Gov. ready to throw weight around to keep Vikes in Minnesota

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Gov. Mark Dayton said Wednesday he's ready to throw his political weight behind a new, publicly subsidized football stadium that would be built on a site preferred by the Minnesota Vikings.

The Arden Hills site, a former Army ammunition dump, is favored by Vikings owner Zygi Wilf and by his allies on the Ramsey County Board who see it as a good way to clean up an environmentally troubled site and bolster economic growth in surrounding areas. Their plan, likely to serve as the main basis for whatever Dayton proposes, has the county paying $350 million raised by a half-cent sales tax increase; the state paying $300 million from a yet to be determined source; and the Vikings paying $407 million plus any cost overruns.

Some political and business leaders in Minneapolis have angled to keep the team there, at one of three possible sites in the downtown area. Dayton has been careful not to dismiss Minneapolis as a prospect if the suburban site is somehow disqualified.

"I'd want a stadium to be in Minneapolis rather than Los Angeles," he said, in reference to business groups there that are aggressively seeking a new NFL franchise, adding that the Vikings have made their large financial contribution contingent on building in Arden Hills.

"The only site the Vikings are willing to consider, and put four to five hundred million dollars into, is Arden Hills," Dayton said.

Following three days of meetings with various stadium stakeholders, including Wilf, Dayton said that within the next three weeks he plans to unveil a detailed proposal tied to the Ramsey County site, including how to raise the state's $300 million share toward a project estimated at $1.1 billion. The Democratic governor did not reveal if he has a preference between several financing options already floated, including new state sales taxes, fees on game-related activities, tax revenue from an expansion of gambling, or something else.

Once a proposal is in hand, Dayton said he'd call a special legislative session before the end of November, allowing lawmakers to vote on the plan. But he still must convince skeptical Republican legislative leaders, who couldn't block him from calling a session but whose support would be crucial to passing any stadium bill.

The Vikings have sought a replacement for the Metrodome for nearly a decade, calling the Minneapolis venue no longer sufficiently profitable. The team's lease there runs out at the end of the current season, and earlier this week an NFL vice president in town to meet with Dayton did nothing to squelch speculation that failure by state leaders to fund a replacement could result in another city grabbing away the franchise.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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