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Budget crisis will bump Vikings stadium vote to fall at earliest

Patience must be a virtue for Minnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wilf now that state legislators said new stadium talks won't be on their agenda for a special session next week.

"There's not a lot of support for cutting people off health care, cutting jobs, then turning around and authorizing bonding for a stadium," Rep. Michael Nelson, a co-sponsor of the stadium bill, told *The Star Tribune* on Saturday.

The Vikings' best hope now is that Gov. Mark Dayton calls a second special session later this year to focus on the stadium.

"We will have a vote and we'll work to get it passed," Sen. Julie Rosen said. "But if I tried to get a vote on it right now, I'd be strung up."

The Vikings' quest to replace the aging Metrodome has been slowed by a government shutdown as the Democratic governor sparred with Republican majorities in the House and Senate on how to resolve the state's $5 billion deficit. On Thursday, they announced that the parameters of an agreement are in place, with Dayton planning to call a special session to vote on the deal shortly.

"I think there is enough work to do just to get the basics of this (budget) deal together," Rep. Alice Hausman said. "I think (the stadium) is an impossibility this special session."

The Vikings are in the final year of their lease at Mall of America Field, better known as the Metrodome. They have been trying for years to get a new facility that they say will allow them to remain competitive in the NFL and keep them in Minnesota for another generation.

Wilf spoke with Dayton on Friday, telling him in a phone conversation that the team wants a stadium bill to be considered in a special legislative session expected to begin next week, according to Vikings vice president for stadium affairs Lester Bagley.

"He made the case that now is the time," Bagley said. "We've done everything that has been asked of us. It's time to do it. We're down to months left on our lease, and every day that goes by, the cost of the project goes up."

The Vikings are putting the finishing touches on their plan, which calls for building a new stadium with a retractable roof in Arden Hills to replace the outdated Metrodome, which had its roof collapse during a heavy snowstorm in December. The roof was replaced and inflated this week, ensuring the building will be ready for the 2011 season, but the Vikings are pushing for a new, state-of-the-art facility that will bring in more money.

Arden Hills is located about 10 miles north of the Metrodome, which is in downtown Minneapolis. The new facility would be located at the site of a former Army ammunition plant, with plans to open in spring 2015.

Wilf and the Vikings have pledged more than $400 million to the project, which also calls for a half-cent sales tax in Ramsey County that would contribute another $350 million and $300 million in state money.

The plan for a new Vikings home is in place, but patience will be necessary.

"I strongly feel that we need to stay focused on the budget," Rosen said. "That's where my attention is, getting this budget solved and this session over with."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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