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Commissioner: Vikes ‘Close’ To Arden Hills Deal

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By Courtney King, NewsRadio 830 WCCO and Rachel Slavik, WCCO-TV

ARDEN HILLS, Minn. (WCCO/AP) — Gov. Mark Dayton said Friday he met privately with Minnesota Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf to discuss state funding of a new football stadium, and that he hoped a site would be picked soon as the list of possibilities narrowed to two.

Dayton met with the Wilfs late Thursday. The team owners also met with officials in Ramsey County, where several county board members have been pushing the idea of putting the stadium on the site of a former Army ammunition plant in suburban Arden Hills, about 10 miles north of St. Paul.

There is only one issue — road access — that stands in the way of a deal.

Ramsey County Commissioner Tony Bennett spoke with Dave Lee on WCCO’s The Morning Show.

“I want to put the deal together. I think this is the best location. When you look at it they have 260 acres versus 40 or 50 acres tucked away in downtown, the Vikings agree,” explained Bennett. “They can go back to the days of what football has been all about — tailgating and having a good time.”

WCCO’s Dave Lee Interviews Tony Bennett

“This gives them a new identity. They can do tailgating like they do over in Green Bay,” said Bennett. “Tailgating is something we use to do here when it was out at the Met.”

Bennett said the roads haven’t been kept up to standards proposed site.

“I can tell you that 35W and the 694 in that area need to be upgraded and that costs dollars. That shouldn’t be part of a stadium deal. Those are the people’s roads.”

According to Bennett, it would save money by not putting a $260 million retractable roof on the stadium and instead spending the money on roads.

“There are people that use those roads every day. It’s not just the Vikings. It’s a gateway to the north. A gateway to our tourism industry, going up north,” he said. “Watch next Friday, the number of people that go through this interchange.”

Bennett said he believes the legislature is looking at the improvements seriously and the Transportation Committee chairs of the House and the Senate are starting to look at it and understand it.

“If that little portion can be taken care of: everybody being able to move through that seven days a week. We not only need this for the Vikings, we need this for the people,” he said.

“It’s an important issue from the Vikings perspective in terms of getting people in and out. But for Commissioner Bennett and I it’s an important issue because this is not just about 10 games that the Vikings have, these roads are here 365 days a year,” agreed Ramsey County Commission Rafael Ortega. “These roads were on a priority list 7 or 8 years ago to be done. We wouldn’t be having this discussion if they were done.”

Ortega added, “We’re saying let’s move them up on the priority list. The citizens need these roads whether there’s a Vikings stadium here or not.”

And where would the money to fix the roads come from? According to Bennett, some of it would be federal money.

“It’s an 80/20 split normally, except that some of these projects it takes a little bit to do them. We’ve come up with a solution to help ease that over a period of years,” explained Bennett, “but we still haven’t got the powers to look at that portion of it.”

Overall, Bennett said, they want to make this a complete experience for the people.

Dayton said he doesn’t have a preference on the site, but he hopes the Vikings will have to choose a location soon so the Legislature will have time to crunch the numbers.

“I told them I just want it to be in Minnesota,” said Dayton.

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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