Minnesota Vikings reach tentative Minnesota stadium deal

By David Bailey

MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - The Minnesota Vikings have reached a tentative $975 million deal with state and local officials to build a new public stadium for the National Football League team near the current Metrodome in Minneapolis, officials said on Thursday.

The agreement between Democratic Governor Mark Dayton, the Minneapolis mayor and the team requires approval of the Republican-led state Legislature and Minneapolis City Council, both of which have members opposed to stadium funding.

Dayton asked city council members to give it quick approval and for state lawmakers to vote up or down on a stadium in the current legislative session, which is expected to end in April.

"Now the real work begins," Dayton told a news conference. "I ask them to consider carefully what is at stake for Minneapolis and all of Minnesota."

The deal calls for the state to contribute $398 million, the city $150 million and the Vikings $427 million to a fixed roof stadium, said Ted Mondale, chairman of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission.

The state funding would come from expanding charitable gaming to include electronic pull-tabs, a source thought to have more support among state lawmakers than proposals to expand gambling at horse racing tracks or by adding casinos.

The plan also would re-direct some of the existing sales and hospitality taxes generated in Minneapolis.

The Vikings have played at the Metrodome since 1982. The roof collapsed in late 2010 during a heavy snowstorm forcing the Vikings to play one home game in Detroit and a second at the University of Minnesota stadium nearby. The roof and turf were replaced before the start of the 2011 season.

Vikings owner Zygi Wilf told a news conference the first question he fielded when he bought the team seven years ago was whether it would be moved. The team owners have never threatened to leave Minnesota.

"The dream of keeping the Minnesota Vikings here for generations to come is close at hand," Wilf said, adding that the new stadium could be home to a Major League Soccer franchise and other events.

Construction of the stadium would require the Vikings to play one season at the University of Minnesota stadium. The project costs cover $828 million for the stadium and $147 million for an adjacent plaza.

The Vikings would be required to sign a 30-year lease and to contribute more than half of the construction and operating expenses over the life of the stadium, according to a summary of the financial plans distributed Thursday.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said the proposal would extend the city sales taxes to 2045 and permit the state to take its dollars for the stadium off the top.

After that, the city would have more control over the rest of the sales tax revenue for economic development, which will allow the city to shift the Target Center arena where the Minnesota Timberwolves NBA team plays off its property tax rolls and continue support for the convention center, Rybak said.

The Vikings in May 2011 had announced a $1.1 billion plan with Ramsey County to build a stadium at the site of a former Army munitions plant in a Minneapolis-St. Paul suburb. That plan failed to generate enough support among state lawmakers.

(Reporting by David Bailey; Editing by Paul Thomasch)