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Duluth makes pitch for new Vikings stadium

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State Sen. Roger Reinert is throwing a fourth-down Hail Mary pass with just seconds left on the clock today as he sends Gov. Mark Dayton a letter suggesting a new Minnesota Vikings football stadium be built in Duluth.

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Reinert, DFL-Duluth, acknowledges his chances are about the same as the Vikings chances to win the Super Bowl anytime soon -- between slim and none -- but said the lack of consensus for any Twin Cities stadium site spurred his action.

Reinert is proposing the stadium be built at the 500-acre site of the former U.S. Steel plan in Morgan Park, along the St. Louis River at the city's western edge.

"It seems as if the stadium is going to be the biggest issue we tackle down here this year so I thought, why not throw our hat in?'' Reinert told the News Tribune this morning. "If all this does is enhance Duluth as a prime (tourist) destination, then I'm fine with that."

Reinert said his letter to Dayton will include a litany of facts supporting the Duluth site. For example, Reinert notes Duluth is nearly the same distance from the Twin Cities as Green Bay is from the Milwaukee metro area. Duluth also expects to be connected to the Twin Cities by the proposed Northern Lights Express high-speed passenger rail line that could move Twin Cities fans to the game in less than two hours. And Reinert also noted that Duluth already gets about 3.5 million tourists per year, about half of which are from the Twin Cities.

"They already come up here to visit; they would certainly come to watch football,'' he said.

Reinert said he hasn't yet figured how Duluth might come up with its share of the stadium costs estimated to approach $1 billion.

So far, Reinert said he's had no support from other Duluth officials.

But he does have a way to help finance the stadium. Reinert has included in the letter to the governor his longstanding but so-far unsuccessful plan to allow Minnesota liquor stores to open on Sundays. That would bring the state an extra $10.5 million in taxes each year that's now going to neighboring states, Reinert said, revenue that could go to help pay back stadium debt.

Other than Duluth it appears state officials and Vikings' owners are leaning toward a new stadium near the current site of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in downtown Minneapolis. That's the latest in a half-dozen sites considered for the new stadium that team owners said is critical for the team to be profitable and remain in Minnesota.

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Pioneer staff reports
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