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Time running out on Vikings stadium plan

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Time running out on Vikings stadium plan
Hastings Minnesota 745 Spiral Boulevard 55033

ST. PAUL -- State and Minnesota Vikings leaders called Tuesday talks about a new stadium constructive, but they offered no proof that stadium construction was any closer than it has been for months, or even years.

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The take-away from the 90-minute meeting was that a bill must be written by Friday if it is to receive a vote during a special late-June legislative budget session. If the June 30 deadline passes without a budget passing, Vikings supporters could have more time.

The most optimistic comment came from Gov. Mark Dayton: "Where there is a will, there is a way."

Dayton, Vikings owners, legislators, Ramsey County commissioners and Dayton's stadium point man met in the Capitol Tuesday afternoon and emerged saying they agreed a bill needs to be finished by Friday.

"The end of this week is essentially the deadline," Dayton said.

No one in the meeting could specify details about what they accomplished and none expressed optimism about the deal getting done.

"We have a lot of work ahead of us," said Zygi Wilf, who with his brother and fellow owner Mark Wilf picked an Arden Hills site for a new stadium.

Dayton said those involved in preparing a stadium bill need to resolve a funding shortfall of up to $130 million, determine transportation needs for a new stadium and decide how the stadium would be governed.

The governor and key legislators say the state will pay no more than $300 million, which leaves a stadium construction plan short. A preliminary bill would require the team and National Football League to pay $407 million and Ramsey County $350 million from a half-percent sales tax increase.

The major funding dispute is over how much improvement freeways and other roads in the area of the new stadium would need to accommodate fans. The Wilfs and Ramsey County officials estimate it less than does the state. Those improvements are part of the $300 million state cap set by Dayton, Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, and Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont.

Lanning said that while there could be legislative committee meetings on the stadium as early as next week, no votes will come until after the state budget is resolved.

"All of us remain committed to keeping the Vikings in Minnesota," said Lanning, the chief House stadium bill author.

The Wilfs say they will not renew their lease in the Metrodome when it expires after next season, meaning the issue must be decided this year.

A vote could come in a special legislative session that Dayton will need to call to pass a state budget. Almost all of the state's two-year budget, to begin on July 1, remains unresolved, leaving a date for a special session up in the air.

While legislative leaders and Dayton plan to discuss the budget today, there is no sign a breakthrough is near.

Even with no budget agreement, Rosen, the Senate stadium sponsor, put a lot of importance of the Vikings' need: "This is a huge priority."

Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.

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Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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