Dayton, Wilf talk; Vikings encouraged

Even after a topsy-turvy week of stadium developments, the Vikings remain encouraged that a solution can be reached in the coming months. The financing plan has changed, the site may change and a clause could protect taxpayers from the "flipping" of the team.

Despite numerous setbacks last week that had Vikings executives enduring a chilly autumn roller-coaster ride in the ever-changing stadium drama, key people on the Vikings' side remain encouraged that the franchise could still have a stadium financing solution in place before the team's lease with the Metrodome expires.

Vikings owner Zygi Wilf talked with Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton on Monday to review the previous week's twists and turns in the stadium debate, which included pulling the Ramsey County sales-tax increase off the table, the cancellation of a November special session, and, most recently, growing support that funding from gambling could help finance a new stadium. The result of that conversation between Wilf and Dayton was reassuring for the Vikings.

"I think (the Wilfs) are encouraged and I think we're encouraged. The best news is, for the first time ever we have all four caucus leaders and the governor at the table with their sleeves rolled up trying to get this done. It's more good news and they are solution-focused," said Lester Bagley, the team's vice president of a public affairs and stadium development. "They are talking about how do we do this, not whether to do this. There's a little bit of where should we do this, but really the focus is on how to do this."

When the governor said last week there wasn't enough support in the legislature to make a half-percent sales-tax increase in Ramsey County a viable solution to funding about $350 million of the $1.1 billion stadium proposal in Arden Hills, it left a major hole in the financing plan. Since that announcement on Nov. 1, however, a number of alternative funding options have come back into the picture. Among them are funds from a new lottery scratch-off game, electronic pull tabs, increased gambling options at Minnesota's two horse-racing tracks and additional taxes and sport memorabilia.

Bagley said Wilf talks to Dayton on a regular basis and appreciates that the governor "is really doing everything he can to get this done." On Tuesday, Dayton accused legislators of playing games with stadium issue and saying they were more concerned about their one job than the thousands of jobs that would be created by the construction of a new stadium.

The Vikings don't have much of a preference on how the public portion of the stadium funding is financed, but they remain in favor of a proposal to build it in Arden Hills because it offers a bigger plot of land for tailgating and surrounding amenities than other sites that have been suggested in Minneapolis. But Bagley admits that the governor is more site-neutral than the team.

"I think he's made it clear he wants a Plan B. He doesn't want to go down the path on Arden Hills and have it fall through for some reason and not have the ability to solve the problem in Minnesota," Bagley said. "That's what he's been clear to the Wilfs about and he understands very clearly our preference, and frankly he told Mr. Wilf he likes the Arden Hills site. He thinks it would be very exciting and very viable. I don't think that's the issue. It's back to the age-old problem about how do you pay for it."

The financing dynamic changes depending on the site. The Vikings have already committed to more than a $400 million contribution for the Arden Hills site, but that number would likely go down if one of the Minneapolis options were chosen because the team's ability to recoup game-day revenue would likely be lessen on a smaller plot of land.

Another obstacle facing the Vikings is the perception that the state would be helping line the pockets of a millionaire NFL owner. But a clause would likely be inserted into a stadium proposal that would allow the state to recoup a percentage of the profits (18 percent has been one figured mentioned) if the team were sold within a certain number of years of a new stadium being built. That percentage would decrease the longer the Vikings would remain under Wilf's ownership. In essence it would give the state a share of the profits if the Vikings owner would try to "flip" the team after securing a new stadium.

There is also the contention by the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission that the Vikings'current lease with the Metrodome won't expire until 2013 because they didn't play all of their scheduled games at the Metrodome last year after the roof of the stadium collapsed. Bagley said the Vikings are "very secure in their legal position" that their lease expires on Feb. 1, 2012. In essence, though, that part of the equation is likely a moot point since the construction of a new stadium wouldn't be finished until 2015 at the earliest and the Vikings would need a place to play while a new stadium is being built. The only real way the contention on the lease expiration would come into play is if the Vikings tried to move the team out of Minnesota in 2012.

"Our lease expires after this football season. It's not in anybody's best interest to delay a stadium solution any longer," Bagley said. "That Sports Commission issue was a little odd. Again, further delay is not helpful for anybody. That's why we appreciated the governor setting a deadline for the special session, because (with) the deadline people moved forward and tried to actually move a solution forward. When the legislative leaders, some of them, stood up and said no special session, the pressure to get something done immediately evaporated. A deadline is one way – the only way – to really focus our decision-makers on a decision. You've got to have a deadline."

A stadium consultant for the Vikings has told team officials that if a stadium bill were passed this calendar year a stadium could open for the 2015 season.

"If it slides a year the costs go up. We're in a battle to keep the costs from going up," Bagley said.


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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\r\n\r\n","mobileBody":"Despite numerous setbacks last week that had Vikings executives enduring a chilly autumn roller-coaster ride in the ever-changing stadium drama, key people on the Vikings' side remain encouraged that the franchise could still have a stadium financing solution in place before the team's lease with the Metrodome expires. Vikings owner Zygi Wilf talked with Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton on Monday to review the previous week's twists and turns in the stadium debate, which included pulling the Ramsey County sales-tax increase off the table, the cancellation of a November special session, and, most recently, growing support that funding from gambling could help finance a new stadium. The result of that conversation between Wilf and Dayton was reassuring for the Vikings. \"I think (the Wilfs) are encouraged and I think we're encouraged. The best news is, for the first time ever we have all four caucus leaders and the governor at the table with their sleeves rolled up trying to get this done. It's more good news and they are solution-focused,\" said Lester Bagley, the team's vice president of a public affairs and stadium development. \"They are talking about how do we do this, not whether to do this. There's a little bit of where should we do this, but really the focus is on how to do this.\" When the governor said last week there wasn't enough support in the legislature to make a half-percent sales-tax increase in Ramsey County a viable solution to funding about $350 million of the $1.1 billion stadium proposal in Arden Hills, it left a major hole in the financing plan. Since that announcement on Nov. 1, however, a number of alternative funding options have come back into the picture. Among them are funds from a new lottery scratch-off game, electronic pull tabs, increased gambling options at Minnesota's two horse-racing tracks and additional taxes and sport memorabilia. Bagley said Wilf talks to Dayton on a regular basis and appreciates that the governor \"is really doing everything he can to get this done.\" On Tuesday, Dayton accused legislators of playing games with stadium issue and saying they were more concerned about their one job than the thousands of jobs that would be created by the construction of a new stadium. The Vikings don't have much of a preference on how the public portion of the stadium funding is financed, but they remain in favor of a proposal to build it in Arden Hills because it offers a bigger plot of land for tailgating and surrounding amenities than other sites that have been suggested in Minneapolis. But Bagley admits that the governor is more site-neutral than the team. \"I think he's made it clear he wants a Plan B. He doesn't want to go down the path on Arden Hills and have it fall through for some reason and not have the ability to solve the problem in Minnesota,\" Bagley said. \"That's what he's been clear to the Wilfs about and he understands very clearly our preference, and frankly he told Mr. Wilf he likes the Arden Hills site. He thinks it would be very exciting and very viable. I don't think that's the issue. It's back to the age-old problem about how do you pay for it.\" The financing dynamic changes depending on the site. The Vikings have already committed to more than a $400 million contribution for the Arden Hills site, but that number would likely go down if one of the Minneapolis options were chosen because the team's ability to recoup game-day revenue would likely be lessen on a smaller plot of land. Another obstacle facing the Vikings is the perception that the state would be helping line the pockets of a millionaire NFL owner. But a clause would likely be inserted into a stadium proposal that would allow the state to recoup a percentage of the profits (18 percent has been one figured mentioned) if the team were sold within a certain number of years of a new stadium being built. That percentage would decrease the longer the Vikings would remain under Wilf's ownership. In essence it would give the state a share of the profits if the Vikings owner would try to \"flip\" the team after securing a new stadium. There is also the contention by the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission that the Vikings'current lease with the Metrodome won't expire until 2013 because they didn't play all of their scheduled games at the Metrodome last year after the roof of the stadium collapsed. Bagley said the Vikings are \"very secure in their legal position\" that their lease expires on Feb. 1, 2012. In essence, though, that part of the equation is likely a moot point since the construction of a new stadium wouldn't be finished until 2015 at the earliest and the Vikings would need a place to play while a new stadium is being built. The only real way the contention on the lease expiration would come into play is if the Vikings tried to move the team out of Minnesota in 2012. \"Our lease expires after this football season. It's not in anybody's best interest to delay a stadium solution any longer,\" Bagley said. \"That Sports Commission issue was a little odd. Again, further delay is not helpful for anybody. That's why we appreciated the governor setting a deadline for the special session, because (with) the deadline people moved forward and tried to actually move a solution forward. When the legislative leaders, some of them, stood up and said no special session, the pressure to get something done immediately evaporated. A deadline is one way – the only way – to really focus our decision-makers on a decision. You've got to have a deadline.\" A stadium consultant for the Vikings has told team officials that if a stadium bill were passed this calendar year a stadium could open for the 2015 season. \"If it slides a year the costs go up. We're in a battle to keep the costs from going up,\" Bagley said. 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