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Dome to get new roof; Dayton narrows stadium finance vision

Even as Gov. Mark Dayton seemed to tighten the parameters of a Vikings stadium finance plan, the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission was voting to replace the roof of the damaged Metrodome.

Even as Gov. Mark Dayton seemed to tighten the parameters of a Vikings stadium finance plan Thursday, the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission was voting to replace the roof of the tired and damaged Metrodome at a cost of about $19 million.

The replacement cost of the roof is $18.3 million, plus other consulting and miscellaneous fees that will bring the total bill to the $19 million figure. The entire cost will be submitted to the commission’s insurance company FM Global and, presumably, covered, said commission Chairman Ted Mondale.

“We expect full cost to come as part of the policy,” he said.

The expectation is that the roof would be replaced by Aug. 1, in time for the Vikings pre-season. A Vikings official said the team likely schedule its first home pre-season game for the third week of August.

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The commission approved an expedited bidding and construction schedule. Under questioning from the commission, commission chief engineer Steve Maki said: “I can assure you staff will do whatever it needs to try to achieve that date. It’s a going to be hard run and hard push to achieve that date, but it is our goal to try to achieve it.”

The commission decisions came after hearing reports from Maki (PowerPoint) and a structural engineering consultant that for “public safety” reasons, the entire 10-acre Teflon-coated fiberglass covering must be redone, not simply repaired. The roof on the 29-year-old stadium collapsed under snow and wind on Dec. 12, forcing the movement of two Vikings games.

Abandon the Dome? No
With the Vikings lease set to expire after the 2011 season and a new stadium effort under way at the Legislature, Mondale was asked if there was any thought to simply not fixing the Dome and moving on.

“No, not at all,” Mondale said. “The commission pays insurance. The insurance company gladly cashed the checks. The once-in-a-hundred-year storm brought the roof down. We have a contract with the Vikings to provide them a safe facility for 2011, and we have so many other events … I don’t have a crystal ball. I don’t know if there’s going to be a bill passed this year to build a new stadium. I certainly hope so. And if a bill is passed, I don’t know where the site is. It’s highly likely there may be a new facility built somewhere other than this site, and the Vikings would, I presume, want to stay here for a few more years.”

The Vikings swiftly issued a statement supporting the commission’s decision to replace the roof. But the team didn’t waste the opportunity to raise the pressing issue of a new stadium.

“We appreciate the MSFC’s efforts to ensure a safe environment for all year-round users of the publicly-owned stadium, and we are pleased the Vikings will be able to play in front of our fans at Mall of America Field during the final season of the team’s lease agreement,” the statement read.

“The Vikings also want to be clear that the MSFC’s decision to replace the roof is not a long-term stadium solution and does not change the urgency to build a new multi-purpose stadium for the State and the Vikings. The Metrodome still ranks at the bottom of the NFL in terms of revenue and fan experience. It is our intent to pursue the final passage of legislation during this year’s legislative session to finance and construct a new stadium, and we are encouraged by the progress on that front.”

Lester Bagley, team vice president for stadium development and public affairs, reiterated that stance with reporters after the commission meeting. He also said the possibility of building a stadium in Arden Hills is moving along, with the Ramsey County Board set to pass a resolution supporting the idea next week.

The Metrodome site remains the most cost-efficient site for a new Vikings stadium, what with public transit leading to it and parking ramps in place.

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Arden Hills stadium option in play
Bagley said the Arden Hills plan is “very viable” but allowed that “there are a lot of questions to be answered.” Many have to do with the environmental issues on the land formerly home to a munitions plant, plus the infrastructure around the land for improved roads.

Earlier in the day, during an interview on Minnesota Public Radio’s “Midmorning Program,” the governor was as specific as he’s been on how he envisions a Vikings stadium finance plan.

Dayton said he is opposed to any general fund revenues, meaning no broad-based tax.

He said the Vikings would have to put in “somewhere in [the] neighborhood” of 40 to 50 percent, although he hedged later and allowed that one-third from the team was possible.

“Nothing below a third, and 40 percent sounds more reasonable as a floor, and 50 percent sounds more desirable still,” he said of the Vikings private contribution.

“I’m ball-parking,” Dayton said. “I haven’t crunched the numbers.”

Because of the jobs attached to the stadium project, he called the stadium an “economic development” project. Usually a stickler for statistics, he used an 8,000-job figure for stadium construction, a number that we have recently wondered about.

Then he said other ways to fund the facility should only come from “users of the stadium,” via surcharges on tickets, souvenirs, food and beverage in the stadium.

He also floated the idea of using rental car or hotel taxes, which are common revenue streams in other states. Such taxes are often opposed by those industries. But in this Vikings go-round, there seems to be some support from the hospitality community.

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In Twins stadium proposals in the past — deals that failed — fees derived only from the users of the stadiums never were able to add up to the debt service needed on the amounts of bonds issued to build such large edifices, which, in this case, could cost $800 million to $1 billion. In general, team owners also oppose in-stadium fees, believing they cannibalize the team’s revenues.

Also, if the governor focuses only on stadium users, that could eliminate some other revenue options, such as a statewide tax on sports apparel that was proposed during the 2010 legislative session. Although the numbers could change, the Dayton framework — with a larger investment from the Vikings owners — sounds a bit like the so-called “Purple Plan” (PDF) that Sen. Tom Bakk backed last year.

For his part, Bagley said he was happy that Dayton was engaged with the details of the debate. “We’re very eager to get to the table and have those conversations,” Bagley said.

After all, there’s been no bill introduced yet at the Legislature and no revenue streams yet nailed down.

And now there’s a race to get the roof fixed.

(To see the full reports from outside engineering consultants and a video of the Dome collapse on December 12, go here.)

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.