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Clause in lease could keep Vikings in Metrodome for 2012

The Minnesota Vikings' lease at the Metrodome is again a point of contention as the team seeks a new stadium deal.

The landlords of the stadium said Friday they believe a clause deep in the team's lease could require it to stay one more season, potentially buying more time. That clause calls for a one-year extension if the team is forced to play elsewhere for part of a season.

That's just what happened last year when the Metrodome roof collapsed in a snowstorm, forcing the Vikings to play two games away from the stadium. But the Vikings disagree, maintaining that this is the last year of the lease, which expires Feb. 1.

"We believe that the use agreement, because of the shortened season, calls for another year at the Dome," Metropolitan Sports Facilities Chairman Ted Mondale said Friday, according to the Star Tribune.

The Vikings have wanted out of the Metrodome for more than a decade, calling the 30-year-old stadium obsolete and unprofitable compared to most NFL venues. The team's latest push has centered on building a $1.1 billion stadium on a suburban plot of land about 10 miles northeast of the Metrodome in downtown Minneapolis, but at least three downtown sites appear to still be in play. The suburban plan, in Arden Hills, calls for a state contribution of as much as $650 million.

The hopes of settling the issue soon seemed to dim this week after Kurt Zellers, the Republican House speaker, called it unworthy of a special session prior to a regularly scheduled legislative session that begins in late January.

Stadium supporters fear that taking up a stadium funding issue in January could be even tougher. Minnesota government shut down over the summer as Dayton and Republican lawmakers disagreed on how to eliminate a $5 billion deficit, and the picture isn't expected to be much better three months from now.

An expansion of legal gambling is emerging as the most politically palatable way to complete a deal, though powerful factions in the legislature oppose it.

Gov. Mark Dayton, who had proclaimed the effort to line up state money in "limbo," met with state lawmakers who support the stadium subsidy Thursday. The team's lead allies in the House and Senate said they would introduce a detailed stadium proposal soon -- with tax proceeds from some type of gambling expansion as the likeliest chief funding source -- then air it in public hearings, with a goal of passing a plan before the regular legislative session starts in late January.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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