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The Vikings and Ramsey County (Minn.) announced an agreement yesterday to "build a $1 billion football stadium with a retractable roof in Arden Hills, capping a furious day of last-minute negotiations and brushing aside concerns from Gov. Mark Dayton and others that the project may be seriously flawed," according to a front-page piece by Kaszuba, Olson & Duchschere of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. Vikings Owner Zygi Wilf attended yesterday's announcement, a day after no team officials participated in Minneapolis' unveiling of a plan for a stadium on the current Metrodome site. Wilf said, "We believe we have selected the ideal site here in Arden Hills. This establishes a venue for the next generation that our kids and ourselves can be very proud of." The Ramsey County site, a "former 260-acre munitions plant about 10 miles from downtown St. Paul, is one of the largest swaths of undeveloped land left in the Twin Cities." Wilf plans to "build a 1.6 million-square-foot stadium with 21,000 parking spaces and other developments, including a Vikings Hall of Fame." The team would contribute $407M, or 44%, while the county would finance $350M "with a half-cent sales tax increase, leaving the state" to contribute $300M. Still, the Ramsey County plan "faces high hurdles" with Minnesota officials. State legislators "have only 12 days left before they must adjourn the session, and many were voicing concerns on Tuesday that stadium negotiations have become so complex they might miss the deadline" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 5/11).
A LOOK INSIDE THE STADIUM: In St. Paul, Dave Orrick in a front-page piece reports the Ramsey County plan calls for a retractable-roof stadium that "affords a view of the skylines of both Minneapolis and St. Paul." In addition to the Vikings HOF, Wilf indicated that "bars and restaurants would likely be sprinkled nearby." But "from the sky, the most visible aspect would clearly be its 21,000 parking spaces." Wilf said that the retractable roof "was 'very important' not just for pleasant fall days but also for his desire to bring a professional soccer team there, as well as high school and amateur sports year-round." Orrick notes those are "attributes of the Metrodome that Dayton has said must be included in a new stadium." The Ramsey County stadium "would take three years to build, during which time the team would continue to play at the Metrodome." The stadium complex would "take up more than 200 acres," and the Vikings "would retain development rights to the remainder, perhaps to build hotels and restaurants." Wilf also said that he "hoped the team could retain lucrative naming rights to the stadium" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 5/11)
DON'T COUNT DOWNTOWN OUT: In St. Paul, Charley Walters notes a deal to build the Ramsey County stadium is "far from complete." Unless approximately $200M "more for highway and road infrastructure improvements is found, don't be surprised if the Vikings soon end up back in Minneapolis seeking a new stadium built on the Metrodome site." The state has said that it is "willing to contribute" $300M for a Ramsey County stadium. But the state "isn't willing to give some $200 million more for highway and road infrastructure improvements." The county "plans to seek the extra $200 million from the Legislature, but lawmakers aren't likely to be forthcoming with the proposal" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 5/11). Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak yesterday "remained confident he could sell his plan that would replace the Metrodome with a roofed stadium and refurbish Target Center." But in Minneapolis, Steve Brandt notes the "reluctant Vikings aren't his only challenge." Rybak also "needs to persuade the Legislature, the Minnesota Timberwolves and at least six more City Council members to endorse the plan" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 5/11).
AND THE WINNER IS ... In Minneapolis, Patrick Reusse writes Minneapolis "came up with a haphazard proposal that didn't come close to satisfying the Vikings' desires." The city does not have Hennepin County, home to Target Field, "to bail it out this time." Reusse: "Minneapolis didn't show a pulse as Hennepin County was saving the Twins and providing the city with a spectacular asset in Target Field. And now the city's political followers expected to sit on their dead rears and to be bailed out again -- by some unknown force -- with the Vikings" (STAR TRIBUNE, 5/11). But a STAR TRIBUNE editorial states the Vikings risk "overplaying their hand by continuing to flirt with Ramsey County officials on a stadium site in Arden Hills." The team "thumbed its nose at a smart and less expensive plan for a new fixed-roof stadium on the Metrodome site in downtown Minneapolis that would also benefit the community by renovating and taking Target Center off the property tax rolls." It is "understandable that the Wilfs want to make the best possible business deal for themselves and the team." But this "isn't a case of two private entities at the negotiating table." Taxpayers "would end up owning the majority stake in either stadium, and their elected officials should make the responsible choice" (STAR TRIBUNE, 5/11).
Nassau County "wants voters to approve a referendum to borrow up to $400 million for a new arena that would keep the Islanders on Long Island through at least 2045 and also finance construction of a minor-league ballpark," according to Marshall & Brodsky of NEWSDAY. Nassau County Exec Edward Mangano yesterday said that "pending approval by the county legislature, the referendum would be set for Aug. 1." If passed by voters, the plan would replace Islanders Owner Charles Wang's failed Lighthouse Project, and also "would shift a proposed Shinnecock Indian Nation casino" from the Nassau Coliseum site to Belmont Park. Construction on the new arena, "to be built next to the existing Coliseum, would begin next spring." Mangano said that Nassau Coliseum "would be demolished" after the new arena is built. Marshall & Brodsky note the $400M debt service "would be spread out over 30 years -- the same length as a new lease between the county and the Islanders, which would be crafted after the referendum passes." Mangano noted that the proposal "would earmark $350 million for a new arena and $50 million for a minor-league ballpark." Wang said that the plan "allows him to do what he hoped: Keep the Islanders on Long Island." Asked about the team's future if the referendum does not pass, Wang said, "I don't want to contemplate that right now" (NEWSDAY, 5/11). Officials with knowledge of the plan, formally introduced this morning, said that the price "could reach up to $500 million, 20 percent more than Mangano's $400 million estimate just last month" (N.Y. POST, 5/11).
ISLAND OF ADVENTURE: On Long Island, Arthur Staple writes the proposal is "not great news yet," but it is "hope, and that has been in short supply for the Islanders, for their fans and for the NHL in recent years." The promise of a new arena in five years can make Islanders GM Garth Snow's "pitches to big-name free agents feel more substantial in July." Furthermore, this is a "huge day" for the NHL. The Coyotes "have been for sale or on the brink of blowing out of Glendale for two years, a saga that still has no end." The Thrashers "want to move north to Canada," while the Stars are for sale and the Devils are "looking for a stakeholder." But with the Islanders, Wang, Mangano and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman "have got what they wanted, at least in principle" (NEWSDAY, 5/11).
In Pasadena, Brenda Gazzar reports Rose Bowl officials are "on track to complete" much of the first phase of the stadium's $152M renovation in time for this summer's Gold Cup Final. Rose Bowl CEO & GM Darryl Dunn said that "holding a major event in the midst of construction will entail making sure work is stopped, that everything is cleaned up for the event and then ready for the renovation to resume the following day." By the June 25 game, "four newly widened tunnels on the south side will be open for public use and a new LED video board -- which will be more than twice the size of the previous one -- and six new advertising panels are expected to be up and functional on the north end" (PASADENA STAR-NEWS, 5/11).
WAITING FOR THE SUNRISE: Univ. of South Florida Exec Associate AD Bill McGillis Monday said that the school's $35M renovation of the Sun Dome "has likely been pushed back to June due to 'procedural' delays, and those delays will force the Bulls' men's and women's basketball teams to play part of their 2012 Big East conference schedule off campus." McGillis said that the "opening of the renovated arena, which USF officials had once hoped would be in place for fall graduation in December, has now been pushed back" to February. He said that "as many Big East games as possible will be played at the St. Pete Times Forum downtown, which can accommodate larger crowds and helps minimize the inconvenience for season-ticket holders" (TAMPABAY.com, 5/9).
POWER TO THE PEOPLE: Carson City District Court Judge James Todd Russell ruled Monday that Nevada voters "can decide whether to raise the sales tax to help pay for a $500 million arena on land that Caesars Entertainment owns near Imperial Palace." Russell said that the Las Vegas Arena Foundation and Caesars "had gathered enough valid signatures during a petition drive to place the measure on the ballot, and he denied opponents' efforts to derail it." The petition "enabled the proposal to be heard in the Legislature" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 5/11).
GRIN & BEAR IT: In S.F., Vittorio Tafur reports the first phase of the $321M renovation of the Univ. of California's Memorial Stadium "is all but complete." The football stadium is "now an empty bowl after four months of demolition and dirt removal." The "second of the four steps, the rebuilding of the structure and the installing of a press box, is under way and should take close to seven months as workers push hard to make their September 2012 deadline" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 5/11).