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With choice of Mondale, Dayton signals serious Vikings stadium effort

Ted Mondale
Ted Mondale

Former Met Council head and former state Sen. Ted Mondale’s appointment today to be chairman of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission confirms that Gov. Mark Dayton means business about trying to get a Vikings stadium built.

Exactly how it gets done remains a vast mystery. Mondale is known for working creatively to make the Twin Cities’ first light rail line a reality while leading the Met Council.  How he relates to the team, the Republican-controlled Legislature, the business community, the public and the governor will now become one of the intriguing chapters of the embryonic 2011 legislative session.

“I report to him, and I believe that I speak for him,” Mondale said of his outfront stadium role for Dayton.

First clear stadium point person since ’83
Under Gov. Tim Pawlenty, no clear-cut leader with any political or public policy gravitas was charged with being the administration’s stadium point person. In fact, not since 1993, when Gov. Arne Carlson appointed former state Rep. Henry Savelkoul to lead efforts to buy out Target Center and build a Twins ballpark, has a governor handed so much clout to one person to gain control of the mine-filled stadium war.

In his announcement today, Dayton said he picked Mondale to lead the commission, which owns and operates the tattered Metrodome, and also to attempt “to negotiate a new ‘People’s Stadium.’ “

Exactly what this “People’s Stadium” will look like remains to be seen.

But, as Dayton’s stadium voice, Mondale said in an interview this morning, it generally means “that the benefit to the public outweighs what the public is paying.” It also means that a new stadium won’t be a “Vikings stadium,” per se, but also capable of playing host to community events and such things as high school football and college baseball.

Automatically, that implies that Dayton favors a domed facility, something the Vikings do not. As the father of a former high school pitcher and now a hurler for Macalester College, Mondale has sat through many a game at the Dome watching amateur baseball while it snowed outside.

“I am well aware of the importance of that building or any building like it to the community at large,” Mondale said, thus agreeing with many lawmakers at the Capitol; any new stadium needs a roof of some sort.

As for other specifics of any Dayton stadium concept  —  from the use of gambling revenues or other taxes, to location to expected cost —  Mondale had no hints today.

“He wants to see what the Republicans in the Legislature will come forward with,” he said.

Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, who will lead the stadium effort in the Senate, told MinnPost earlier this week that she is weeks away from nailing down a bill. House members are also working on something. The Vikings continue to work on determining their preferred site and funding package.

The Sports Facilities Commission, which Mondale will now lead, has shown a preference for building a new facility on the current Dome site.  Mondale said he’s open to stadium location, as is the governor.

Of Dayton, Mondale said: “He’s agnostic, if you will, as to location. He does not have a favorite location. He does not have a favorite funding direction, unlike the past governor  —  who you could never know where he was, and he certainly wasn’t supportive.”

Mondale sees ‘latitude’ on making deal happen
Dayton is, rather, open to a vast array of ideas within the parameters of this “public benefit” rubric, Mondale said.

Said Mondale: “It’s not to the point that it has to be here — it’s not to the point where it has to be funded like that — so I’ve got some latitude.”

Mondale, 53, applied for the job. He acknowledges he’s a sports fan and one-time youth coach. He wanted to be back in public service. He said he believes that pro sports are “critical to our quality of life and regional competitiveness.”

He added: “I enjoy complex legislative and policy matters. I enjoyed getting the light rail done … If you combine how important I think this is and a passion for sports, for public service and for complex, perhaps controversial matters, this all fits up.”

As it turns out, Mondale is a boyhood friend of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Goodell’s father, the late Charles Goodell, was a U.S. senator from New York. Mondale’s father, Walter, of course, served as senator from Minnesota and then vice president. Ted Mondale and Roger Goodell attended John Eaton Elementary School in Washington, D.C., more than 40 years ago. But, Mondale said they saw each other a few years back.

“The whole families were very close,” Mondale said.

That personal relationship between Minnesota’s new stadium ambassador and the NFL commissioner can only help. Goodell will be a key player in advising Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf.  Expect Mondale to deal more directly with the Wilfs than with the team’s army of lobbyists.

Gov. Jesse Ventura’s stadium agenda was to do nothing. Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s stadium agenda was to let others do whatever they could; a Twins ballpark was passed when Hennepin County came to the rescue. Current commission Chairman Roy Terwilliger’s hands were tied and his access to Pawlenty limited.

Said Mondale: “I’m going to have very good access [to Dayton]. He’s very open to what I think. I don’t really have a lot of opinions here yet. I think he’s going to be willing to listen to what is possible, and what isn’t.”

Mondale recently sold his business, Nazca Solutions, a software firm.

So, work-wise, he is footloose and fancy-free. The Sports Facilities Commission job pays a minimum of $50,000 per year; that’s a rate set by the Commission’s finance committee nearly 20 years ago. Commission members can make adjustments based on the time commitment of the chairman, Executive Director Bill Lester said. Departing chairman Terwilliger has been paid $64,688 each of the past three years.

During his first hours on the job, Mondale was making the rounds, contacting legislators and labor leaders. He was making his calls from the Capitol, a touchdown toss away from the governor’s office.

On his plate: working on a new stadium, fixing a damaged stadium and extending a Vikings lease set to expire after the 2011 season. Being Minnesota’s Commissioner-of-Getting-A-Stadium-Built is a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it.

MinnPost’s Jay Weiner has covered sports facilities issues in the Twin Cities since 1993 and the demise of Met Center and public buyout of Target Center. He is the author of “Stadium Games: Fifty Years of Big League Greed and Bush League Boondoggles,” University of Minnesota Press, 2000.

Comments (10)

  1. Submitted by David Willard on 01/14/2011 - 02:25 pm.

    Again, Dayton hits a home run!! Sis-Boom-Bah, Jay. your guy rocks!! Rest your pon-poMs! You DERSERVE IT!! YAY!

  2. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 01/14/2011 - 02:41 pm.

    We need to focus on stuff that matters first. We have to deal with the 6.2 billion dollar deficit, and we have to pay back the 1.9 billion dollars we borrowed from our kids. Once that’s done, then we can start dealing with the trivial stuff, like athletic stadiums.

    It’s a matter of priorities.

  3. Submitted by David Thompson on 01/14/2011 - 03:50 pm.

    How about building an open-air football stadium NEXT TO the Metrodome? It would probably be cheaper than building another all-purpose facility. Please remember that it’s BASEBALL teams that want to play in the Metrodome. There are no football or soccer teams that want a roof.

  4. Submitted by andy on 01/14/2011 - 05:53 pm.

    Personally, I couldn’t care less about the Vikings or their parasitic organization. Sure, football’s fun for some people to watch, but I see no plausible way to explain to the voters that their towns and schools have to cut back to help pay for a facility the Oligarchs have the cash to build on their own anyway. If they need a lot of public money to cushion their risk maybe it’s time for these grifters to find fresher pastures.

    Dayton’s been really good so far, but I guess nobody’s perfect!

  5. Submitted by William Jewell on 01/14/2011 - 08:52 pm.

    Ted Mondale, there’s new sheriff in town, Mall of America will be the site of a new “Event & Sports Facility” the only one that will pay for itself and can be built with absolutely no Tax money, hey Dave, 40 million people a year to buy tickets, easy parking and 15 Million new visitors for 20,000 tourism & 8,000 construction jobs and a great new image for Minnesota, we got a new gun slinger and his name is Ted Mondale, welcome partner…

  6. Submitted by Christopher David on 01/15/2011 - 12:45 am.

    We need to stop funding these boondoggles. All proposals keep the team from paying property taxes, which are much-needed by all MN cities and counties.

    Economic development arguments are a joke–look at the Dome.

    Join the No Vikings Tax movement at

  7. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 01/15/2011 - 06:04 am.

    I have never understood the logic of putting a roof on a Vikings Stadium. The Vikings don’t want it, and I can’t think of anyone else who would benefit from it. Why is it even an issue?

  8. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 01/15/2011 - 09:31 am.

    I don’t know, I think the key here is the requirement that the public get’s more out than they put in. No team ever goes for a deal like that because it’s not about the public in the first place. In terms of public spending stadiums never ad up so I like think Dayton is being clever, setting up conditions that he won’t be met while appearing to support a stadium plan. After all, if the goal were simply a public space for the kinds of stuff we do at the dome… we could just fix the dome.

  9. Submitted by Sue Welna on 01/15/2011 - 06:48 pm.

    How about we just remove the dome from the metrodome and make that the Vikings’ stadium? The “people” can find other places to play without paying a fortune to do so!

  10. Submitted by Tommy Yarbrough on 02/03/2011 - 10:33 am.

    My God…whee are you people’s heads at??? Build a damn stadium with a retractable roof like they did in Dallas.That will give most Viking fans what they want(a home game’s exposure to the elements, and the best of both worlds; indoor comfort for any other type of event. This will ensure that even Viking fans can be protected from the outside if it happens to be too cold to endure as well. If you are going to build a new stadium,build it right the first time. Remember…if you build it, they will come.

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