Wilf: Vikes won’t pay as much for downtown stadium
Minnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wilf said Thursday the team would
spend significantly less than the $400 million it has pledged to
help a build a new stadium if it’s not located on the team’s
preferred site in suburban St. Paul.
The Vikings have committed the money to support a $1.1 billion
stadium plan at a sprawling site in Arden Hills, which the team
favors for its long-term development potential. Some political and
business leaders favor keeping the team in downtown Minneapolis,
where a handful of more compact sites are an option.
”We’re committed to the Arden Hills site for what it brings to
the fans, but we’re also committed to investing over $400 million
in specific to the Arden Hills site for the experiences that
everyone can get from Arden Hills,” Wilf told The Associated Press
in an interview. ”Any other location besides Arden Hills wouldn’t
justify near that level of commitment.”
The 430-acre site at a former munitions plant offers ample room
for on-site parking and tailgating, amenities for which Vikings
fans have clamored and would generate revenue for the team.
The Vikings have campaigned for a new stadium to replace the
drab and outdated Metrodome for about a decade. Their lease at the
dome ends after this season, and many fans are worried the most
popular team in the state could be lost to football-hungry Los
Angeles unless a deal is reached soon.
The Vikings partnered this year with officials in suburban
Ramsey County to pitch the $1.1 billion development, with the local
government offering $350 million from a sales-tax increase to pay
its share of the bill. State lawmakers recently rejected the idea
of using a local tax hike as a revenue source, leading to
speculation they are trying to funnel the stadium to one of at
least three sites downtown.
”Avoiding the issue, as seems to have been taking place in the
last couple of weeks, does not work,” Wilf said. ”It only gets
more difficult and more expensive. We’re very encouraged by
leadership of both houses and the governor in trying to bring a
stadium solution front and center.”
Wilf said he has had only minimal contact with Minneapolis
officials about potential sites downtown and didn’t entirely rule
out the possibility. But he stressed Arden Hills remains the
preferred destination because any downtown site can’t match its
potential for surrounding development.
Messages left with Gov. Mark Dayton and Minneapolis Mayor R.T.
Rybak seeking comment were not immediately returned.
Wilf and Dayton have sought a special session of the legislature
to address the issue, something Republican House Speaker Kurt
Zellers said last week he did not support. Dayton has expressed
frustration with state lawmakers’ inaction several times during the
past few weeks, but Wilf said he remained optimistic the team will
reach a deal.
”I think everyone realizes this has to get done,” Wilf said.
”But it’s not a matter of when, but how we do it. I think as we
work toward getting this resolved, everyone will focus on how it
gets done and not if. That’s what we’re focusing on. That’s what
the leadership is focusing on.”
Stadium opponents have decried the idea of giving hundreds of
millions of public dollars to a billionaire for what they dub
”Zygi World,” a reference to the anticipated hotels, stores and
other developments surrounding a new stadium. Wilf said Thursday
that all $400 million of the team’s commitment would go directly
toward building the 260-acre stadium project, not to surrounding
Wilf said he plans to purchase and develop the remaining 170
acres with private money.
One of the main reasons for a lack of urgency from some state
leaders appears to be the idea that Minnesota is in no danger of
losing the franchise. The New Jersey real estate mogul has long
said he has no plans to sell or move the team, and he said Thursday
that hasn’t changed.
The team has acknowledged being contacted by two groups looking
to lure a franchise to Los Angeles, but Wilf said they haven’t
spoken for months.
”From the NFL’s standpoint and the league’s standpoint, they do
intend to have one, if not two teams, in that market in the
future,” Wilf said. ”But I want to let everyone know that we are
entirely focused on getting the job done here and I’m not paying
much attention to what happens outside this issue here.”
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