Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Vikings May Finally Have Stadium Deal

It's been a long time since the Metrodome was a viable pro sports facility. Some would argue, perhaps, that it never really was meant to last.

And its days hosting major sports appear to finally be numbered, as the Minnesota Vikings announced a deal Tuesday with Ramsey County that will get them the new stadium they've been practically begging for since Red McCombs was spewing his "Purple Pride" nonsense over a decade ago.

The deal calls for a nearly $1 billion stadium to be constructed in the suburb of Arden Hills, which is approximately 175 9.8 miles from the Metrodome site. While it's not downtown Minneapolis, it's not exactly a bad thing that the Vikings have chosen this site.

It's a huge plot of land, a former munitions plant that now serves as one of the biggest chunks of undeveloped property in the metro area.

For the Vikings, it's a chance to grow a few roots in the state, and it gives them the room to allow fans to tailgate by the stadium, and finally build a Hall of Fame fitting of a great franchise. After 50 years, it's time for this organization to embrace and celebrate its great history. No, they don't have any championships, but they still have their share of great stories, great games, and great players from the past who deserve the recognition they've never really gotten.

It could be a smaller facility, too, since you wouldn't need any special place to store and display Vince Lombardi Trophies.

(Alllllways ... )

Of course, there's a catch on this fabulous news.

House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, said the money needed for road improvements in Arden Hills poses a problem. Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, the stadium plan's chief House author, said he would not move a stadium bill until road issues were resolved. To do otherwise, he said, was "asking for trouble."

Legislators have only 12 days left before they must adjourn the session, and many were voicing concerns on Tuesday that stadium negotiations have become so complex they might miss the deadline.

As reports swirled through the State Capitol early Tuesday that the Vikings and Ramsey County had reached an agreement, Dayton launched what would be a whirlwind day of stadium politics by splashing the Arden Hills project with his own dose of reality.

In a surprise morning news conference, he said the state's share was fixed at $300 million, whatever the cost of the new roads needed. State transportation officials estimated that a stadium without surrounding development would require $175 million in roadwork, while a fully developed site would need up to $240 million.

"I'll support either project up to $300 million," Dayton said of the competing Arden Hills and Minneapolis plans.

Hours before the Arden Hills deal was announced, Ted Mondale, the governor's chief stadium negotiator, issued a long-awaited cost comparison of the two sites that showed the Arden Hills stadium would cost up to $1.28 billion, compared to $895 million at the Metrodome. According to the analysis, the Arden Hills site would require $275 million to $340 million in highway, parking and other improvements. The Metrodome site would need $30 million for new parking spaces and skyway connections.

That quickly brought charges that there was back-room maneuvering taking place to try to steer the project back to Minneapolis. Rep. Michael Beard, the Republican chair of the House transportation panel, said he was concerned about growing "bias" in favor of Minneapolis.

Just don't it get you down, Vikings fans. It'll get paid for, and it'll get done.

Hell, Packer fans should be pleased, too. Your main rival won't be a flight risk anymore, and you can return to taunting Viking fans about championships and quarterbacks and left tackles, instead of using lame L.A.-themed bashes that are truly below the belt.

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