Tuesday was an all-stadium-all-the-time kaleidoscope.
Here are some blurry snippets from an overheated day in Vikings Stadium La-La-land.
Follow the bouncing price tag
Vikings owner Zygi Wilf and Ramsey County Commissioner Tony Bennett shook hands but apparently haven’t signed an agreement.
Still, amid much hoopla and a greeting squad of Vikings cheerleaders, they unveiled a plan that they say would construct an $884 million retractable roof stadium on the former site of the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant in Arden Hills.
They then add $173 million for “on-site infrastructure, parking, [and] environmental needs” for a total cost of $1.057 billion.
In this RamseyCounty-Vikings deal, the team kicks in $407 million — or 39 percent of the total project costs — the county a half-cent sales tax, which would produce, they say, $350 million a year. And then the state puts in $300 million.
In their minds, it’s $1.06 billion deal.
Others tend to disagree, including the governor, the Minnesota Department of Transportation and Sen. Julie Rosen, the chief author of a stadium bill that has been sitting inert since she introduced it a month ago.
All roads lead to … somewhere
This is where Tuesday began, in Gov. Mark Dayton’s ornate reception room, with Minnesota Transportation Commissioner Thomas K. Sorel at his side.
There, Sorel released a MnDOT analysis (PDF) that determined roads needed to accommodate a Vikings stadium — just for games and other stadium events — would cost — in “rough numbers,” as Sorel put it — $175 million.
But, if the TCAAP site sees further development and is used for more than Vikings games and other stadium events, then the cost “to provide a benefit for regional traffic 365 days a year” would soar to $240 million for roads, MnDOT opined.
This would boost the cost of an Arden Hills site considerably, even though County Commissioner Tony Bennett protests the dollar amounts cited.
Amid this flurry of numbers, the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission and Gov. Dayton’s stadium emissary Ted Mondale, who is the commission’s chairman, released a spreadsheet Tuesday afternoon.
(Conflict alert: Six of the seven commission members are appointed by the Minneapolis City Council. Mondale’s mission impossible — which he chose to accept — was to bring in a Vikings stadium at the lowest cost possible. Minneapolis put forth a plan Monday that the Vikings have now officially rejected.
(The Sports Facilities Commission cost analysis was conducted by a respected local consulting firm called CSL, but it, too, has done lots of work with the agency that owns the Dome and wants a new stadium sited on the current downtown Minneapolis site.)
In the commission’s view, with the roads that MnDOT assumes, an Arden Hills stadium project could cost between $1.2 billion and $1.3 billion.
Very firm governor, Very firm author
Gov. Dayton made something very clear this morning. The state’s piece of any Vikings stadium action is $300 million.
“The state’s share is capped at $300 million for either location,” Dayton told reporters and Wilf in a phone conversation Tuesday morning. “Any cost of transportation improvements … that cost would be deducted from the state’s other contributions to the project. They’re aware of that … If one project is more expensive than the other, then the Vikings have to make up that difference along with the local partner.”
Soon after, Sen. Rosen, R-Fairmont, who has stuck her neck so far out on this thing that she’ll need a chiropractor to put it back on her torso, told the Star Tribune the same thing: $300 million is the state’s limit. Any road construction “gap” is going to have to be filled with someone else’s money.
Besides, Dayton and Sorel noted, the road plans for Ramsey County around Arden Hills aren’t at the front of the line for road improvements.
“The level of investment that would be required there is nothing we had planned on for some time,” said Sorel.
Despite that, Zygi Wilf said at his afternoon news conference. “I don’t feel that there are significant changes to the infrastructure that’s required. The highway system here provides tremendous access to the Twin Cities and to everyone in this area.”
What we have here is either a failure to communicate or a failure to listen. But there seems to be a real — umm — bump in the road here.
Arden Hills is all about football and cash
What’s clear is that any bows to the “new urbanism” of a potential Vikings stadium on the Metrodome site don’t interest the Wilfs and certainly Ramsey County Commissioner Bennett, a plain-spoken, never-give-up deal maker.
The announcement today was all about the team and football and tailgating and an all-day fan experience. And getting something for the east side of the metro area.
Fans showed up at the news conference to cheer on Wilf and Bennett. The idea that 21,000 cars could park in Arden Hills was touted. (At $25 per car for 10 home games, the simple math says the Wilfs pocket $5 million a season in Arden Hills that they don’t in Minneapolis.)
A highlight film of Vikings glory days kicked off the news conference. Vikings great Jim Marshall, Hall of Fame coach Bud Grant and current coach Leslie Frazier were in attendance.
This was no public policy session or discussion about the benefits of sports facilities to a community. This was about football fans having fun and the team being competitive. Not sure that wins a wide collection of votes at the Legislature, but …
As Wilf put it, “the most important fact” is that an Arden Hills stadium would be “a home for generations to come that serves the fans and the people of Minnesota in the best fashion. We feel bringing back the tailgate experience is a very, very important part of that experience,”
Also, not having to play at TCF Bank Stadium for three seasons while the Dome site is recycled would help the team competitively, he said.
He said Arden Hills is “what’s best for our … team, our fans and what was best for the long-term solutions of the Vikings.”
Seven words …
Where was St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman?
Not in Arden Hills today. That’s for sure.
A spokesman said the mayor of the largest city in Ramsey County, a city that produces about half of the county’s sales taxes, hadn’t weighed in yet on the Vikings plan.
But, let’s just ask, if that Arden Hills site grows into something beyond a stadium, is that good for downtown St. Paul? In any event, shouldn’t St. Paul get a piece of that half-cent sales tax action for something within the city limits?
[Conflict alert: This writer lives, works and shops in St. Paul.]
Can’t wait to hear the mayor’s point of view on this.
Will there be a ZygiWorld?
Will we frolic in a gargantuan development affiliated with the stadium?
That was the scuttlebutt for a while, that this shopping mall developer has larger designs on those hundreds of acres of land at TCAAP.
“We primarily focused on the stadium, the parking,” he said. “Whatever ancillary development will take place will take place down the road.”
But he vowed to bring Major League Soccer to Minnesota. There will be a Vikings Hall of Fame and “entertainment” for fans on game days. But he didn’t commit to moving the team’s headquarters from Eden Prairie to Arden Hills.
“Development will follow when we see the needs,” Wilf said.
The most sincere talking points of the day
They came from Wilf when he was asked about his phone conversation with Mark Dayton Tuesday morning.
The often rambling Wilf made an effective pitch.
Wilf said he thanked Dayton for his leadership. He told Dayton, “We have done everything that we have been asked … We’ve been a good owner … We’ve been patient … We were told to wait our turn. We came out in support of the Twins and the Gophers [stadiums]. We did not throw cold water on them … We were asked to look for a local partner and now we have found a local partner … We are putting significant private investment at risk, and I asked the governor only that we make our case to everyone [at the Capitol] so we can fulfill the vision, a strong vision that this site is the best solution for the very long term for our team, for our fans and the state.”
That’s the Wilf Doctrine rolled up in one herky-jerky passage.
Votes, votes and (no) more votes
May 23 is around the corner. That’s the date when the legislative session is set to end. While Gov. Dayton and GOP leaders have stated they should be able to avoid a special session, it sure seems like that’s gonna be difficult.
Looks like the first time the Vikings will need that retractable roof is from the incoming assault from legislative opponents … from both sides of the aisle.
As Ramsey County officials took media reps on a tour of the sprawling TCAAP site, Assistant Majority Leader Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville, cited the Star Tribune’s poll showing more than 60 percent of Minnesotans object to a publicly -funded stadium. He said — in words used in other stadium debates — “instead of funding a stadium to help million-dollar athletes pay their mortgages, the Legislature should be focused on creating a business-friendly environment that facilitates job creation and investment … A taxpayer-funded stadium in no way contributes to the financial health of average households in Minnesota.”
Then, three DFL Ramsey County lawmakers — Reps. Alice Hausman of St. Paul, Mindy Greiling of Roseville and Sen. John Marty of Roseville — issued a joint statement blasting the plan.
Said Hausman, in stating the others’ concerns: ““Ramsey County is facing massive and damaging cuts in human services. To choose to raise taxes for a Vikings stadium represents not only misplaced priorities, but a lack of sensitivity to human needs.”
Meanwhile, Rep. Kate Knuth, who represents Arden Hills, sent a letter to Zygi Wilf and his brother, Mark, expressing concerns about the stadium development and, among other things, calling for them to pay “at a minimum, half of the cost of a new stadium.” Among other matters, she also wrote, “If the Vikings move to Arden Hills, I would expect the organization and its jobs move to Arden Hills, as well.”
So — whewww — that was Minnesota’s day in StadiumLand all in a blender.
Warning: There will be other days like this.
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.
MinnPost Asks Live Interview Series
Join us on Monday, May 16, as MinnPost journalist Jay Weiner interviews Sports Facilities Commission chair Ted Mondale to discuss issues surrounding a new Vikings stadium. Click here for details and ticket information.