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Stadium activity increases as deadline, session near

ST. PAUL -- A Thursday deadline and the approaching Minnesota legislative session are pushing Vikings stadium talk up front.

Stadium talk dominates this week, especially on Wednesday because of an unexpected proposal to build a stadium in Shakopee.

Brad Tabke, mayor of the southwestern Twin Cities community for a week, unveiled his plans for a Shakopee stadium a day before Gov. Mark Dayton wants all proposals on his desk.

"Shakopee hosts 6 million visitors each year at ValleyFair, Canterbury Park, the Renaissance Festival and many other attractions," Tabke said. "We are excited to introduce our plan for adding the Minnesota Vikings to the list of great reasons to visit Shakopee."

His proposal joins the Vikings' preferred site of Arden Hills, in northern Ramsey County, and a downtown site Minneapolis leaders push.

Dayton said he wants the plans by 5 p.m. Thursday so he and legislative stadium leaders Rep. Morrie Lanning of Moorhead and Sen. Julie Rosen of Fairmont have time to prepare a bill by the time lawmakers start their annual session on Jan. 24.

While stadium locations are being discussed, state leaders also are considering a letter Vikings President Mark Wilf sent to Minneapolis leaders claiming that they leave out $67 million in expenses:

-- $19 million to meet National Football League requirements for stadium-area parking.

-- $11 million to upgrade the University of Minnesota stadium for the Vikings to use doing construction of the new facility.

-- $37 million the Vikings would lose by playing at the university.

The Arden Hills plan is expected to cost $1.1 billion and if the Vikings added expenses are included to the Minneapolis plan it would come close to $1 billion. The Shakopee site also would cost less than $1 billion.

The team says it would pay more than $400 million for the Arden Hills stadium, but less for the Minneapolis one. Local and state governments would make up the rest.

The Vikings' lease at the Metrodome in Minneapolis expires Feb. 1. The team says it must have a new stadium because it cannot make enough money at the Metrodome.

A new stadium would be publically owned and available for events other than professional football.

The discussion about a new stadium has gone on for a decade, along with an unspoken Vikings' threat that the team could leave without a new stadium. The Wilf family has said it wants to keep the Vikings in Minnesota, but is silent on the prospect of selling it and the new owners moving it elsewhere.

Dayton said he fears the Vikings will be sold and moved if there is no new stadium.

Tabke's Shakopee plan would put the stadium between Minnesota 101 and U.S. 169 on 130 acres.

"The Vikings clearly want a site with options, and the Shakopee site provides that," Tabke said. "There is room for a 75,000 seat stadium and 22,000 tailgaters. Land is also available next to the proposed site that has lake access, park access and more."

The Shakopee stadium would be partially funded by allowing the nearby Canterbury Park horse-racing facility to add a casino.

"This is a good solution for a site and using racino as a local funding source makes sense," Sen. Claire Robling, R-Jordan, said. "People should take a serious look at this."

Funding the stadium has been a more controversial topic than where to put one.

While racino has support among many legislators, the issue has been debated for years and never passed into law. Dayton said he prefers the state allowing charitable gambling sites to use electronic pull tabs and bingo, which would provide more money to charities and to the state than existing paper games.

Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.

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.