Dayton fully wades into stadium debate

by James Nord

Gov. Mark Dayton offered his strongest push yet for a publicy funded Vikings stadium on Wednesday, saying he’ll unveil his own detailed proposal in the next two weeks, the Associated Press reports.

Dayton announced the plan, which will include details on the state’s $300 million share of the stadium’s cost, to reporters after meeting this week with lawmakers, Vikings owner Zygi Wilf and National Football League executives on the issue. Topping a steady stream of non-news about stadium discussions all week, the governor’s stadium endorsement will be met with resistance from Minnesota’s Republican legislative majorities.

Ignoring reporters as he left a Wednesday afternoon meeting with Dayton, the Vikings’ Wilf only commented that he’s pleased with progress toward a new Vikings stadium, the Star Tribune reports. The meeting came after Dayton spoke with Republican lawmakers, who remain recalcitrant, on Monday.

NFL executives met with Dayton on Tuesday and offered a warning: if a stadium doesn’t come soon, the Vikings could leave Minnesota. They urged Dayton to act quickly.

But stakeholders in Arden Hills and Ramsey County, the Vikings’ preferred stadium site, have offered stiff resistance to the $1.1 billion expansion into Minnesota’s largest SuperFund zone. Officials, including St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, oppose a proposal that would up the Ramsey County sales tax by a half-cent to pay for $350 million of the stadium.

The Vikings, who would put $407 million toward the project, and other supporters like Ramsey County Commissioner Tony Bennett point to the economic benefits the football team has provided Minnesota since they began playing in the state in the early 1960s.

Dayton wants to call a special legislative before the end of November for lawmakers to vote on a stadium bill. The issue was largely ignored in the 2011 session as lawmakers and Dayton grappled over Minnesota’s budget deficit.