Vikings VP says team is '100 percent focused' on stadium in Minnesota
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The point man on the Vikings stadium project reiterated on Friday the team remains "100 percent focused on getting the job done in Minnesota," despite a report that team officials have heard a pitch from a group that wants to move an NFL franchise to Los Angeles.
Lester Bagley, the Vikings' vice president of public affairs and stadium development, said the team has had no contact with Anschutz Entertainment Group since a "check-in visit" last month in Minneapolis about developing a proposed $1.057 billion stadium project in Arden Hills into a sports and entertainment experience.
"We believe we're in position to get our situation resolved this year in a special session" in the Minnesota Legislature, Bagley said by phone. "That's where our energy is focused."
AEG's president, Tim Leiweke, told the Orange County Register on Thursday night that billionaire Philip Anschutz is prepared to buy a majority share of an NFL team to move to Los Angeles and that Leiweke has discussed that willingness with officials from five teams, including the Vikings.
"St. Louis, Jacksonville, not extensively, certainly Oakland, San Diego, Minnesota are still in the mix," Leiweke told the newspaper. "We're not packing any (moving) vans right now."
Leiweke told the Register one of the meetings took place "a week ago," and the newspaper speculated that meeting was with the Vikings. The only known meeting between Vikings officials and AEG was more than two weeks ago, on May 24.
AEG already has proposed a downtown stadium and secured naming rights for Farmers Field, which could be ready for the 2016 season. Per the Register, Leiweke said the group is willing to pay to get a team out of its lease, too -- something that wouldn't be an issue with the Vikings, whose lease at the Metrodome expires after the 2011 season.
The Vikings to work at the Capitol in hopes of advancing a stadium bill during a special session the Legislature will call to resolve a budget deficit and avoid a government shutdown on July 1, the same day the team's agreement with Ramsey County would expire.
Bagley confirmed a Star Tribune report that the Vikings are circulating a "user-based finance model" -- including parking surcharges and sales tax revenue -- for funding $131 million in off-site road upgrades that have been a point of contention.
The team already has pledged $407 million toward the project. Ramsey County has said it is maxed out at $350 million, and Gov. Mark Dayton has made clear the state won't pay more than $300 million that still must be approved by the Legislature.
"We're grinding away," Bagley said. "We're working hard and trying to put a package together."