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Vikings, Anoka County ready to announce stadium plan

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Last week, new Vikings owner Zygi Wilf held a series of private meetings with top lawmakers, including Gov. Tim Pawlenty, about the stadium. (MPR file photo)
On Tuesday officials from the Minnesota Vikings and Anoka County will formally announce that they have reached an agreement for a new football stadium. The $675 million, retractable-roof stadium would be built on a 700-acre site in Blaine. The total cost of the project, with roads and other infrastructure, could be as much as $790 million. The Vikings are expected to contribute up to $280 million with the rest of the funding to come from Anoka County and state taxpayers.

St. Paul, Minn. — Some details of the stadium proposal were still being worked out on Monday evening. However, according to Anoka County Commissioner Dan Erhart, the deal breaks down like this: the county would contribute $280 million. That would be raised through a .75 percent sales tax increase.

Vikings owner Zygi Wilf would add somewhere between $240 and $280 million. State taxpayers would be asked to contribute $115 million for road construction near the site. And another $115 million would be raised by tax increment financing from commercial developments near the stadium. Erhart says that sum will pay for a retractable roof that will make the stadium useful year-round.

"We wouldn't be doing the entire metro area, or the state, we wouldn't be doing it right if we didn't ask the state to help partner to make sure that we would have a facility that can host these kind of major nationwide, national kind of events, Superbowl if you will," Erhart says.

Vikings team officials say they are proposing to move their headquarters and training facility from Eden Prairie to the site, which sits near the National Sports Center complex in Blaine. They also say the stadium proposal makes way for retail and residential development, as well as wetlands, parks and trails.

Erhart says such a Vikings-centered development will not only be a source of revenue, but a source of pride.

"The Vikings are a team, are an institution of the entire Upper Midwest -- particularly Minnesota and the Dakotas and some of Iowa and even some of Wisconsin are supporting the Vikings. And the positive attitude that creates and that kind of attitude is just so healthy and positive," Erhart says.

But some say Anoka County taxpayers are being asked to pay too much for Purple Pride.

Sen. John Marty, DFL-Rosebille, a long-time opponent of taxpayer funding for private stadiums, says at first glance the stadium proposal, which includes over $500 million in public financing is just too much.

"Lots of taxpayers people are working hard, are struggling to pay the bills -- health care and everything else -- and here they're being asked to subsidize a group of folks who are able to pay $600 million for a team," Marty says.

The stadium proposal will have to be approved by the Legislature. That could happen in a special session this fall. However, the state has already endured one special session and some bristle at the prospect of another session just to address stadium issues. The University of Minnesota wants money for a Gopher stadium. And Hennepin County and the Minnesota Twins are awaiting approval for a stadium deal that also includes a sales tax increase.

Marty says the Vikings deal has a 50-50 chance of being approved if it gets brought before legislators this fall. But he says even if it fails in special session, the stadium issue will not go away.

"I've been watching this for enough years to know if they don't get it this year, they try next year. If they don't get next year, they try it the year after. They're very persistent at it. Until they get the money, they'll keep pushing," he predicts.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson has asked Gov. Pawlenty to call a special session to address the stadium proposals. However, the governor's office released a statement saying that Pawlenty is busy focusing on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and supporting the familes of Minnesota National Guard members deployed to Iraq and will talk about stadium issues later.

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