Who Should Pay for the Roof Over the Vikings' Heads?

A disagreement is brewing in Los Angeles over two developers' competing visions for a potential stadium that might help bring the NFL back to the country's second largest media market. In Miami, public officials and hoteliers are squaring off in a battle over the costs of a potential renovations to Sun Life Stadium, home of the Miami Dolphins. In Minneapolis, meanwhile, the wrangling over a potential replacement for the Metrodome has taken on a more traditional flavor, with the NFL's Vikings alternating demands with veiled threats, and a populace and legislature stuck having to decide whether the team's needs or the public's needs come first.

The collapse of the dome's roof in December has surprisingly had little to do with the arguments taking shape. If anything, the incident has brought the sides closer together on the need for a new venue. The question is what type to build. The Vikings have pledged to pay a third of a new stadium's construction cost, but have made it clear that another dome doesn't serve its interests, and that the team won't help pay for that portion of the project. "A roof does not provide any benefit to the Vikings," the team's vice president of public affairs and stadium development, Lester Bagley, told The Associated Press last week. "It also costs a couple hundred million dollars more in capital costs, in addition to the operating costs that are much higher for a covered facility."

The city and state counter that to make a significant public investment in a new stadium, it must be able to host the college, high school and entertainment events that the Metrodome has so ably hosted for decades. State Sen. Julie Rosen (R-Fairmont), likely lead sponsor of a stadium bill expected to be introduced next month, conceded that a permanent or retractable roof would add another few hundred million dollars to an estimated $700 million project, but told reporters, "If you're going to put this much capital, this much sweat and tears into it, you're going to need a 365-day facility like the Metrodome."

Resolution of the problem will depend on legislators' willingness to fund construction in the teeth of a statewide $6.2 billion deficit, with the knowledge that not one but two firms in Los Angeles would doubtless be ready to swoop in and compete for the team should a deal fail to materialize in Minneapolis.

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