With a little over a week to go in the legislative sessions, questions continue to pop up regarding the Ramsey County Stadium proposal. Only time will tell if those can be resolved in eight days.
The Vikings made an across-the-board appeal to all 201 state lawmakers Saturday, claiming the cost of road improvements near the proposed stadium in Arden Hills shouldn't prevent the project from going through.
In a letter from Zygi and Mark Wilf, they told legislators they realize the state is facing "significant challenges" with its current budget deficit, but the Vikings have waited patiently while other stadiums for the Wild, Twins and University of Minnesota have been approved.
The biggest immediate question is just how much the cost will be to improve roads around the stadium. As stadium proponents have pointed out, almost all events that would generate crowds of 40,000 to 65,000 would happen on nights and weekends, when traffic levels are typically lower than normal.
Gov. Mark Dayton has claimed that the $300 million the state would be asked to kick in (less than one-third of the cost) may well be exceeded if the infrastructure costs are factored in.
It may be a novel idea, but couldn't legislators approve a stadium project that, where possible, would require the hiring of Minnesota sub-contractors? In that event, the money invested by the state would stay within its borders. It would be regenerated through spending and taxes and effectively repay itself.
While the primary contractor would likely have to come from out-of-state – there aren't a lot of companies that specialize in building domed/retractable roof stadiums –there could be wording in the legislation that, barring a massive discrepancy in bidding out contracts, the state can require that the bids be awarded to Minnesota firms. There is such a thing as the "low responsible bid" that is written into law that doesn't require a government entity to accept the lowest bid, just the lowest bid it is comfortable with. It's a Minnesota stadium, why not have unemployed or underemployed Minnesota tradesmen build it? They can tell their kids and grandkids that they helped build the first legitimate pro football stadium Minnesota has ever constructed and play their part in keeping the Vikings in Minnesota.
The greatest entertainment/football moment in months happened Saturday night, as attention-seeking Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chad Ochocinco attempted to ride a bull. Claiming he could last the required eight seconds, he was credited with a generous time of 1.5 seconds. In actuality, the instant the bull left the chute when the door opened, Ocho was already heading to the ground. By the time the required eight seconds has elapsed, he had already climbed to wall to get out of Dodge.
There is a growing buzz in the college football community – the NCAA always is looking for a way to maximize its bottom line on the backs of free labor – to play games on Sunday if the NFL lockout continues into September. One can only imagine Monday class attendance would be down under that scenario.
Like Brett Favre, former Packer Darren Sharper was a stud in 2009 and helped lead his team to a Super Bowl title. Also like Favre, injuries sustained in 2009 bled over into 2010 and both had dismal seasons. While it signaled the end of Favre's career, it doesn't sound like Sharper is going as quietly into that good night. A free agent when the lockout ends, Sharper is working out with his former Saints teammates and expects to make another run at a starting safety job in the NFL, whether with the Saints or somewhere else. Considering the state of the safety position with the Vikings, even though he was a one-legged liability in 2010 with the Saints, he would probably be an upgrade for the Vikings.
The latest cannonball fired across the river is a business column in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune in which it is pointed out that the Ramsey County share of the stadium will be paid in "our nickels and dimes." The "Minneapolis" Star Tribune doesn't operate in Ramsey County. It's going to be difficult enough to pass a stadium bill if those representing Hennepin County boycott moving the team, but to play the "Trick or Treat for UNICEF" card seems like overkill. If you have dinner and drinks at a restaurant in Duluth, you're helping pay for the DECC. If you do the same in St. Cloud, you pay for their new library and civic center expansion. There are some things local leaders believe is beneficial enough to raise taxes to build.
There is word that the Met Council, a nebulous, faceless group to the average Minnesotan, but actually a powerful group that helps earmark hundreds of millions of dollars in state and federal infrastructure funds, might get involved in the 11th-hour stadium negotiations. Most Vikings fans have a vague understanding of the Met Council and its sphere of influence, but, if it does get involved, its role will be significant – either for good or bad.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.