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Funding only likely to come if Vikings stay at Metrodome site

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings received an ultimatum of sorts in their quest for a new stadium.

Gov. Mark Dayton and a key lawmaker said Tuesday that the team must build on the site of the Metrodome -- its least-favorite option -- or state funding help for the multimillion-dollar project won't come this year.

Minnesota's 2012 legislative session began Tuesday, and it was expected to be dominated by the team's stadium drive. But the issue came to a head more quickly than expected as Dayton confirmed he had informed Vikings owner Zygi Wilf that a new stadium has to be built at the current site of the Metrodome in order to secure any kind of state funding from lawmakers this year.

"I've made it clear it's my belief that in this session, the only viable option is the Metrodome site," the Democratic governor said.

"I do believe that's where it's going to be," added Republican state Sen. Julie Rosen, the chief stadium bill sponsor.

The Vikings have wanted out of the Metrodome for years, calling the 30-year-old stadium no longer sufficiently profitable compared to other NFL venues. The team's lease at the Metrodome expires Feb. 1.

"Our owners are extremely frustrated with the situation," said Lester Bagley, a team vice president.

Owners Zygi and Mark Wilf are eager to hear Dayton's rationale for the Metrodome site, Bagley said, insisting that the team is "100 percent focused on getting it done in Minnesota."

The Vikings prefer a $1.1 billion stadium proposal on a site in suburban Ramsey County, north of St. Paul, which offers space to build adjacent team facilities as well as for further development. But funding that proposal would require a sales tax increase in the county, a move that lacks support.

With hopes dimming on the Ramsey County site in recent weeks, Vikings executives subsequently warmed to another Minneapolis option, a plan for a $995 million stadium on the opposite side of downtown from the Metrodome. But Dayton said Tuesday that plan was doomed by strong opposition from leaders at the Basilica of St. Mary, a historic Catholic Church adjacent to the site, and by apparent opposition on the Minneapolis City Council, where more members prefer the Metrodome location.

Dayton said if the Vikings' owners were willing to wait another year, it might leave time to try to address some of the problems with the two discarded sites -- but that only the Metrodome is a possibility if a deal is to be done in what's expected to be a brief legislative session.

Dayton said he would host a Wednesday meeting at the Capitol that would include Zygi Wilf and other team executives, Rosen and other lawmakers, and officials from the city of Minneapolis.

Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press

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