The Minnesota Vikings are making progress in their quest to find a new home to replace the fading Metrodome, but major hurdles remain to reach their goal.
The Vikings and Ramsey County have agreed to build a $1.1 billion stadium complex on the site of a former ammunition plant in suburban Arden Hills, but the partners still need Minnesota government to approve a plan that requires $300 million in state investment but potentially more public money to improve roads, highways and interchanges near the area.
The next step in the process could play out in a yet-to-be-scheduled special session of the legislature.
Vikings owner Zygi Wilf has said from the start his priority is keeping his team in Minnesota for the next generation of fans. When asked how the stadium would help Minnesota, he cited a major lift to the economy.
"First of all, the jobs it's going to create: 13,000 jobs, including 7,000 construction jobs, more than 3,000 ongoing full- and part-time jobs," Wilf told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "It's going to generate a significant amount of local and state tax dollars -- in excess of $20 million a year. It's going to keep the Vikings in Minnesota for their fans. It's easy access for everyone, being so close to the highways, whatever they're going to the stadium for."
Wilf added that a new facility would give Minnesota the opportunity to host events like the Final Four and the Super Bowl.
Wilf downplayed the notion that his public statements about keeping the Vikings in Minnesota is hurting his leverage, especially with buzz building about an NFL team landing in a new stadium in Los Angeles.
"When I became owner, that's the first question everyone asked me: Would I keep the team here? And I always said I was committed to football in Minnesota," he said. "In the past, I didn't have Arden Hills in mind, but the commitment to stay in Minnesota was always a priority and always will be. ... That's how I've always felt. I've never thought of it any other way. I never mean my true feelings to be used for negotiation purposes. I speak the way I feel."
Wilf said a sizable portion of funding for the proposed stadium will be coming out of his pocket. The owner explained that he's taking a huge financial leap of faith to build the new stadium in a smaller market with a slim margin of error.
"There's much more at risk than in bigger-tier markets, but we're willing to take those risks to have a home," he said. "It's a balance. ... We're hoping for the best and that we're going to make this as successful as possible, but we have to be prepared for the risk if the revenues are below our expected minimum."
In related news, Wilf confirmed that HBO approached the team about starring in the new season of its "Hard Knocks" series. Wilf said the club declined the offer.
"We have other issues -- the stadium and football -- and we need to focus on those."