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Vikings Seek Stadium Study
By Michael Khoo, Minnesota Public Radio
March 22, 2001
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The Minnesota Vikings are asking the state Legislature to study potential funding sources for a new football stadium to be shared with the University of Minnesota. The request comes on the same day that a proposal for a new Twins stadium has its first committee hearing. The Vikings stopped short of asking for a specific funding committment during the current session, but clearly hope the study will generate interest in a new facility. Some lawmakers and Gov. Jesse Ventura remain skeptical about the plan, and about the University's participation.

Vikings Executive Vice President Mike Kelly discusses plans for a joint Vikings-Gophers football stadium.
VIKINGS EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT MIKE KELLY says the team has examined recent stadium deals struck in cities across the country and he outlined a starting point for discussions. Kelly says team owner Red McCombs and the National Football league will contribute a combined $150 million towards a $500 million stadium. The remainder would come from public sources. Kelly says there are plenty of options to consider.

"Things that Baltimore and Seattle have used: lottery scratch-off games, for example. Things that Phoenix and eight other NFL communities have used: tourist taxes. Things that we can focus on that really don't impact the average Minnesotan but do help to contribute to what is really an exciting opportunity," Kelly said.

The Vikings are urging the Legislature to study the options and find consensus on a financing package. But key opponents of publicly-subsidized sports facilities are already raising eyebrows.

"I assume they're asking for a public money for a study," says Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville. "They can afford to pay for a study on this. They can afford to build themselves a new stadium."

The Vikings' request comes on the heels of a pitch from the Minnesota Twins for a new ballpark of their own. Both teams currently play in the Metrodome, and both claim the facility has outlived its useful life.

The Vikings are seeking considerably more public assistance than the Twins, and Kelly says the team hopes its partnership with the University of Minnesota will help defuse some of the opposition. The university's Gophers also play in the 'Dome and they, too, have suggested a need for a more modern facility.


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Gov. Jesse Ventura says the university's participation undermines its argument for new academic funding. "I just find it very strange that the university would cry, 'the sky is falling,' and then start demanding a new football stadium, when I thought their main focus should be economics or education, rather than athletics."

Eric Kruse, the university's vice president for facilities, says the U of M's participation in the stadium discussion does not indicate a shift in priorities.

"We will not support any stadium proposal at the expense of our academic priorities, whether it's in this biennial session or a future biennial session. But the university staff has worked very hard and very diligently with the Viking organization to ensure that their joint stadium proposal does meet the university's requirements in terms of physical attributes and financial opportunities and programmatic needs for our football program," Kruse said.

Neither Kruse nor Kelly has a specific timeline for completion of the study or for taking action on its recommendations. But Kelly says the Vikings are losing $10 million a year under the Metrodome lease. He says owner Red McCombs has no immediate plans to move the team out of state, but Kelly warns lawmakers need to act quickly.

"We cannot survive as a professional football organization in this state under these current circumstances," he said.

There's no word on when the Vikings study proposal will have its first hearing.