Wilf Rallies Construction Group

Vikings owner Zygi Wilf received a standing ovation from a building-trade council meeting in Mankato after a short presentation about the stadium and development plan in downtown Minneapolis. The trade council president pledged rallying support statewide, and Wilf then proceeded to talk in optimistic terms about the stadium plan and his team's prospects in 2007 and beyond.

On the eve of the team's first training camp practice, Minnesota Vikings owner/chairman Zygi Wilf is optimistic for the franchise's 2007 fortunes, both on and off the field.

Speaking Thursday after addressing the Minnesota Building & Construction Trades Council at the Holiday Inn Mankato, Wilf said plans for a $954 million retractable-roof stadium in downtown Minneapolis are moving forward, as are the Vikings in his third year of ownership.

"We're hoping that with the right plan, as we have, and with the right financing plan that we can agree upon, we can get this thing done," Wilf said of the stadium and retail/entertainment development proposed for the current site of the Metrodome. "It's very, very important as we see the cost of materials go up that we make sure we get this done as quickly as possible because we don't want to have a situation that it gets too far out of our control and therefore we never can get it done."

The $954 million price tag is based on 2008 construction dollar estimates. If the project is pushed past 2008, the cost could exceed $1 billion.

"We're working with the (Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission) to come forward with a plan," Wilf said. "I'm sure quite shortly we will come forward with a plan that will address all of the financial issues involved with the project."

Wilf has said he will commit $250 million to the new stadium, leaving the balance to be raised by public and/or private sources.

"It's a very exciting project," he said. "I think when everyone realizes the scope of the project besides the stadium, the economic development that it will bring together, the retail, the entertainment, everyone will realize this could be a vital boost to the downtown planning."

Originally an advocate for an open-air stadium, Wilf continues to support the plan for a retractable roof, the desire of the sports facilities commission, which adds about $200 million to the projected costs.

"I think the retractable solution, as costly as it is, serves our needs as a football team because we can still play outside if we want to and it serves, as importantly if not more so, the needs of the community for having an indoor venue of this size to support so many different events and conventions and many other things that can happen here."

Wilf believes the stadium proposal is gaining momentum with lawmakers and the public.

"Over the past couple of years in working and listening to everybody concerned, both corporate leaders and everyone on the Hill and throughout the communities, I think we've worked hard to get a plan together that I hope will meet the satisfaction of the people on the Hill and everyone will come out to support it. I'm very confident of that."

The Minnesota Building & Construction Trades Council seemed quite satisfied with the stadium plan. A couple hundred members gave Wilf a standing ovation after his short remarks to the group, outlining the importance of the project.

"It's the right thing to do," said Dick Anfang, president of the council. "They (the Vikings) are a tremendous asset to our state. We want to build a home for them that will last a long, long, long time. This convention and these delegates are from all over the state. We support it statewide, and we're going to try to convince other people throughout the state that this is the right thing to do. And we will do it. We'll be proud of the Vikings and proud of the Wilf family."

Wilf acknowledged that improved play from the Vikings would help fuel support for the new stadium drive. And despite last season's disappointing 6-10 campaign, Wilf believes the club is on its way to meeting his goal of becoming a consistent winner.

"(We're) much closer than from the first day we stepped in to be owners," he said. "Every day we grow and every day we get better. And that's why I'm so excited …I can see how it's growing and how successful it can be. And we have the makings of a team that cannot only win but can win consistently, and I look forward to many years of that success, and our fans should to."

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