Vikings reexamine options in stadium push

Updated: July 19, 2006, 11:19 PM ET
Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wilf met Wednesday afternoon with Minneapolis leaders about real estate development opportunities in the city.

They spoke about the Metrodome site as a possible place for the team's desired new stadium, but that was not the purpose of the discussion, according to Mayor R.T. Rybak and a Vikings official.

Minneapolis is putting several parking ramps it owns up for sale, and there are other spots the city would like developed as well. The Wilf family, from New Jersey, built its wealth in real estate and bought the Vikings last summer.

A renovation of the Metrodome, much cheaper than the proposed stadium that's part of a $1.6 billion multi-use complex being pushed by the team in Blaine, is not an option for the Vikings. The club is focused on gaining state approval for the project in Blaine, which calls for a $280 million contribution from Anoka County via sales tax increase and $115 million from the state through construction bonds.

But the city and the team each said they'd be open to looking at building a new stadium where the Dome now sits on the east edge of downtown.

"We told them we want the Vikings here," Rybak said.

Wilf, who declined comment Wednesday, has decided he doesn't want a retractable roof on the new stadium, which has put him at odds with Blaine and Anoka County leaders. Another hitch involves the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and wetlands on which the stadium complex has been proposed.

Blaine and Anoka County officials are upset with the Corps over the way it has handled the approval process for the 740 acres of wetlands north of the Twin Cities along Interstate 35W.

The Corps issued a news release Wednesday saying it is "neither for nor against a stadium" and committed to working with the team on this situation.

Lester Bagley, the Vikings' vice president of public affairs and stadium development, said the issue has been there all along and should not be considered a setback.

"If people want to get this project done, we can work through that," Bagley said.

In another off-the-field matter, Bagley said the team spoke last week with leaders from Sioux Falls, S.D., about holding training camp there. The Vikings have a three-year contract with Mankato, where they'll convene next week for camp, but in that pact they also have the annual right to opt out.

The Sioux Falls group has made its pitch before, but right now, Bagley said, the team is "focused on Mankato. We see no reason to believe that we'll be leaving."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press