The pipe dream in print.

The pipe dream in print.

A consulting firm hired by the group that operates the Metrodome unveiled a cheaper plan for a new Vikings’ stadium Thursday.

The new pricetag? About $870 million if construction started next year.

That’s about $84 million less than the most recent figure of $954 million, primarily because of lower product and labor costs, according to Bill Lester, executive director of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission.

“What we’ve learned is that the time to do this is now,” commission chairman Roy Terwilliger said in a prepared statement.

Noticeably absent from Thursday’s meeting was Vikings’ management – another sign that the team seems to be drifting further away from what was once a solid partnership to “repurpose” the MetroBarn by using the building’s existing structural elements and the infrastructure surrounding it.

The Vikings called the report “an important contribution” to the search for a new stadium, but wouldn’t endorse it.

“Given the MSFC’s recent attempt to delay a stadium discussion for two years, we are moving forward with those leaders who want to resolve this issue in 2010,” the team said in a written statement.

“It’s less important what the commission has to say, or what the Vikings have to say, and more important what our state leaders have to say,” Vikings stadium point man Lester Bagley said. “There may be other sites that have other political advantages, or maybe other financial support.

“We have one chance to do this, so we have to make sure we do it right. We think (the plans) need to be studied, not just by us, but by state leaders.”

The Vikings’ lease at the MetroBarn expires after the 2011 season, and team relations with the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission turned sour this fall after commission members passed a resolution essentially forcing team officials to extend their lease another two years. The deal includes more revenue for the team, but it also allows the commission to start charging $4 million in rent that has been waived the past 10 years if the Vikings don’t extend their lease.

In addition to a new stadium, the consulting firm hired by the commission also proposed rebuilding the existing stadium around a 13,000-seat portion of the MetroBarn at a cost of $771 million. Both stadiums would include a retractable roof.

Team owner Zygi Wilf met with Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty earlier this week, although Pawlenty has said he’s not willing to spend state money on a new Vikings’ stadium. State Democrats – who control the Legislature – have also balked at using public money for a new stadium given the state’s crushing budget deficit.

But maybe both groups need to listen to the people they represent. In a poll on the Star-Tribune’s Web site, 55 percent of respondents said the state should “do what’s necessary to keep the Vikings from leaving,” even if that means spending public money on a new stadium. Less than 20 percent opposed such an idea, while nearly 25 percent were OK with the state spending some money and making the Vikings pay for most of the costs.

In another online poll, 42 percent of Pioneer Press readers said they liked the new stadium design, but another 42 percent said they’ll take what they can get “as long as the Vikings stay in Minnesota.”

We aren’t big fans of Vikings fans around here, but the team is doing well this season and, not surprisingly, their fair weather fans suddenly care and want the franchise to stay put – apparently even if it means cutting veteran’s benefits, funding for schools and other state services to do it.

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