By PATRICK CONDON
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota Vikings executives should help Minneapolis leaders narrow three possible downtown football stadium sites in the city to one, despite the team's desire to build at an entirely different site in a suburb north of St. Paul, an influential state senator said Tuesday.
At a joint hearing of two state Senate Committees, Vikings and Ramsey County leaders touted their plan to put a $1.1 billion stadium on a former Army ammunition plant in Arden Hills. The mayor and city council president of Minneapolis moved to keep the largely public-financed stadium in their downtown with promises of cheaper construction costs and an existing local sales tax to help pay them.
The decision of whether, and where, to build a new stadium will ultimately fall to state lawmakers themselves.
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said city leaders prefer the proposal to build at the site of the Metrodome, where the team currently plays, but that it's been difficult to choose between that and two proposals on the other side of downtown because Vikings officials won't meet with city leaders or select one of the three Minneapolis sites.
"The Vikings have chosen, and that's their choice to back only the Arden Hills site," Rybak said. "We would like to go back to the table with them."
That prompted Sen. Julianne Ortman, chairwoman of the Senate Taxes Committee, to encourage Vikings executives to sit down with Minneapolis stadium boosters. "I for one think it's in your best interest to help us narrow down these sites," said Ortman, a Republican from Chanhassen.
Lester Bagley, a Vikings vice president, said they would do so. But he stressed again that team owners Zygi and Mark Wilf are interested in what they see as a greater "fan experience" offered by the 430-acre Arden Hills site — room for team practice facilities, adjacent parking and tailgating and plenty of adjacent space for related retail, hotel and restaurant development.
"We worked hard to find a local partner, as we were instructed to do," Bagley said of the team's agreement with Ramsey County. "We think it's important we stick with a local partner that sticks with us."
The three Minneapolis proposals each offer a cheaper total price tag: the plan to build at the current Metrodome site is estimated to cost $895 billion, while the two proposals west of downtown near the Twins' Target Field each weigh in at just over $1 billion. But mitigating those savings is the recent vow by Zygi Wilf that he would contribute less money to a Minneapolis stadium than he would to one in Arden Hills.
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