Vikings believe Ramsey has the resources

The Vikings are concentrating their new stadium efforts mainly in Ramsey County, where they've found a willing local partner to this point, and one the team believes can handle partial financing. Still, a significant state contribution will be needed.

Last week, Minnesota was full of stadium news. The Metrodome will be getting a new roof and the Vikings are going to be working with Ramsey County to try to bring a new stadium to the area.

The Ramsey County site on the old Twin Cities Ammunition Plant doesn't have all the built-in infrastructure of the Metrodome location, but it does offer a few things the downtown Minneapolis location doesn't – more land for surrounding development (Zygi Wilf's forte) and an ability and willingness to look for local financing. In fact, Lester Bagley, Vikings vice president of public affairs and stadium development, sounded confident that Ramsey County will be able to come up with an appropriate share to partner with the Vikings in a stadium venture that could carry a price tag between $680 million but could be closer to $900 million with a roof.

"One thing we've underscored is that there's got to be a bankable, bondable revenue stream," Bagley said of Ramsey County's contribution. "They're about one-third of the tax capacity of Hennepin County, but they've got the ability to raise … the funds. We just have to see if there's going to be the votes for it, but most importantly that this is the right site for the stadium and we'll get all those other questions answered."

Some of the other questions surround the site location – about 10 miles north of the Metrodome, so still close enough in the metro area – and the infrastructure. It is near Interstates 694 and 35W, meaning some of the necessary transportation systems are in place, but Bagley estimated that site could require as much as $100 million in additional infrastructure costs. However, some of those projects were already being planned and could be eligible for federal funding as well.

"But there's a lot of questions that need to be answered about the site and about the county's financing and about their willingness and ability to put a deal together," he said. "We're digging into that, trying to determine how many freeway interchanges, how do you get people in and out of the site? To get 65,000 people in there, that's an important question."

The state is requiring a roof on the stadium for its involvement in the project, but that requirement could add between $180 million to $230 million above the estimated cost of an open-air stadium, slated at about $690 million. With that additional cost, a three-way partnership would have to be formed between the Vikings, who have said they will contribute one-third of the cost of an open-air stadium, a local government agency like Ramsey County, and the state.

"The Twins deal was the Twins and a local partner, and it's not a model that will work for the Vikings because ours is a multipurpose stadium that benefits the entire state because it has a roof. So the state has to be in to at least cover the roof," Bagley said. "The only way to get this done for a multipurpose stadium is to have multiple partners. So we need to have (something) like the Pennsylvania model, where the team will be in, we'll need a local partner and we need the state to be in. There'll be a couple of partners in the deal."

The Metrodome site is still an option, as are two other locations, and the Vikings said in a letter to Ramsey County that the negotiations wouldn't be exclusive for either side, but right now Ramsey County is most interested and is moving forward with further meetings on Tuesday.

"Ramsey County has stepped up and wants to keep the Vikings in Minnesota and want us in their county and they want to invest in the solution; it's extremely good news for us," Bagley said. "We're in the early part of the (legislative) session, but really in terms of a site and a plan and a deal, we've got to get that locked down. Frankly, I think the local piece will come together. I think the hard part is going to be the state with the budget deficit."

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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