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First and ten — or long? — for the Vikings as Arden Hills becomes team’s dream home

Vikings owner Zygi Wilf touts the Ramsey County stadium proposal.
MinnPost photo by Jay Weiner
Vikings owner Zygi Wilf touts the Ramsey County stadium proposal.

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.

Former Vikings head coach Bud Grant showed up for the occasion.
MinnPost/Jay Weiner
Former Vikings head coach Bud Grant showed up for the occasion.

But a Minneapolis stadium, because the infrastructure is in place, would come in at $895 million … not exactly a cheap date, but about $300 million cheaper than Arden Hills.

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

Is there a future for the Vikings in Minnesota?

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.

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Comments (13)

  1. Submitted by Charles Kloos on 05/10/2011 - 09:31 pm.

    Jay, I don’t know if this was an intentional strategic move on their part, but the Vikings cannot be displeased that seemingly all debate is centering on where a stadium would be built, to the exclusion of the issue of cost. Is anybody raising the issue of whether the stadium really needs to cost $884 million, as in the Vikings’ Arden Hills proposal? Ford Field in Detroit, completed in 2002, was built for $440 million, albeit without a retractable roof. Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, with a retractable roof, cost $720 million and opened in 2008; University of Phoenix Stadium in Arizona, which opened in 2006 and has a retractable roof, cost $455 million. I refuse to believe that a stadium sufficient to meet the Vikings’ needs, and also having the flexibility for non-football events that makes the public expense involved at least somewhat more palatable, cannot be built for substantially less than $884 million.

    The obvious opposing argument, that we went cheap for the Metrodome and don’t want to do it again, only goes so far. In this political and economic climate, I cannot understand why more isn’t being made about the price tag that is being proposed.

  2. Submitted by James Olson on 05/10/2011 - 09:57 pm.

    And why exactly does the city of St. Paul deserve some kind of tribute from the .5% countywide sales tax? This proposed tax is just for the stadium and related costs. St. Paul ought to be able to fund its third world schools and streets by other means.

  3. Submitted by Michael Corcoran on 05/10/2011 - 10:06 pm.

    Zygi, I love you, but you have zero, zip, zilch chance with the Arden Hills site. I hope you are using them for leverage to get Hennepin County back in the game…

  4. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/11/2011 - 08:23 am.

    It doesn’t really matter where they build this thing, it’s going to be an public liability for decades. I must say I am a little surprised by some of the claims being made about the possible future development however. We know that stadiums don’t promote local development, so the idea that the future holds more than just a stadium out there is bizarre on the face of it. Do I need to remind people this is post-real estate bubble year 2011? Wilf is a real estate guy, remember these are the guys that told us housing prices could only go up and a national collapse was impossible? These are the guys that have been “expecting” the housing market to recover by October for the last three years?

    This site is a classic pre-bubble exoburb development that assumes transportation, convenience, gas prices, and distance are irrelevant. There’s no doubt that Vikings fans will go out there for the games, but beyond that this stadium is the same as every other. I think Ziggy must be gambling on making a lot of money off of all the other development he envisions. My prediction is that this stadium will follow the same pattern as the Target Center. Within 5 years Ziggy will want his $400 million back and will asking for some kind of bailout.

    //The Sports Facilities Commission cost analysis was conducted by a respected local consulting firm called CSL…

    Jay? “Respected”? Every analysis they’ve offered has grossly exaggerated stadium benefits. 13,000 jobs? $1.8 trillion ROI in 40 years? Pope’s will visit, Olympics can be held in MN? True everyone is using CSL’s figures, but that’s only because those are the only figures anyone has… which is kinda weird when you think about it. The government is offering a billion dollars subsidy without doing it’s own analysis. CSL is not an independent actor, their client wants a stadium. CSL probably stands to make money off of any new stadiums as well because they provide a variety of stadium and event related services. I’m not saying they’re not “respected”, but why flatter them?

  5. Submitted by Brad Robinson on 05/11/2011 - 08:55 am.

    I don’t understand the need for a retractable roof if they are in Arden Hills. The Metrodome would be the logical venue for climate controlled events. Zygi has said before that the Vikes don’t necessarily need a roof.

    Also, Zygi has made his fortune in real estate development. I have to think that the Arden Hills site has more “up side” potential for his intentions. The fact that it’s not in Downtown Mpls. doesn’t bother me at all. Metropolitan stadium was in Bloomington for pete’s sake. And the subsequent Mall of America seems to be doing ok. “If you build it, they will come.”

  6. Submitted by Tim Hayes on 05/11/2011 - 09:00 am.

    I find it very comical that Zygi is vowing to bring MLS to the Twin Cities as an additional selling point. I doubt that he has even looked into this possibility. MLS is currently commanding a $50million expansion fee AND a requirement of a soccer-specific stadium (with the only exception being the centrally located Qwest Field in Seattle that is owned by the team owners).

    While I applaud his willingness to speak openly about the highest division of soccer in our country, I find it hard to believe that MLS would be interested in bringing in another team that would be similar to the New England Revolution (stadium far away from metro area, and treated as an afterthought by the team owners–Kraft family).

    I don’t believe Zygi is serious about MLS. He is just talking up the deal…

  7. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/11/2011 - 09:38 am.

    //Also, Zygi has made his fortune in real estate development. I have to think that the Arden Hills site has more “up side” potential for his intentions.

    Ziggy thinks there’s a up-side, but he’s also lost millions when the bubble burst, so you’d think he would have learned something.

    On the bright side MPLS and Henn Co. dodged a bullet. MPLS still has the Target Center load stone around it’s neck but that’s their problem. Now that this Vikings silliness is out of the way they can start thinking about doing some real development in and around the dome. Price wise the dome can easily out-bid the new Vikings stadium as a venue, and it’s downtown location has obvious advantages. If Rybak were smart he’d be pushing for a dome-area development instead of $155 million for the Target Center.

  8. Submitted by David Peterson on 05/11/2011 - 10:41 am.

    Does this deal mean the Minneapolis proposal is dead? I am happy, as a city resident, not to have the burden of MORE sales tax if it is, but a little sad to lose a stadium that would have been central.

    Another question raised by the Arden Hills site, what happens to the Dome? I would hope they could demo and build a great TOD neighbourhood, since that will be at the confluence of the 55 LRT/CCLRT.

  9. Submitted by Joel Gingery on 05/11/2011 - 01:20 pm.

    Discussion about a billion-dollar stadium for a team that would use it only 10 times a year is ridiculous. Need I say more?

  10. Submitted by Ron Gold on 05/11/2011 - 01:28 pm.

    I am not a huge fan of football but I do love architecture. I would gladly donate $400 on the spot or $500 over a couple of years just to have the ugly Metrodome replaced with a new stadium that doesn’t have 1980s written all over it. Seriously, that ugly marshmallow is an eyesore.

    Additionally, it seems a shame to see the Vikings move away just as the lightrail system is taking hold and soon to be offering an even greater advantage with its St. Paul connection.

  11. Submitted by Mike Naas on 05/11/2011 - 05:42 pm.

    Jay Weiner’s interview on MPR’s Tues. Midday was informative. However, football is entertainment. There are many business segments that government should not be involved in. Entertainment is one of those areas. The argument that this or that is good for Minnesota is irreverent. All legal businesses are “good for Minnesota.” Giving handouts to selected businesses is government run-a-muck and is corruption. Government should not be involved in giving free money to any free enterprise in the entertainment business. Our elected officials should be forced to justify every spending initiative with Minnesota Constitutional justification. Building stadiums for entertainment cannot be justified. State loans to business, that must be paid back with the threat of liquidation of assets, might be a possibility, that would also compete against banks unfairly. Government should stay out of business completely, especially the entertainment. Every elected official that supports tax money gifts such as to stadiums do not understand the role of government and will spend our State into insolvency. They need to be voted out of office in favor of a someone who will practice frugal policy restraint within State constitutional authority. A recent poll reported in this paper that 60% of voters favor telling the Vikings NO to any funding. These voters understand these principles, but do our public officials understand?

  12. Submitted by Tony Spadafora on 05/12/2011 - 01:38 pm.

    The Vikings headquarters stays in Eden Prairie for the time being. If they plan any major renovations the move to Arden Hills may happen, but for the time being, I don’t think adding $30 – $40 million to the cost of the project would be a wise thing to do, Representative Knuth and I don’t think the state or Ramsey County should pay for a new Vikings headquarters, but your 50% contribution idea may happen in the end.

  13. Submitted by Tony Spadafora on 05/12/2011 - 01:54 pm.

    Mayor Rybak said the referendum “waiver” on the downtown entertainment taxes would be a problem during Monday’s new conference at the capital. He failed to mention it’s actually a DOUBLE REFERENDUM “WAIVER” he’s seeking.

    The “waiver” for the downtown entertainment taxes due to the 1997 citizen initiative placing a $10 million limit on city stadium stadium investments unless there’s a referendum.

    The second “waiver” is for the “NEW” 0.15 local option sales tax that requires a referendum.

    In 2006 I told city officials to use the $10 million they could invest in a Vikings stadium project to purchase the Star Tribune property and the 500 car parking ramp under the Metrodome light rail station. They could have used the parking revenues of that property and ramp to make their annual payments on the money they borrowed to buy the land.

    Moving forward with a new $1 billion Vikings stadium on the Metrodome site would have caused the value of the parking ramp and the Star Tribune land to skyrocket in value… it would at least double in value… probably much more.

    The city could then sell that land and parking ramp and invest the original $10 million plus the appreciated value of the land to make a much larger stadium contribution and the county should have matched the city’s contribution. The rest of the land and ramps selling price would go to pay off the original loan… this keep the city’s total investment just the $10 million they were allowed to spend without a referendum. Why is it so easy to pull “end runs” around referendums in MN… Other NFL cities don’t “waive” referendums.

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