Was it only last weekend that Minneapolis newspaper columnists were griping about how their city wasn’t leaping into the Minnesota Vikings stadium race? Well, gripe no longer: Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak yesterday offered three, count ’em three, possible sites for a Vikings stadium in his city, and said he’d help pay for it with a citywide sales tax and possibly proceeds from a downtown casino.
In May, Minneapolis officials rolled out an $895 million plan to transform the Metrodome into a bigger facility. Rybak and Johnson said that’s still their preferred option, but they also support the Farmers Market site favored by several business groups and the Xcel Energy site near the Basilica of St. Mary.
Vikings stadium chief Lester Bagley issued a stadium saying thanks but no thanks, the team is focused on the Arden Hills site in Ramsey County. What looks like is going on here is that Rybak is positioning himself to be ready to jump in should the Arden Hills plan fall apart, as it looks to have a fair chance of doing, given the questions about its price tag and possibility of a voter referendum to block it and just the general uncertainty of ever getting a stadium bill through the Minnesota legislature.
The problem, of course, is that Minneapolis is still barred from spending more than $10 million on a stadium by that long-ago referendum vote (so long ago that it predates this website) that installed a stadium spending cap in the city charter. Rybak could ask the state legislature to override his city charter and approve a sales tax hike anyway, but that would be a tougher sell than a straight stadium subsidy deal. There’s also the possibility of going through Hennepin County, as the Twins did for their stadium, though at last report the county was still saying it couldn’t afford to go in on a new Vikings home.
In any case, though, Vikings execs have to be absolutely thrilled to have a bidding war going on, even if the various bids aren’t all that strong. Minneapolis may only be a fallback option for now, but that’s one more option than they had yesterday.