Give Me a "B"

The Vikings are nearing what some have viewed a point of no return with getting approval for a new stadium. Even with its current high price tag, if something isn't achieved next year at the State Legislature, the price tag could go over $1 billion.

The gridlock on getting a Vikings stadium approved and built has been nothing new. When buzz got generated when the Twins circumvented the Legislature to get its own stadium package done, it was thought the Vikings might piggy-back their own stadium through as part of a three-stadium deal that included the Twins and University of Minnesota football team.

Instead, the Vikings were forced to stand on the wrong side of the velvet rope and wait their turn. At the time, the state seemed to be willing to help finance a stadium in Anoka County, where officials from that county had pledged $250-300 million in funding to help pay for the project. However, just as the time neared for the plan with the Vikings and Anoka County to be presented for the 2007 legislative session, Zygi Wilf said the team now preferred a stadium next to the current Metrodome site.

Those discussions angered Anoka County and took it out of the mix – along with the money they were going to put on the table. Now the Vikings prepare to make a strong push for a new stadium without a financial partner who will take on some of the burden. And the bad news? As it stands, a retractable roof stadium is currently projected to be $954 million to build. But Wilf reminded us this week that those figures are using 2008 construction dollar estimates. If it goes past 2008, that figure could rise to $1 billion.

Is Minnesota, a state known for tight purse strings and legislative in-fighting and bickering, going to have its residents pony up as much as $700 million to build a new stadium for Wilf to keep the Vikings? Unless there are some drastic changes to the funding plan or changes in the makeup in the Legislature or governor's office, it looks remote at best.

With their latest plans, the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission estimated that the Vikings would be able to move into their new digs by August 2012 if a stadium plan is approved next spring at the Legislature. If the state denies the team any funding next year, that would get pushed back. But it would also start the process of the team exploring "other alternatives."

It's unclear whether Wilf holds any cards with the Legislature. The Twins used the threat of self-contraction to get the state off its duff and getting something done. Can Wilf do the same? The state didn't like Red McCombs when he made veiled threats of pulling up stakes and leaving. To date, Wilf has never used the "R" word – relocation. But, with the clock ticking and the costs rising, that may not be far off.


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