Duluth joins the Vikings stadium drama

Dayton received the proposal for a new site Thursday.

Matt Herbert

Duluth is now yet another city to be a possible site for the new Minnesota Vikings stadium.

In a letter to Gov. Mark Dayton Thursday, Sen. Roger Reinert, DFL-Duluth, proposed the stadium to be constructed southwest of downtown Duluth, on 500 acres formally occupied by the U.S. Steel/Atlas Cement work site.

Reinert said he wants to offer an alternative to the Twin Cities, while also advocating for his constituency.

“My goal wasn’t to solve the entire problem, it was to put Duluth into the mix,” Reinert said.

In the proposal, Reinert referenced the success of Green Bay, Wis., home to the Green Bay Packers, which is similar in size to Duluth. Green Bay is approximately the same distance from Madison – a major metro area – as Duluth is from the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro.

Duluth attracts 3.5 million tourists annually, which brings in $750-780 million in profits, according to the proposal. Seventy percent of the tourists are from the Twin Cities metro area.

Another factor that could potentially boost the Duluth site is the Northern Lights Express, Reinert said. The NLX is three months away from completing an environmental assessment, after which primary stages of engineering may begin. The 155-mile track is expected to be operational in 2015.

The project would be partly funded through Reinert’s legislation to legalize liquor sales on Sundays and holidays. The Sunday Sales legislation, which is currently under review in the Senate’s commerce committee, is expected to generate $10.6 million in net revenue annually.

Reinert said the Sunday Sales legislation wouldn’t cover the entire states portion of the stadium funding, but it would still bring in a large amount of revenue.

“It’s not creating a new tax and it doesn’t raise taxes,” he said. “We’re capturing revenue currently lost over the borders, which is roughly $10.5 million.”

The Duluth proposal was delivered to Dayton Thursday.

Dayton is the primary leader in the effort to build the Vikings a new stadium in the Twin Cities. But Vikings owners and state leaders have not been successful at agreeing upon a site or how to fund a new stadium.

Vikings’ spokesman Jeff Anderson said in an email the team has not met with Duluth officials or heard details of the plan. Vikings are still concentrating on the Arden Hills and Minneapolis proposals, he said.