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Metrodome Officials Say Stadium Equals Jobs for Minnesota

Sat March 21, 2009 - Midwest Edition
Elizabeth Dunbar - ASSOCIATED PRESS

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) Time is running out for the Minnesota Vikings to get a deal on a new stadium, and it couldn’t have come at a worse moment as state lawmakers grapple with a $4.8 billion budget deficit.

But the Vikings aren’t giving up in their quest for a public-private partnership, and neither is the commission that oversees the Metrodome. Rather than straight-up asking for public money, they’re touting the new jobs and tax revenue a new stadium could bring.

On Feb. 23, the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission told members of a House committee that building a new stadium on the Metrodome site would create 8,000 construction jobs and help state and local governments bring in $32 million a year in tax revenue.

The figures were based on a report the commission asked an outside group to conduct to show the economic benefits of building the stadium. During a presentation before the House Local Government Division, Metrodome officials used the report to argue that not building a stadium would be a missed opportunity.

Without a stadium deal, it’s possible the Vikings would have to leave Minnesota after the team’s lease at the Metrodome is up after the 2011 season, commission Chairman Roy Terwilliger said.

“The Vikings have not made that threat, but the decision may be out of their hands,” he said.

The NFL and other team owners have put pressure on the Vikings, because the Metrodome doesn’t meet their stadium standards, Terwilliger said.

No legislation has been introduced that would specify a funding mechanism for the estimated $954 million needed to build so-called Metrodome Next. Vikings officials have met with legislative leaders and the governor in hopes that a deal could be reached despite the economy. No Vikings officials testified at Feb. 23’s hearing.

“We have a significant jobs and economic stimulus package that at least needs to be discussed,” said Lester Bagley, the Vikings’ vice president of public affairs/stadium development. “We’re trying to create that dialogue and find the path to a solution.”

In addition to the construction jobs, the report said a new stadium used for the Vikings, community events and concerts would support 3,400 full- and part-time jobs.

But the jobs argument didn’t get very far with some lawmakers, who are looking at creating jobs through the federal economic stimulus package. Rep. Jeremy Kalin, DFL-North Branch, said a $700 million public investment for a stadium would ignore the state’s other needs.

“Our responsibility is to respond to the 5 million state residents. We have to look at our more core obligations,” Kalin said.

Commission Executive Director Bill Lester encouraged the lawmakers to look beyond this year’s budget woes.

“It’s a murderous task that you face, but we’re going to get through that task,” he said. “When we come out of this ... we want to make sure we continue to have a state that’s a great place to live.”

Division Chairman Rep. Michael Nelson, DFL-Brooklyn Park, said he’s willing to look at proposals for a new Vikings stadium. But he said such proposals don’t seem likely to get very far in the Legislature this session.

“It’s terrible timing. It’s as if you get laid off and you come home and your car breaks down right when you need a car to look for another job,” he said. “It’s like having to buy a new car at that same time when you’re not earning anything.”

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