Reporting: Pat Kessler

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO/AP) — The Minnesota Vikings have broken ground on their new stadium.

Team owners and officials were joined by hundreds of local politicians, business leaders and purple-clad fans Tuesday morning to commemorate the start of construction on the billion-dollar project. Star running back Adrian Peterson was there, too.

With golden shovels and hard hats designed like Vikings helmets, the group posed for photos and watched fireworks overhead.

Stadium supporters say they expect 7,500 construction jobs on this project during the next three years, a reminder that this is one of the largest public works projects in state history.

“People all over this metropolitan area who have been sitting on the bench are going to be working for the next couple of years thanks to this project,” Dayton said.

Gov. Mark Dayton and team owner Zigy Wilf led the groundbreaking ceremony in the back parking lot of the stadium.

The new stadium will be 1.7 million-square-feet and seat as many as 65,000 people. The project is scheduled to be completed by July 2016.

Of course, there has been controversy over where to build the stadium and its cost, but fans on Tuesday say it’s time to look to the future.

“It’s a funeral for the Metrodome. We’ll say goodbye to this one in a couple months and then we’ll start on the new one,” said fan Diggs Garza. “I would’ve been more excited if it was in Arden Hills but the Vikings had to do it here, I’m going to support the Minnesota Vikings.”

Another fan said the new stadium just helps add to what Minnesota already has.

“Minnesota will rock the sports world,” he said, “because we’re going to have the best arenas in the country.”

The yet-to-be-named stadium will be built on the same downtown site as the Metrodome, where the Vikings have played since 1982. The public is on the hook for roughly half the cost. The NFL and Vikings are handling the rest, with much of the team’s share coming from naming rights and fees on season ticketholders.

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While there were plenty of cheers at the groundbreaking ceremony, there were plenty of doubters at the Capitol, too.

A watchdog coalition warned that the stadium isn’t paid for yet.

Gov. Mark Dayton said he wants the so-called naysayers to focus on all the new jobs the stadium will bring.

“The naysayers can just go say nay,” Dayton said. “They aren’t putting a single person to work. The only jobs they care about are their own.”

But on a landmark day, stadium opponents weren’t about to play defense.

“The public is paying for half the stadium and we aren’t treated like partners. We are treated more like pawns in this process,” Ted Lillie, president of the Taxpayers League of Minnesota, said.

A coalition concerned over public funding for the billion dollar stadium met at the Capitol this morning.

Lillie said the electronic pull-tab plan was a failure, and that the governor and lawmakers are now using smokers, the low income and the middle class to pay for their mistakes.

“We are falling far short of the revenues. It’s an utter failure, it’s not working. And the legislature had to come up with new ways to pay for this,” Lillie said.

“You are just transferring money — and in Hennepin County, there are a lot of poor people — to millionaires and billionaires,” Minneapolis homeowner Tracy Eberly said.

Eberly also believes the governor and lawmakers are out of bounds when it comes to funding the stadium. He said it’s too late to go back, but he worries what lies ahead for taxpayers.

“They finally decided to jam this through. Obviously, they didn’t read the fine print and they made a lot of rosy projections that aren’t coming true,” Eberly said.

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