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Vikings stadium: A regional problem that requires a regional solution

It makes little sense to expect one city or county to pony up a third of the cost of a sports facility that will benefit the entire metro area, as well as the state as a whole.

If the Vikings stadium issue is not resolved in the current legislative session, it may be time for a fresh approach — a regional approach — to siting and funding this regional facility.

It makes little sense to expect one city or county to pony up a third of the cost of a sports facility that will benefit the entire metro area, as well as the state as a whole.

Nor does this politically expedient approach produce the best ideas for siting such a billion-dollar facility, as demonstrated by Ramsey County’s proposal to build in Arden Hills and the Minneapolis plan to reuse the Metrodome site.

Met Council should be involved

The Metropolitan Council is the logical agency to task with developing a regional solution to the stadium issue.

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The Met Council was created in 1967 to plan for “the orderly, economical development” of the seven-county area and to oversee the delivery of certain public services — including transit and sewers — that could not be provided effectively by any single city or county.

Later, the Legislature gave the council broad powers to review and suspend projects of “metropolitan significance” — powers the council has seldom used.

The Met Council wasn’t the invention of a bunch of wild-eyed liberals. The idea was pushed by a coalition that included business and civic leaders, groups such as the Citizens League and the League of Women Voters, and suburban officials active in what was then the metro section of the League of Minnesota Muncipalities.

The legislative architects — Gorden Rosenmeier, Howard Albertson, Harmon Ogdahl and Bill Frenzel — all were Republicans. And the measure was enthusiastically signed into law by a Republican governor, Harold LeVander.

In appointing the first council, LeVander said it “was conceived with the idea that we will be faced with more and more problems that will pay no heed to the boundary lines which mark the end of one community in this metropolitan area and the beginning of another.”

“This council was created to do a job which has proved too big for any single community,” the governor said.

Regrettably, the council has been bypassed, if not undermined, by governors and legislators of both parties over the last several decades on a number of important regional issues.  The issue of siting and funding of sports facilities is one example.

More evidence why we need regional approach

The need for a regional approach was demonstrated again last week by the exchange between the two big-city mayors over the Minneapolis request that it be relieved of the financial burden it assumed for Target Center and assisted in funding an expense update — so it can better compete with another publicly subsidized arena in St. Paul.

Does our region really need two costly arenas to play host to pro hockey and basketball, and compete for a few pricey concerts a year? Staples Center  in Los Angeles is home to two NBA basketball teams as well as an NHL hockey team.

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To his credit, DFL Gov. Mark Dayton belatedly enlisted the Met Council and the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission last year to help evaluate the proposal by the Vikings and Ramsey County to locate a new stadium at the site of the former Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant (TCAAP) in Arden Hills.

However, the governor’s charge to the two agencies was too narrow. It did not ask them to address the issues of (a) whether the 430-acre Arden Hills site was the best location for the proposed stadium, compared with other possible locations, or (b) whether a stadium was the best use of the TCAAP site.

The council-led analysis didn’t even raise the issue of whether it is prudent to choose a site that would not make use of the region’s $2 billion investment in rail transit, and instead require 22,000 parking spaces.

If stadium legislation stalls this session, the governor should ask the Met Council and the sports commission to take a broader look at the issue.