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Minnesota lawmakers still want downtown stadium for Vikings

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings, hoping to flee their longtime home in downtown Minneapolis for a new suburban stadium, received a message Tuesday from an influential state senator: Not so fast.

At a joint hearing of two state Senate committees, team executives and Ramsey County leaders touted their plan to put a $1.1 billion stadium on a former Army ammunition plant in Arden Hills. State lawmakers -- who will make the final decision on if and where to build a stadium -- also received a pitch from Minneapolis' two top officials about three likely cheaper places to build downtown.

One suggested location is the current Metrodome site, which Mayor R.T. Rybak said city leaders prefer. But he said they've been reluctant to discard the other two, which are on the other side of downtown, because Vikings officials won't meet with them or express a preference.

"The Vikings have chosen, and that's their choice to back only the Arden Hills site," Rybak said. "We would like to go back to the table with them."

That prompted Sen. Julianne Ortman, chairwoman of the Senate Taxes Committee, to encourage Vikings executives to sit down with Minneapolis stadium boosters. "I for one think it's in your best interest to help us narrow down these sites," said Ortman, a Republican from Chanhassen.

Lester Bagley, a Vikings vice president, said they would. But he stressed again that team owners Zygi and Mark Wilf are interested in what they see as a greater "fan experience" offered by the 430-acre Arden Hills site.

The team's push has escalated in recent months, with their Metrodome lease due to expire at the end of the season. Bagley said Tuesday that the Vikings wouldn't sign a lease extension unless a deal for a new stadium was in place.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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