Vikings back out of plan to buy land near Metrodome

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings have backed out of a deal to buy four blocks near the Metrodome from the owners of the Star Tribune, the newspaper announced Wednesday.

In an e-mail to employees, Publisher Par Ridder said the Vikings had advised the company that the team no longer intends to buy the land.

"While we had reached agreement on a deal in principle, the Vikings reevaluated their plans in light of the recent credit market turbulence and other factors," Ridder wrote.

Vikings officials did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment from the Associated Press.

The announcement raised questions about the future of the Vikings' proposal for a $954 million stadium with a retractable roof to replace the current Metrodome.

Vikings owner Zygi Wilf, a real estate developer, had pledged about $250 million for the new stadium and to spend millions more redeveloping the surrounding neighborhood on the east edge of downtown Minneapolis.

The Vikings had announced plans back in June to buy the four blocks from the Star Tribune's owner, Avista Capital Partners, for a reported $45 million. The blocks would have been candidates to be part of the proposed redevelopment.

Vikings officials had been hoping the Legislature would help pay for the stadium project when it meets next year, and said the projected cost would rise to $995 million if lawmakers waited until 2009.

In his e-mail, Ridder said the Star Tribune and Avista would continue working with their real estate advisers over the next few weeks to determine their next steps.

Ridder said the Star Tribune would press ahead with plans to close an office building that was to be part of the sale and move the affected employees into the newspaper's headquarters on Portland Avenue.

It wasn't immediately clear what the Vikings now intend to do with other land they have been acquiring near the Metrodome. Wilf had bought three other parking lots near the Metrodome in May and had been negotiating to buy a city-owned parking ramp at the light-rail station near the current stadium.

On Tuesday, the Vikings sent a letter to their season ticket holders saying they planned to use the four Star Tribune lots to revive pre-game tailgating downtown, starting with the regular-season home opener Sept. 9 against the Atlanta Falcons.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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