesota Vikings executive warned Wednesday that delaying until next year a state legislature vote on financing for a new stadium would increase the project’s already hefty cost and would leave the football franchise without a lease binding it to Minnesota.

Vice President Lester Bagley reaction came to newly voiced opposition from House Speaker Kurt Zellers to an emergency session. Zellers told his 71 GOP colleagues in an email Tuesday night that the issue should wait until lawmakers convene the 2012 session in late January.

Bagley stopped short of saying the team would pull up stakes, but noted that after this season the Vikings “will be the only team without a lease.”

“The strategy of avoiding a stadium issue has not worked. It only gets more costly and more difficult to resolve, especially if they allow the lease to expire with no action,” Bagley told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

The Vikings have four remaining home games in their Metrodome lease. Whispers of relocation have been present throughout the stadium discussion, but there has been little outward recruiting of the Vikings by Los Angeles or other cities seeking an NFL presence.

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton has said he is prepared to call a special session this month or next on the stadium. But a financing plan remains undefined.

The Vikings have sought a replacement for the Metrodome for years, saying the Minneapolis venue is no longer sufficiently profitable. The team prefers building a new facility in the St. Paul suburb of Arden Hills but Minneapolis leaders are promoting three sites of their own.

Such a project is expected to cost between $900 million and $1.1 billion depending on where it gets built. The team wants taxpayers to shoulder more than half of the cost. Bagley said winning authorization this year would enable builders to start a 40-month construction schedule sooner and have the stadium ready for the 2015 season. Delaying construction adds $50 million per year, according to a consultant’s estimate.

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