Expiring Lease Steps Up Vikings’ Quest for New Stadium

By Gabriel Circiog, Associate Editor With the Minnesota Vikings’ 30-year lease on the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome expiring at the end of the 2011 season, and the real possibility of the National Football League’s departure from the state after 50 years, [...]

With the Minnesota Vikings’ 30-year lease on the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome expiring at the end of the 2011 season, and the real possibility of the National Football League’s departure from the state after 50 years, the wheels are turning to find a solution.

The Vikings’ own proposal is to build a $1 billion stadium in Ramsey County, on the former site Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant in Arden Hills. According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the Ramsey County board of commissioners was scheduled to vote Nov. 15 on a $28.5 million deal to buy the 430-acre site from the U.S. General Services Administration. That sum would include an environmental cleanup of the parcel, which is Minnesota’s largest Superfund site. Acquisition of the site, however, hinges on a deal for a new stadium.  

Larger roadblocks loom as well. The Vikings’ proposed financing package calls for $300 million in state funding, and Gov. Mark Dayton is pushing reluctant Republican state legislators for a special session to vote on a stadium finance plan no later than early next year.

Metropolitan Council Chairwoman Susan Haigh recently expressed skepticism about the timeline and financing plan. According to Finance & Commerce, an analysis conducted for Haigh contends that completing the new stadium by 2015 is an unrealistic proposition. She added that Ramsey County’s sales tax proceeds could prove to be insufficient to cover cost overruns, which could exceed $50 million.

But project backers are disputing those arguments. A contractor advising the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission on the project told Haigh and MSFC chair Ted Mondale in late October that the project’s time frame is attainable. “While we concur that the overall schedule is aggressive, we want to reassure you that the design and construction schedule is very adequate to deliver the stadium by the 2015 NFL season opening and we have complete confidence that this can be achieved should the project be approved by the Minnesota State Legislature and Governor this fall and the regulatory permitting and approval process be completed promptly,” M.A. Mortenson Construction Co. senior vice president John Wood wrote in an Oct. 24 letter.

Minneapolis joins other U.S. cities that are stepping up their efforts to keep their sporting teams—or lure transplants—by building new sports facilities. Kansas City has completed the building of the Livestrong Sporting Park earlier this year and San Diego has advanced plans for a new Chargers stadium.