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drab and outdated Metrodome for about a decade.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

development.

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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