Despite concerns from Minnesota governor Mark Dayton, one of the authors of the Vikings stadium legislation, Rep. Mike Nelson (DFL-Brooklyn Park), is encouraged that stadium financing can be passed this year.
But, despite Nelson saying that he is "reasonably optimistic" that the stadium issue will be addressed in a special session, he continued to caution that solving Minnesota's $5 billion budget deficit comes first.
"Right now, it's probably behind getting the budget settled. The governor and the House Republican leadership and Senate Republican leadership have got to get together. I think [in] a special session it's something that will be on the table," Nelson said Friday while working at the Vikings' stadium playground build at Northport Elementary School.
"We have to get a budget settled. We have to get that stuff done before we can do work on the stadium. I know people behind the scenes are working on it or talking about it and working with the Vikings on getting the details worked out. The budget is the most important thing to get that done."
On the same day Nelson was talking about the issue, Dayton's office sent a letter to the Vikings outlining the continued position of the governor's office on the stadium issue. In the letter, Dayton reiterated three key points: The state is committed to keeping the Vikings in Minnesota, the state has a $300 million threshold for its contribution to the project (including transportation costs), and the state expects to be a full partner in "construction, ownership, and operations of this valuable asset."
The biggest unresolved issue is the $131 million estimate for road improvements needed in the Arden Hills area to support increased traffic surrounding a stadium, but Nelson said some of the roadwork would be necessary with or without a new Vikings stadium in Ramsey County.
"There are some of those projects that have to be done," Nelson said. "Road upgrades are in the schedule and the state had a state transportation list – they call it a STIP list, where they lay out all the road projects. Some of those projects are already on the pipeline to get done or get started. It will depend on what happens there. It will be part of the negotiations with the state, with the governor and with the Vikings and with Arden Hills."
Nelson likes the idea of the state helping finance a Vikings stadium in part because of the lackluster state of the construction industry.
"For me, I'm a carpenter by trade. Any place building a new stadium is a great thing," he said. "Right now we've got probably 40 percent unemployment in the building trades. This will get people to work, whether it's in downtown or whether it's in Arden Hills. To me, any one is OK because it will get people to work and provide the long-term jobs there and help the community, help the whole state."
While there is still work to be done, Vikings vice president of public affairs and stadium development said, "We're negotiating and at least we're talking."
Nelson is more optimistic that a stadium bill can be passed in a special session this year than he was about the prospects last year.
"Last year the biggest thing was having a willing third partner or willing local partner. Now the Vikings have got that with Ramsey County at the Arden Hills site," he said.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of 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.
Stadium bill author ‘reasonably optimistic'
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