MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO/AP) — A county commission voted Tuesday to start talks with the Minnesota Vikings and state lawmakers over the possibility of building a new football stadium in a suburb northeast of Minneapolis.
The proposed site for the new stadium is a former Army ammunition plant in Arden Hills, a city about 10 miles from the Vikings’ current stadium, the Metrodome, in downtown Minneapolis.
The Ramsey County Board’s 6-1 vote makes it the first local government to express interest in hosting a new stadium as the Vikings prepare for a push at the Capitol to replace the aging Metrodome.
Team officials say the Dome is outdated and no longer profitable as an NFL venue. With at least four sites under consideration, Ramsey County commissioners said the jobs and economic development that would come with a new stadium would outweigh the cost to county taxpayers, who would likely have to shoulder some of the construction costs.
“We have to create our own opportunities,” said County Commissioner Rafael Ortega. “This would create many jobs, which is critical. This is an opportunity to get a lot of folks hired.”
Vikings executives have toured the site, and team vice president Lester Bagley praised Tuesday’s vote as a positive step. But he was quick to caution that the Vikings have not yet committed to any site, and Bagley has previously noted that building at the current Metrodome site would be the most cost-efficient approach. Two other sites, one near the Minnesota Twins stadium and another in a suburb northwest of Minneapolis, are also under consideration.
The Vikings are seeking a state financing package that would require the team to pay for no more than a third of the cost of a new stadium. A new stadium would likely cost at least $700 million, and Gov. Mark Dayton said last week he’d like to see the team pay up to half the total bill.
The 2011 season is the last on the Vikings’ lease at the Metrodome, and team officials have vowed not to play there after that. That’s raised fears the team could move to another city seeking an NFL franchise.
Some residents say the NFL is a hugely profitable business, and that the public should not be forced to subsidize stadiums for its private use.
Greg Copeland, a St. Paul resident, interrupted Tuesday’s commission meeting by saying if the county tries getting taxpayers to shoulder even part of the cost of building a stadium, he will try to overturn the decision through a referendum.
“Zygi, take your team and go somewhere else, or else write a check and build a stadium yourself,” said Copeland, referring to Vikings owner Zygi Wilf.
Jack Welsch’s family has owned a tavern across the street from the former Army ammunition plant for more than 50 years.
“It is all cleaned up and ready to go. I think it would be a great spot,” said Welsch, owner of Welsch’s Big Ten Tavern.
Residents of a trailer park next door were mixed in their reaction. Some agreed with opponent Copeland but others thought it could mean an economic boom for the area.
Ron McCoy is a Packers fan who would love to watch his favorite football team play close by.
“I think it would be great. Minnesota needs jobs and everything,” said McCoy.
Others echoed, including Lori Richardson who called the former munitions site an “eyesore.”
“Nice to have something worthwhile over there,” she said.
Ramsey County officials stressed that Tuesday’s vote did little more than get them a seat at the negotiating table. They said the vote will allow the county to more thoroughly study the Arden Hills site and to address questions about pollution, infrastructure and other concerns.
Commissioner Janice Rettman, who cast the lone dissenting vote, said the plan is too far-reaching.
“We’re making a decision here on limited information and a dream,” Rettman said.
NewsRadio 830 WCCO’s Susie Jones Reports
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