It would appear that the two final proposals will be weighed on their own merits. As recently as Wednesday, the Vikings once again maintained their fervent belief that the Arden Hills site has been the most thoroughly vetted of any proposed site and has the least potential for critical construction "false starts" (unanticipated delays that occur after the project has begun). However, the Arden Hills site would appear to be running out of the steam it generated when it, in effect, posted the "Mission Accomplished" sign much too early.
As has been the case almost from the day the Vikings and the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners held an al fresco press conference on the site of the proposed Arden Hills stadium, attempts to derail the project have been almost non-stop –opponents have inflated construction costs, worked behind the scenes to shoot down a tax similar to the one Hennepin County imposed to help fund a Twins stadium and made unsubstantiated claims that the land on which the stadium sits is so horribly poisoned that it is unsuitable.
The opposition has been fierce – some motivated by the cost of building a new stadium, some motivated by the "no new taxes" political mantra and some motivated merely by greed – one of the basest of business instincts. Recent claims of the potential environmental problems of the Arden Hills site would seem to be the most archaic of all, although quite possibly true. The U.S. military, especially back in the days when the abandoned munitions plant was doing its job, wasn't exactly "green" in terms of environmental concern or protection. Poisons were put in steel drums and buried like family garbage used to be handled in makeshift landfills. But the sudden "proof" of significant problems at the Arden Hills site poses it's own set of questions that, if true, should bring pause to the motivation of those bringing the potential environmental allegations to light.
The irony of ironies on this last day when proposals are read over one last time and submitted to the governor's office was the proposal from the City of Shakopee Tuesday. The 11th hour doesn't even come close to this previously unheard-of option being floated out.
The proposal claims an ideal spot for the stadium would be on a tract of land adjacent to the ValleyFair amusement park in Shakopee (in the very southwest metro area of the Twin Cities) and nearby the Canterbury Park race track. For reasons yet to be explained, the city has attempted to throw a (very) late hat into the ring. The proposal claims a stadium similar to the Arden Hills proposal could be built there for approximately $900 million, about $200 million less than the Ramsey County site. It seems unlikely a Shakopee stadium proposal will carry any weight moving forward in what is believed to be a make-or-break legislative session to resolve the stadium debate.
The Arden Hills proposal, which some legislators may have to blow dust off of, remains essentially the same as its original, with the significant difference being the local contribution funding source. That may become the eventual deal-breaker for the Arden Hills site. From an obscure county charter commission to outrage from the City of St. Paul, which had no significant insider work on the proposal, the Ramsey County site favored by the Vikings may have more opponents than proponents when political push comes to shove.
So then we exit, map left, back to Minneapolis, where more questions – even on the final day of a proposal to be submitted – than answers are being offered up.
It remains unclear if Minneapolis is going to submit a two-pronged proposal – one that would propose demolishing the current Metrodome and rebuilding a new stadium on the same site and another at the site that has been gaining a lot of steam over the last month, a tract of land near the Basilica of St. Mary that is close to both Target Field and Target Center. Governor Dayton made it clear he was looking for both Ramsey County and Minneapolis to present their respective "best proposal" for a stadium, which, as the language would appear to state, is singular. One site. One proposal. It could be interpreted that Minneapolis is being asked to endorse one site, which, if it is the Basilica site, would all but assure that the Metrodome goes the way of the dinosaur when and if a stadium deal with the State Legislature is reached.
In an interesting twist to the Metrodome funding proposal, the Vikings claimed Tuesday that the $895 million cost projection is $67 million short, because it doesn't take into account the reduced revenue that would be available if the Vikings had to play three seasons at TCF Bank Stadium and more parking renovations would be needed around the current Metrodome site. If the plan is to replace the pole barn currently in place into a destination of choice for everyone from the NCAA to the World Cup to Wrestlemania to the Rolling Stones Steel Wheelchairs Tour, more than just digging a hole and filling it are needed and the Wilfs would like some "tribute" for being dislocated for three years. Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak acknowledged the Vikings' concerns about the shortage of revenue to make the Metrodome site viable Tuesday, claiming he was aware of the Vikings concerns.
It's unclear whether the lost revenue projections would include lost alcoholic beverage revenue that would happen if the team had to play three years at The Bank. Because the stadium is on the University of Minnesota campus, no beer sales are allowed during games. There may be a clause that can be written into the contract, but, as it currently stands, Vikings games on the U of M campus would be dry … at least inside the stadium. Beer may not seem like much in the big picture of things, but at $7 a bottle it turns into millions of dollars every year in revenue.
By the time families are settling in for dinner tonight, there will be two proposals on the governor's desk – one for Ramsey County, one (we think) for Minneapolis. We aren't sure of Shakopee's readiness. Where it goes from here is anyone's guess. Those who attempt to predict political outcomes are idiots. Only the politicians know what goes on behind the used-to-be smoked-filled rooms in the corridors of Minnesota political power and, as Judge Smayles said in Caddyshack when he pulled the Old Billy Barroo out of his bag for a critical putt, "this is a biggee."
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.