Dayton still ‘in listening mode’ on stadium

Wilf, Bagley go past photographers and reporters

Gov. Mark Dayton gives himself a Nov. 7 deadline for releasing a Vikings football stadium construction plan, but only if others get him information on time.

“I am still in a listening mode,” Dayton said Wednesday, adding that he has asked the Vikings and others to deliver information he needs to draw up “a more specific proposal.”

Nov. 7 is two weeks before he plans to call the Legislature into special session to deal with the stadium.

Dayton’s comments came after hosting three stadium meetings Wednesday, the third straight day the stadium has dominated his schedule.

He emphasized that he sees an urgency to the stadium work because he thinks it is “a very real possibility” that the Vikings will move to Los Angeles or elsewhere if they do not get a new stadium deal done by the Feb. 1 end of their Metrodome lease.

Among key items he wants is a signed agreement from the Vikings that the team will pay for any construction cost overruns and remain in Minnesota if a new stadium is built. The Vikings dispute a Metropolitan Council report that indicates there would be higher-than-planned costs to develop the team’s preferred site near Arden Hills, in northern Ramsey County.

Dayton said the Vikings agreed to pay the extra costs, but he wants it in writing before the process moves too far.

Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, said he thinks the Vikings would end up paying more than $500 million toward the stadium’s expected $1.1 billion cost.

Other issues Dayton wants ironed out before delivering a stadium plan include nailing down where the state and Ramsey County would get their portions of construction costs. The county proposes increasing its sales tax.

The state’s $300 million contribution could come from taxing sports memorabilia and other taxes and fees. Some propose expanding gambling in the Twin Cities to provide the state’s share, but no decisions have been made.

Also, the Democratic governor that he needs a firm decision on who would control the stadium before it is built.

Dayton has invited legislative leaders to another meeting on Monday to further discuss stadium issues. He met with them earlier this week, as well as NFL officials.

Any plan needs to be ready before the Legislature debates it, Dayton said, so the public has a chance to react.

“I want all the cards turned up on the table,” he said.

Vikings owner Zygi Wilf was not talking on Wednesday. With Wilf at his side, team Vice President Lester Bagley told reporters waiting outside the governor’s office that Wilf would have nothing to say about his meeting with Dayton.

Wilf quickly walked out of the Capitol, with a horde of reporters and photographers in tow. He said nothing, which was widely reported within minutes of his departure.

Hours later, the Vikings issued a statement saying that they declined comment out of respect for Dayton, who planned a news conference later.

Besides Wilf, Dayton hosted a meeting with the owner of Block E in downtown Minneapolis, who wants the state to approve a casino for his property. Bob Lux said he and Dayton did not discuss the stadium, although there is much talk that some state profits from the casino could be used to build a new Vikings facility.

There also is talk about adding to one of both of the state’s horse-racing tracks, with some of the “racino” proceeds being used to fund a stadium.

Also meeting with Dayton were Ramsey County officials, who are promoting the Arden Hills site, which the Vikings prefer.

 “We need to get this done by turkey day,” Ramsey County Commissioner Tony Bennett said.

Lanning, chief author of the House stadium bill, has said any stadium deal needs to be approved by lawmakers in a special session before Thanksgiving. Lanning, prime author of the House stadium bill, said chances of approving a stadium will fall if the issue is delayed until the next legislative session, to start on Jan. 24.

On Wednesday, Bennett appeared optimistic: “Nothing has gone downhill.”

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