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Vikings avoid telling what would happen without stadium lease

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ST. PAUL -- A Minnesota Vikings vice president did not specifically say today what would happen if state leaders fail to approve a new stadium deal before the team's Metrodome lease expires after this football stadium.

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Sen. Barb Goodwin, DFL-Columbia Heights, asked Lester Bagley if he was saying the Vikings would leave Minnesota after stadium talks fail.

"Not at all," Bagley said. "What we are just saying that we won't have a lease."

Gov. Mark Dayton, however, often has said that he fears the National Football League team will move to Los Angeles or elsewhere without a stadium deal.

Bagley's comment came during a four-hour Senate committee meeting in which senators heard testimony about whether a new stadium should be in Arden Hills, in the northern Twin Cities area, or in downtown Minneapolis.

Another Senate hearing is planned in a week about financing a stadium.

"We are trying to figure out where we are," Chairwoman Julianne Ortman of the Senate Taxes Committee said.

Today's meeting was "the people's hearing," she said, adding that lawmakers would have more time to debate the issues later, once a specific proposal is laid in front of them.

No votes can be taken at the meetings because the Legislature is not in session.

If there is progress on a stadium plan, Dayton could call a special session to deal with the issue. Otherwise, any action will need to wait until after Jan. 24, when lawmakers return for their annual session.

"Let's chew on it and see what we come up with," Sen. Doug Magnus, R-Slayton, said.

"Waiting does not make this any cheaper," said Chairman Ted Mondale of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, estimating that construction expense would rise up to $50 million for each year a stadium is delayed.

Mondale said a facility 40 percent larger than the existing Metrodome is needed, in part to make it accessible to the disabled and allow easier access to restrooms.

"We are talking $700 million in public money to accommodate those things," said stadium opponent Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville.

The Vikings teamed with Ramsey County on the Arden Hills site, which besides hosting a stadium would give team owner Zygi Wilf, who is a New Jersey developer, or someone else more than 100 acres that could be developed into businesses and homes.

Vikings representatives said the Arden Hills location would provide easier access to fans and space to tailgate.

Super Vikings fan Larry Spooner, dressed in a Vikings jersey and cap, emotionally pleaded for the Arden Hills site because it would provide for the best tailgating opportunity.

"Without tailgating, my God, can you imagine what a bummer year this would be?" Spooner asked to laughter around the packed Capitol committee room. "There is only one thing that Minnesotans and Vikings fans want: Someplace where we can go tailgating."

Not everyone promoted tailgating.

Mindy Sparby, Lac Qui Parle Valley High School and Minnesota State University Moorhead graduate, said high schools feel it is important to keep a facility for school sports events. The Belle Plaine High School activities director said it must have a roof.

As a leader of the Minnesota High School League, Sparby said parents and fans from around the state need a roof so they know games will be played regardless of the weather.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak told senators that sites he proposed in his downtown would cost at least $150 million less than the proposed $1.1 billion Arden Hills facility.

"The quickest way to get the Vikings into a stadium ... is a complete remake of the Metrodome," the mayor said.

Rybak said he has not met with the Vikings about Minneapolis sites because they picked Arden Hills. However, Bagley promised to meet with Minneapolis officials after senators pressured.

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Pioneer staff reports
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