by T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol Reporter
Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton on Monday, Oct. 17 expressed a willingness to call a special legislative session to resolve the lingering Vikings stadium issue.
“I’m confident the process can produce an outcome by Nov. 23,” said Dayton, speaking after a lengthy meeting with Republican and Democratic legislative leaders.
Dayton indicated a willingness to call a special session for Nov. 21 if legislative leaders first agree on limiting the scope of the session to stadium issues, agree on an ending date, and other basic parameters.
“I won’t call a special session without a prior agreement,” Dayton said.
But Dayton indicated that he did not expect a final stadium bill being crafted prior to a special session. “I don’t expect the outcome before the game,” he said. Dayton said that he did expect a special session up-or-down stadium vote by lawmakers.
A deadline is needed to force the stadium debate — to miss this chance this fall could push out a resolution until 2013, Dayton argued.
He’s willing to take the lead in negotiating with the National Football League and the Minnesota Vikings. A meeting with NFL representatives was on tap Tuesday.
Dayton also expressed a willingness to lead negotiations with local units of government. But he insists that everybody put their cards on the table face up.
Republican legislative leaders left Monday’s meeting indicating that they’ve agreed to no time line.
Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, said it would be helpful if some kind of stadium “concrete proposal” would be put forth for lawmakers to consider.
“I think the Vikings are an asset to the state,” said Koch. But the devil is in the financial details, she said of funding a stadium.
House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, indicated that Republicans will not support tax increases to fund a stadium.
Beyond this, Republicans also insist that any stadium bill have bipartisan support.
Lester Bagley, vice president of public affairs for the Minnesota Vikings, said the team was grateful for the governor’s and legislative leaders’ work on the stadium.
“We are focused on Arden Hills,” he said when asked about other possible locations for a stadium. “There’s one plan. It’s in Arden Hills.”
Bagley argued that stadium legislation had nearly been all fleshed out, the one missing variable being how the state proposed to pay for its $300 million share.
“We can’t read their minds,” he said.
The team recently consulted with a construction company and believes it’s possible to have a stadium constructed and opened by 2015 in Arden Hills, Bagley said.
The $1 billion Vikings/Ramsey County stadium proposal slates development for 430 acres of the former 2,400-acre Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant site.
The actual stadium and supporting facilities would take up about 260 acres, with the remaining land slated for future development.
The Metropolitan Council and Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission recently completed stadium proposal risk analysis of the project at the governor’s behest.
Some of the findings are that while a proposed half-cent sales tax increase in Ramsey County appears sufficient to help the county finance its $350 million commitment to the stadium, it could restrict the ability of Ramsey County to fund other projects.
Further, Ramsey County could be responsible for a share of cost overruns, the report notes.
It also concluded that site remediation at Arden Hills could take longer and cost more than previously estimated.