Vikes stadium: Dayton asks city, Ramsey County to play hurry-up

Governor Dayton wants Minneapolis and Ramsey County to deploy hurry-up offenses in hopes of bringing closure to the Vikings' stadium drive.

Today, he sent the Ramsey County board and Mayor R.T. Rybak letters setting a January 12 deadline for final stadium proposals, a deadline that Minneapolis city leaders said they intend to meet.

In the letters, Dayton asks Minneapolis and Ramsey County to make clear how they plan to finance the local share of the project, spell-out stadium ownership and operating control, discuss reasons each entity believes their site to be superior, and disclose any possible impediments to stadium development.

Shortly after the letters were sent, Rybak and City Council President Barb Johnson issued a press release indicating that city leaders are ready and willing to go no-huddle.

In part, it says:

Rybak and Johnson: Minneapolis "more accessible and affordable" than Arden Hills.
Rybak and Johnson: Minneapolis "more accessible and affordable" than Arden Hills.
We appreciate Governor Dayton's keeping the ball moving on the stadium issue and we are more than happy to provide him with the latest analysis and planning for a new Vikings Stadium in Minneapolis. We are confident that our plan is viable and that we are the only local partner with a local financing tool.

Our plan provides Minnesota with a three-for-one deal for the same price or less than the cost of the Arden Hills site. With our plan, we can build a real People's Stadium in Minneapolis and secure the future of two other significant statewide assets: Target Center and the Convention Center. And for less cost, we can create far more good jobs.

Our proposal would be a true People's Stadium: more accessible and affordable for fans than Arden Hills. It makes perfect sense for the People's Stadium to be in Minneapolis, the top host city in the upper Midwest and a city of people who already know how to serve the people of Minnesota. We're tried and tested in Minneapolis: we know how to do this, far better than anyone else.

John Stiles, communications director for the Mayor, told the City Pages that while the city's proposal remains a work in progress, the funding mechanism will probably be similar to what Rybak outlined during a presentation to the city council on December 8.

Rybak's presentation, which was received tepidly by council members, spelled out a plan whereby the city would kick in $300 million over the next 30 years for an $895 million fixed-roof stadium on the Metrodome site.

To date, Vikings brass hasn't backed off their stance that a $1.1 billion facility in Arden Hills is their preferred stadium site, but during a Tuesday meeting owner Zygi Wilf presented state leaders with team-prepared maps showing how a new stadium would fit at a sites near the Basilica of St. Mary or near Target Field, indicating he may be warming to the idea of staying in Minneapolis.

Nick Halter of the Downtown Journal reported that Rybak's plan would raise money by diverting existing hospitality and sales tax revenue from the Minneapolis Convention Center toward both a Vikings stadium and a Target Center renovation.

The city currently uses those tax revenues in part to pay down Convention Center debt. That debt should be paid off by 2020, after which all the funds can be repurposed as the local contribution for a Vikings stadium. Until then, it's questionable whether Rybak's plan would even be able to generate the $8 million or so each year the state wants for stadium operating costs with enough left over to renovate the Target Center as well.

Stiles acknowledged that Rybak's plan to divert taxes wasn't initially popular with council members, a number of whom flat-out oppose the use of any public subsidies for a stadium, including gambling revenue.

Johnson, in fact, is to date the only council member to publicly support the Mayor's proposal. But Stiles suggested council members might sing a different tune "once they understand the plan," and Rybak has said he believes most council members are "in the middle" and presumably could be persuaded to support his last-minute drive to keep the Vikings in town.

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