Vikings optimistic financing plan for stadium will be ready in days
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The Minnesota Vikings are optimistic that a financing plan for a new stadium on the site of the Metrodome will be in front of legislators in a matter of days.
Lester Bagley, Vikings' vice president of public affairs and stadium development, said Tuesday that talks between team officials, state and Minneapolis leaders and the NFL have "intensified in recent days."
"There are still a couple of issues that separate us, but I think by and large the economics of an agreement are there," Bagley said. "Meaning how much does it cost? Who puts in what? What are the operating costs? Some of the major issues.
"There's nothing to announce yet, but we're all working hard. I think there's opportunity and appetite to resolve that this session."
While the issue would be far from resolved even with a proposal in front of legislators, at least they would be able to begin discussions on the topic knowing how much the Vikings, the city of Minneapolis and the state planned to contribute to a stadium that is expected to cost more than $900 million.
Bagley also said Tuesday that the team will not apply for relocation with the NFL by the Wednesday deadline, meaning that even if they don't get stadium approval, the franchise will remain in Minnesota for at least one more season.
Time is of the essence if a stadium deal is going to get done in the current legislative session. This is the fourth week of what is scheduled to be a 10-week session.
Because of that time element, the proposal that will be submitted will involve building on the land where the Metrodome currently sits. All of the numbers for what that would cost have been crunched and discussed between the parties.
This comes amid growing momentum to build just east of the Metrodome in order to allow the Vikings to continue playing in their old stadium while the new one was going up.
"We're trying to bring a package forward on the current Metrodome site with the opportunity and flexibility to shift eastward," Bagley said. "It's going to have to be financially achievable.
"We've been told by legislators from both parties that any Minneapolis stadium deal is going to require legislative approval and city council support. That's what we're trying to bring forward. Something that is financially and politically achievable."
A shift eastward might make sense - that would enable the Vikings not to have to move games to TCF Bank Stadium on the University of Minnesota campus -- but many particulars of building on that adjacent land are still being examined. Getting all of that information gathered for a proposal would take too long for it to be given consideration in this session.
Building the stadium near the Metrodome, but not on that land, would enable the Vikings to do the same thing that baseball's St. Louis Cardinals did when three-quarters of the new Busch Stadium was built right near the old ballpark.
Once the last game of the 2005 baseball season was played in the old park, it was torn down and the new stadium was completed.
The Vikings haven't made it a secret that they don't want to play in TCF Bank Stadium. The team has estimated it would lose $37 million in total operating losses over three seasons if forced to play in the Gophers home stadium.
Bagley said the Vikings remain "focused" on getting a deal done in Minnesota and also won't be asking the NFL for an extension of the relocation deadline. The Vikings were considered a candidate to move to Los Angeles, but the NFL has said that city won't have a team next season.
The Vikings also have said there is another city in the mix but have refused to identify it.
The Vikings, by the way, have no plan of signing a lease extension at the Metrodome unless they get a new stadium approved. That means the team would play next season in the Dome without a lease, making them a free agent again after 2012.