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Minnesota Vikings and U of M hit snag in stadium deal
The Minnesota Vikings and the University of Minnesota are at an impasse on a stadium deal. Last session, lawmakers set aside $500,000 for a design study and an operating agreement between the two parties. But after just a few months of negotiations, there are several disagreements. The biggest sticking point ismoney.

Minneapolis, Minn. — Both the Vikings and the Gophers want new football stadiums, but lawmakers have made it clear there's room in the state for just one. So, with the Legislature's blessing, the NFL team and the university have been trying to work out a deal to build and run a stadium together.

But the deal has gone sour with the university and Vikings the furthest apart they've ever been on an agreement.

The university's chief financial officer, Richard Pfutzenreuter, says in the Viking's most recent draft of a memorandum of understanding between the parties, Vikings officials would not indicate how much they will contribute to the stadium.

Pfutzenreuter says an upfront, firm financial commitment from the Vikings is critical while the sides hammer out an agreement that includes the stadium's design and operational framework.

"It's about money. And, it's about sharing revenues, and it's about governance and it's about how to pay for this stadium," Pfutzenreuter said. "And the university's principle interest in this right now is to make sure that we limit our financial risk."

Pfutzenreuter says the Vikings and lawmakers have always known the university's contribution would be limited to 55 acres of land and the construction of a parking structure - at a cost of about $30 million. He says the university will not expose student tuition money, or contribute more university resources, to the project.

A few years ago, the Vikings informally pledged $100 million, with the NFL kicking in another $51.5 million. But now the Vikings say they won't commit to an amount until more questions are answered about how the stadium will be run and how parking and naming rights revenues would be shared.

Vikings stadium consultant Lester Bagley says the legislation calling for the agreement requires information about how the stadium will be managed, shared and accessed. He says it doesn't say anything about a capital investment from the Vikings.

He says the team's contribution will be significant, but the owners will not decide on an exact dollar amount now: "That's where we differ with the university. They would like us to make the capital contribution to the university. When in fact this number, what the Viking contribution to a new stadium, will be negotiated with the Legislature and the new governor, not with the university.

Both the university and the Vikings will find things have changed at the Capitol. A new governor and about 60 new legislators have a nearly $3 billion deficit to tame.

Sen. Dean Johnson, DFL-Willmar, says it's possible lawmakers may never get to the joint stadium proposal. Johnson helped broker the Twins stadium deal last session. He says the Vikings should not withhold the amount the team would commit to the stadium deal.

"I think it's smoke and mirrors at this point. You know, who's going to show their financial hand first," Johnson said. "It's like dealing with the Twins. We helped them to show their commitment of $120 million plus $12 million annually for 30 years. That's not exactly what they wanted to do, but in order to consummate the deal, we helped fill in the blank numbers."

Johnson says the Twins stadium deal could be a template for the Vikings-university joint proposal, whereby owners and users pay for a facility, not taxpayers.

At this stage, the stadium design calls for a 1.7 million square foot facility seating 68,000, expandable to 72,000. Cost estimates range from $500 million to $600 million and several million dollars a year in maintenance.

Lawyers for the U and the Vikings are expected to continue working toward a deal. That agreement must be presented to legislative leaders by Dec. 1.

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