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The outside of a proposed Minnesota Vikings stadium in Arden Hills could look like this. The stadium would cost $1 billion. Submitted Graphic

NFL funds would be part of Vikings' stadium payment

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ST. PAUL -- A National Football League contribution to a new Vikings stadium may not help as legislators negotiate stadium details in the final days of the legislative session.

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Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, said he, Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont and Gov. Mark Dayton discussed several stadium-related issues with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell Tuesday, including whether the league was willing to chip in and help finance a $1 billion facility in Arden Hills.

Goodell said the league would help finance the deal. League spokesman Brian McCarthy later confirmed that whatever financing the league provided for the project would help the team cover its $407 million commitment to the stadium project, and would not be in excess of what team owners already plan.

Lanning was not surprised. Although he characterized the breakfast get together as "a good meeting," he added that the NFL contributing to the Vikings' portion of the deal "does not get us any closer to closing the gap," he said.

"The gap" is the amount not accounted for in the project proposal that would go toward improving transportation to the stadium. Minnesota Department of Transportation officials originally estimated that at between $175 million and $240 million, though officials from Ramsey County and the Vikings think roads can be improved for less.

Lanning said that he agrees the $175 million figure could be high. Transportation Commissioner Tom Sorel said his staff is taking a closer look.

The state has capped its contribution to a stadium at $300 million and that figure would include any contribution it makes to solve those transportation issues. If MnDOT's original projections are correct, that would leave little money available for other parts of the project.

Ramsey County would use a 0.5 percent sales tax to raise $350 million for the retractable-roof stadium, which would be built on an abandoned munitions plant about 15 minutes north of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Commissioner Goodell indicated Tuesday that one option the NFL could tap for helping to finance the project could visiting teams forfeiting their share of club seat revenue. That would require the approval of three-fourths of the NFL's owners, or 24 of the 32, McCarthy said.

The commissioner emerged from the Tuesday meeting saying he was pleased that significant progress has been made in finding a solution aimed at replacing the Metrodome, where the Vikings have played since 1982.

He would not address questions about the ramifications of not passing a stadium bill this year, instead focusing on hopes that a deal can be reached by Monday's legislative adjournment date.

The Vikings prefer Arden Hills over the existing Metrodome site, where the city of Minneapolis has proposed building a stadium reusing much of the existing building's infrastructure.

Lester Bagley, vice president of stadium development and public affairs for the Vikings, said draft language for the bill sought by legislative authors would be in their hands today. Despite the team being positioned behind state budget negotiations in the minds of legislative leaders, the team is still committed to reaching a solution this year, he said.

"We are operating under the assumption that we are going to resolve this before the session adjourns," Bagley said. "If the budget comes together, we're hopeful a stadium deal comes together. The lease is up, the dome collapsed, which underscores that it is not viable long-term."

Lanning and Rosen acknowledged the high hurdles standing in the way of reaching a deal.

House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove and Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, said the stadium is far from their focus.

"We are focused on the budget," Zellers said.

The Vikings have said they will not renew their lease at the Metrodome, which expires after the 2011 season. The proposed stadium in Arden Hills would seat 65,000 fans and would provide a venue for many sports and other entertainment events.

Andrew Tellijohn is a Twin Cities freelance writer working for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Bemidji Pioneer.

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