Cory Merrifield, leader, boosts new stadium plans

On Tuesday, a lot of Vikings fans celebrated a victory when team owners struck a deal with Ramsey County to build a new stadium in Arden Hills.

But even with a location supposedly locked down, celebration is premature. The plan still requires the Legislature to pass a bill that would allocate state funds to the stadium -- a deal that's far from complete -- and the clock is ticking on both the legislative session and the Vikings' lease with the Metrodome.

That's not dampening Cory Merrifield's unbridled enthusiasm for the deal. The founder of stadium advocacy group has been agitating for a new stadium since 2009, and will be pushing lawmakers to pass the stadium bill before the session ends May 23. He's definitely a "glass half-full" kind of guy.

City Pages: Minnesota is in the middle of a budget crisis. We just built a Twins stadium and a Gophers stadium. Why should a Vikings stadium be a priority?

Cory Merrifield: The Vikings are an economical and cultural icon and aspect for the state of Minnesota. They actually bring quite a bit of business to state the Minnesota and something that I think brings a lot of attention. We're very lucky here in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Minnesota that we have a balanced community where we have fantastic museums, we have performing arts, we have places like the Guthrie. And the Vikings are definitely part of what makes us a major metropolitan area.

CP: What are you doing in the next 12 days to convince legislators to pass it?

CM: We're going to be working quite a bit with the grassroots [organizations] and the media to try to spread the word out there, to try to let people know that it's very critical right now to contact their lawmakers. Right now, the bill is sitting on the desk of the government ops committees and the House and Senate, where it would start to work its way into committees. So we are targeting specifically those lawmakers and asking them to take a look at the stadium bill.

CP: Are you going to be down at the Capitol?

CM: Yes, I'm always down at the Capitol. At least 2-3 times a week.

CP: Is Arden Hills the right location for a new stadium? Any qualms with this?

CM: From a fans perspective, it's a great location. You've got a site there that has a lot of wide-open area. It's an ultimate game-day experience. It's going to be a great facility, that's going to be able to house the other 300 events that go on at the Metrodome.

From the Vikings perspective, it's a great return on their investment. In terms of dollars, the Metrodome site is going to be the most cost effective, but at this point, the lawmakers have already said, 'We're gonna invest $300 million.' So being that Ramsey County is willing to invest more than the city of Minneapolis, I think the greater return on our investment is in Ramsey County. But the overall least expensive way to do this would be to reuse the existing infrastructure at the Metrodome site.

CP: What happens if the bill doesn't pass this session?

CM: We've got big problems. The lease on the Metrodome is up. You've got Toronto who has now emerged as a suitor for an NFL team. San Diego appears to be close to having their stadium deal done, which leaves three potential teams to leave and relocate...They're looking for two teams to move to LA. And at that point that leaves the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Minnesota Vikings.

I think if this is not passed this session we lose the Vikings to LA.

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