The Deets: The More We Learn, the Uglier the Arden Hills Vikings Stadium Proposal Looks

Yesterday, the Minnesota Vikings / Ziggy Wilf welfare queen supporters got all worked up on Twitter about an article written by Rochelle Olson with the StarTribune that sheds some light on Wilf’s Arden Hills real estate development plans beyond a Vikings stadium. Apparently, Wilf is asking for nearly twice the land he needs to build a football stadium in order to build additional real estate projects at taxpayer expense.

Olson reported:

A red circle on a map has become the latest obstacle that Vikings owner Zygi Wilf might have to overcome to win support for his proposed stadium in Arden Hills.

The circle, surrounding 120 acres next to Wilf’s planned 260-acre stadium parcel, drew gasps last week at a St. Paul Rotary luncheon when business leaders saw the label imposed on it — “Potential Convention Center Hotel.”

This lead to some harsh words on Twitter from the Vikings’ newly promoted Director of Corporate Communications, Jeff Anderson:

Jeff Anderson Attacking Rochelle Olson on Twitter

It’s not surprising to hear a subject of a story disagree with some aspect of a story written about them, but one thing that I find particularly strange about this situation is that Rochelle Olson isn’t the only person who reported this. In fact, Dave Orrick and Frederick Melo with the Pioneer Press reported the same thing earlier in the week:

Wilf, a real estate mogul who has built homes and businesses in most of the 50 states, ducked a question about who would control development rights in two areas north and south of the stadium. He said his primary focus was the stadium itself and that those sites would take five to 10 years to develop.

On maps distributed to each lunch table, the two spots are designated “potential corporate campus” and “potential convention center/hotel complex.”


According to an agreement between the county and the team, Wilf would retain development rights to those parcels, totaling about 200 acres.

“He would own the 50 acres up on one end and 120 acres on the south end,” Bennett said later.

In all, the Vikings would occupy 430 of the site’s 2,370 acres. The stadium would border the county’s Rice Creek Northern Regional Trail as well as a protected wildlife corridor and some 1,700 to 1,800 acres of army training land not included in the proposed deal.

The last paragraph just above this one seems to need one clarification: It sounds like it’s not the Vikings but the Wilf’s real estate business that would occupy 430 acres of tax subsidized Minnesota land in Arden Hills. The proposed stadium, with its insane 21,000 parking spaces, would only take up 230 acres of that huge parcel.

Vikings welfare queen supporters, including’s Cory Merrifield, were quick to call for a boycot of the StarTribune.

Boycot the StarTribune for Reporting what the Pioneer Press Reported?

Apparently, in Cory Merrifield’s twisted world view, the reason the StarTribune published that piece was because of a financial bias:

@SaveTheVikesOrg on the StarTribune's Apparent Bias

Which, of course, doesn’t explain why the Pioneer Press ran the same information earlier in the week. Is the Pioneer Press working for the StarTribune? That seems unlikely.

Were the three reporters from two competing newspapers wrong in their coverage of the proposed plans for the Arden Hills site beyond a Vikings stadium? That doesn’t seem likely.

Which makes me wonder: Why would we give a guy in New Jersey hundreds of acres of the State of Minnesota beyond what he would need to build a stadium (a stadium he doesn’t need, but wants)? If he needs 230 acres to build a stadium, shouldn’t the discussion be for 230 acres?

Also, why would we want to spend taxpayer dollars to build 21,000 parking places in a distant suburb to support 8 home games a year when we could use a perfectly good stadium that is surrounded by parking, bus lines, and an expanding light rail network? (aka. The Dome is Home!)

The Arden Hills Vikings Stadium plan seems way too stupid to support with public dollars, but is just fine if Ziggy Wilf is willing to spend his own money to build it.

Questions for Jeff Anderson

Were Dave Orrick and Frederick Melo with the Pioneer Press accurate when they wrote:

According to an agreement between the county and the team, Wilf would retain development rights to those parcels, totaling about 200 acres.

Was Ramsey County Commissioner, Tony Bennett, quoted accurately by Dave Orrick and Frederick Melo with the Pioneer Press when they wrote:

“[Wilf] would own the 50 acres up on one end and 120 acres on the south end,” Bennett said later.

Were Wilf’s statements accurately reported by Dave Orrick and Frederick Melo with the Pioneer Press when they reported:

[Wilf] said his primary focus was the stadium itself and that those sites would take five to 10 years to develop.

What are Ziggy Wilf’s plans for the 50 acre piece of land next to the proposed stadium?

What are Ziggy Wilf’s plans for the 120 acre piece of land next to the proposed stadium?

You said on Twitter:

Let’s be very clear about the Star Tribune’s stadium article today. The Vikings have never had plans for a convention center in Arden Hills.

But you didn’t clarify what the plans are for any of that land. I imagine that you can see how it’s confusing to the public to hear one thing from a county commissioner who’s been negotiating with the Vikings, but only a denial with no clarification in response. Can you see how that makes your statement fall flat?

If you want to be clear, be clear. Denying a plan that’s written down and verified by a county commissioner who’s been negotiating with the Vikings without providing an explanation for what Ziggy Wilf plans to do with that land is not being clear.

If Ziggy Wilf is going to ask for 170 acres of land beyond what he needs to build his unnecessary stadium, is it unreasonable for the public to ask what you plan to do with the welfare?


This post was written by  Ed Kohler and originally published on The Deets. Follow Ed on Twitter: @edkohler

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Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by Tom Lemke on 09/06/2011 - 11:14 am.

    I applaud Mr. Wilf for wanting to develope this piece of land; Vikings, stadium and office complex. The largest real estate developers in the US walked away from this piece of property just two years ago because of the complications and the economic times. So no one will touch this piece of property for many years if Mr. Wilf does not develope it. Least we forget that the Department of the Army has abandonded this property. Walked away from it and has left it a blight for the north metro area. Now there is an opportunity to develope this and turn it into something usefull. The north metro area would also like enjoy some of the benefits that Minneapolis and the southern metro area are receiving. The only reason that the mass transit is down town is because of the stadium. Lets build something on the north side of town so that we can recieve some of those benefits. If you remember right when the Twins stadium was built their was a tremendous amount of land grabbing and the price of this land went from nothing to rediculas amounts of money. If any other developler wants to take on this development for the non stadium property then let them get into the bidding process.This is a perfect location for a new stadium that can be enjoyed by all. Lets move something out of Minneapolis and let football be played were the fans can enjoy the tradition of tailgating.

  2. Submitted by Ed Kohler on 09/06/2011 - 12:11 pm.

    @Tom, I fully support a development in Arden Hills that does not rely upon welfare payments to a private business.

    I find your statement about transit into downtown only making sense due to stadium locations highly dubious. Perhaps you haven’t noticed how full the trains are on weekdays?

    I highly encourage you to lobby Ziggy Wilf to consider private financing options for his business’ infrastructure needs. That’s something we all can support.

  3. Submitted by greg copeland on 09/06/2011 - 12:35 pm.

    Ms. Olson, I am a Star Tribune subscriber who will NOT be canceling my subscription.

    Thanks for all your reporting on the rogue Ramsey County Commission that has agreed to sell-out the People’s voting rights in the Ramsey County Charter and levy a new sales tax on citizens for 30 years to give a NJ real estate developer $675 Million in public funds for a private business venture; the “Vikings Corporate Campus”.

    Ms. Olson, I appreciate your good work covering the unfolding story of how an out of state developer is using a gang of elected and appointed hacks to attempt to take the People of Minnesota for a Billion Dollar ride, on their dime.

    PS: Ms. Olson, could you please do a story explaining why Zygi had to hire a new high paid press flack when he had Cory Merrifield doing do the job for free?

  4. Submitted by Ross Williams on 09/07/2011 - 11:23 am.

    Why would we spend this much money for a facility to be used 8 times per year. Most of the people paying for the stadium will never use this glorified television studio. If you want to tailgate, just set up the barbecue in your backyard and watch the game on TV with your friends.

    We are charging kids for the opportunity to play football in school, while we are subsidizing a locally named team for the couch-potatoes to root for. Would rooting for the Los Angeles Vikings really be that bad? Minneapolis survived quite well without the Lakers.

    The idea that we are going to pay 200 legislators to travel to St. Paul for the sole purpose of approving a new stadium bill is outrageous. Especially, when you consider they just shut down state government because we “couldn’t afford” its current expenses.

  5. Submitted by Fiona Quick on 09/08/2011 - 08:15 am.

    It boggles my mind that people of Minnesota can be duped once again. Let’s just call Wilf what he is, Norm Green in sheep’s clothing. What short memories people of this state have. They forget that Green was once ‘the savior of the Stars’, gladhanding in the concourses of Met Center. He too was a real estate developer. All he wanted was to develop the land around the arena in Bloomington. And we all know how that story turned out. There is no benefit economically to placing a stadium in a city, period, every objective study on the subject has borne that out, all new stadiums do is relocate the money already spent on entertainment; there are no new dollars generated. If the state and city of Arden Hills really wanted to generate dollars and real benefit they would be looking to attract a manufacturing company instead of a football team and stadium to that property, because the return would be inordinately larger to the community and state.

    The only valid argument for public funding of a stadium is the “quality of life/culture” claim, which is perfectly valid. Of course it is the same one that is used for public funding of the arts so that won’t go over as well. But it is a legitimate claim. However, if you are going to make that claim, the biggest impact on culture and quality of life for funding of a public stadium would be to keep a presence of a downtown facility to maintain the greatest access to the most number of people through public transit and proximity to population of the community.

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