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Metrodome renovation plan gets lukewarm reception ... again
By Michael Khoo
Minnesota Public Radio
December 18, 2001

The Minnesota Vikings returned to the state Capitol Tuesday to continue their campaign for a new stadium. The Vikings are seeking a $500 million stadium to be shared with the University of Minnesota Gophers. But the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission is advancing a plan to renovate the Metrodome. The commission, which owns and operates the facility , told a tripartisan stadium task force that renovation would be cheaper and would solve many of the Vikings' problems in the current Metrodome.

Model of renovated Metrodome
An architectural model of a Metrodome renovation proposed by the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission. See a larger image.
(MPR Photo/Michael Khoo)

The commission members say they'd like to turn the Metrodome into a football-only stadium. That would mean building a new ballpark for the Twins, and remodeling the facility to fit the needs of the Vikings and the University of Minnesota Gophers. A commission study estimates the cost of renovation at roughly $250 million, or about half the cost of the new stadium the Vikings favor.

The team has so far dismissed the renovation plan, but commissioner Richard Jefferson, a former state legislator, says it's important to explore all options.

"We feel that it is our job as agents for the state to put as many options before the Legislature and before the governor as possible. And to say that we are going to essentially throw away a stadium that was built 20 years ago with no effort to satisfy the needs of our tenants, I think, would be a miscarriage of our charge," Jefferson said.

Commission chair Kathryn Roberts, however, says if lawmakers feel a new stadium is necessary for both football and baseball, then the commission will move in that direction.

Bill Johnson of CDFM2 describing the Metrodome renovation. CDFM2 is the architectural firm retained by the MSFC to study a renovated Metrodome.
(MPR Photo/Michael Khoo)

Vikings officials say the commission's study low-balls the actual pricetag of remodeling. They say the true cost is not much lower than a new stadium. They also raised concerns about the time it would take to retrofit the building.

If the Twins are granted a new ballpark, the baseball team will continue playing in the Metrodome until its new facility is ready, raising fear among Vikings officials that any action for the team would be delayed.

The team is also worried renovations would force the Vikings to find a new home for at least one full season.

Team Vice President Mike Kelly says a renovated Metrodome simply won't provide the team with the flexibility to maximize revenues.

"Because of the way the Metrodome was built - it was built inexpensively - and accomplished a wonderful purpose for 20 years, and more since it's going to take us a long even if we do reach a solution here, we need to have a more flexible-design building in order to allow us to be in there for a very long time," Kelly said.

Kelly and other team officials have been adamant that their needs can only be met with a new facility.

Task force members had a fair amount of sympathy for the Vikings, or at least a recognition that the commission's plan for renovation is futile if their main tenant isn't willing to consider the option.

State Finance Commissioner Pam Wheelock, who was appointed to the task force by Gov. Jesse Ventura, says both sides have to agree on a solution before moving forward.

"The governor really does appreciate the concept of trying to maximize the investments that's already been made in the Metrodome, particularly an appreciation of the capital investments surrounding the site that would not need to be redone. But the dilemma is it's a little bit like putting on a party dress and then having no one to dance with," she said.

The task force also took some preliminary testimony on how to fund any new stadiums. That, of course, reaches the heart of the matter about how much - and if - public funding is warranted for ballparks.

Task force members are hoping for harder estimates of funding sources in the near future.

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