The “proposals” for a Vikings stadium are to land on the desk of Gov. Mark “Deadline” Dayton this afternoon.
Minneapolis, Ramsey County and Shakopee, the newcomer to the stadium game, all say they will meet the 5 p.m. “deadline” established by Dayton a few days ago.
But what does Dayton’s latest deadline really mean?
A meaningless deadline?
Not much, guesses Hennepin County Commissioner Mark Stenglein, a veteran of stadium politics.
“This whole thing has to crash and burn, and then a stadium will rise up from the ashes,” Stenglein predicts.
How flimsy are these so-called final proposals?
Look at it this way: Brad Tabke has been mayor of Shakopee for only one week, and the proposal his community has put together may be a little stronger than proposals that Ramsey County and Minneapolis officials have worked on for months.
At least Tabke has the support of other elected officials in Scott County and surrounding areas.
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak appears to have little support among his own City Council members, the Minneapolis legislative delegation, downtown boosters or Hennepin County commissioners in his desire to build the stadium on the Metrodome site. He’s also got a little problem with the city charter, which pretty much says he can’t spend the money he wants to spend without voter approval.
Ramsey County commissioners have similar problems. They have virtually no support in St. Paul City Hall and not much support among Ramsey County legislators, either.
This is not to say that the Shakopee deal doesn’t have some gaping holes in the proposal it threw together in a matter of hours.
Start with the fact that Vikings officials haven’t even driven past the 130-acre parcel Shakopee says would be perfect for the stadium.
“In my conversations with them,” said Cory Merrifield, who heads something called Savethevikings.org, “they’ve thanked us for our effort. We’ve excited to talk to them about our proposal.”
The other fundamental problem with the Shakopee proposal is that it puts virtually no local money into the effort.
Instead, this proposal is based on most of the public funding coming from proceeds from racinos, as well as some user fees.
Passage of a racino bill in the Legislature could just as easily pay for a stadium in Minneapolis or Arden Hills, which Shakopee officials acknowledge.
Shakopee‘s surprise proposal
Still, after months of meetings, proposals, public meetings, Vikings tears, architectural drawings and Dayton deadlines, there’s something delightfully refreshing about the Shakopee approach to the stadium.
Apparently, late last week, Merrifield contacted the new mayor on Twitter. And apparently, the tweet suggested that they should meet about the stadium. So, on Saturday, Merrifield, the mayor, Sen. Claire Robling, an assistant majority leader now, Rep. Michael Beard of Shakopee, business and community leaders and others got together.
“Is this a dumb idea?” they asked each other.
They decided it wasn’t.
This is an unusual combination of people.
Tabke is just 32 years old. He came to the unveiling of the big plan wearing bluejeans. The Shakopee regional legislators — Robling, Beard, Reps. Mark Buesgen, Tom Hackbarth and Kelby Woodard, who are all on board with this plan — tend to be anti-tax, fundamentally conservative Republicans. Except when the issue is racinos. All of them favor racinos mightily.
Racinos are the magic bullet, they say, that would pay for the public share of the stadium with tons of money left over to do such things as pay down the school shift.
And they all are big boosters of the Shakopee area, which they refer to as “the entertainment capital of Minnesota.” They seem to be sincere when they say that.
The area, they all point out, features Valleyfair, Canterbury Park racetrack and card room, Mystic Lake casino and other places and events that attract 6 million visitors a year. And they note that the infrastructure is all ready for a Vikings stadium, there’s no site clean-up needed (as the Arden Hills site requires), and there’s plenty of parking for the stadium, which the Vikings desire.
The stadium would replace a dream from another era. About a decade ago, ADC Communications started to build a monster of a building on the site near Highways 101 and 169. This was going to be the international headquarters of a big high-tech player. Then the tech world changed, and the building turned out only to be a shell.
“It just sits there, empty,” said Robling. “You shake your head every time you go past it.”
But for all their boosters’ excitement and unity, the Shakopee plan has likely just joined Minneapolis and Arden Hills in the race to nowhere — at least in this session.
Quick legislative action unlikely
Few believe legislators in the coming session will have the will to attempt to resolve the controversial stadium issue in what is supposed to be a short session in an election year.
Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk said he believes the chances are “slim” that the stadium work can be done this session.
Bakk would support most stadium efforts but, he said, it is the Republican majority that would have to do the heavy lifting on the stadium. After talking about the necessity of budget cuts across the board, Republicans would suddenly be in position of saying “but we were able to build a stadium for millionaires.”
Watching all of this from a few miles away is Hennepin County Commissioner Mike Opat, who generally is credited as the politician who came forward with the plan that ended up creating Target Field.
Opat credits Dayton for trying “to create movement”on the stadium, but he believes there’s little meaning to any of the “final” proposals that Dayton will receive.
Minneapolis and Ramsey County share the problem of having no money. On top of that, Rybak has a nearly impossible task of rallying the City Council behind a big project.
“The tragedy of Minneapolis,” said Opat of what he considers the limited vision of many city pols.
But none of this means he doesn’t think a deal ultimately will get done.
“The time doesn’t feel right yet,” Opat said.
When it does, will Hennepin County — with by far the most powerful economy in the state — take action.
“I think that’s a possibility,” Opat said. “I have some ideas. But it’s not the right time.”
Doug Grow writes about public affairs, state politics and other topics. He can be reached at dgrow [at] minnpost [dot] com.