ST. PAUL, Minn. — A top NFL executive said Tuesday that league officials want the Vikings to remain in Minnesota but worry there won’t be a financing plan in place to build a new stadium when the Metrodome’s lease expires later this year.
Eric Grubman, the vice president who leads the NFL’s business operations, met privately with Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, who is pushing for a special session by late November to deal with the stadium issue, though Republican legislative leaders have so far not jumped on the bandwagon.
The Democratic governor is holding several days of meetings with different stakeholders as he pushes for team supporters to assemble a plan that could get an up or down vote by lawmakers.
“We’re worried about a stalemate,” Grubman said after the meeting. “A stalemate means there’s no lease, or the lease is about to expire; there’s no plan for a stadium, and there’s an alternative plan in another city.”
Grubman said that would increase the probability of the Vikings moving somewhere else, though he wouldn’t speculate just how likely. “Our job is to make sure that doesn’t happen,” he said, but added the greater responsibility lies with Dayton and state lawmakers.
Besides meeting with Grubman and another NFL vice president on Tuesday, Dayton met with lawmakers on Monday. He plans to meet separately Wednesday with Vikings owners, officials from Ramsey County that are hoping the project will be built on a suburban parcel in Arden Hills, and with backers of a plan to open a downtown Minneapolis casino. Some tax proceeds from that casino could possibl y be funneled to help with stadium construction.
Dayton reaffirmed after the NFL meeting that he takes seriously the prospect that the team could leave Minnesota and that failure to get a proposal through the Legislature in what’s left of 2011 would likely end up delaying final resolution into 2013 or beyond.
Vikings owners and officials are pushing a $1.1 billion stadium plan at the Arden Hills site, with costs to be shared by Ramsey County, the state of Minnesota and the team. Grubman said the league could contribute as much as $150 million to the Vikings’ share, pegged to be at least $400 million and possibly more if there are cost overruns.
Several potential stadium sites in Minneapolis are also in the mix, which Dayton has refused to rule out despite the team’s insistence on Arden Hills.
Grubman declined to speculate about where the Vikings could end up if they were to leave Minnesota, but acknowledged the strong commitment by several Los Angeles business groups to land a new NFL franchise there. He said he realized public financing for a football stadium could be a tough sell in the current political environment and said Minnesotans would have to decide what they want f or the Twin Cities area.
“People are not attracted to cities for the traffic jams,” Grubman said. “You have to decide what reasons you want your city on the map.”