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Ted Mondale: It's now or never for Vikings stadium

With the task of a new Minnesota Vikings stadium squarely before him, Ted Mondale was named Friday by Gov. Mark Dayton to lead the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission.

The collapsed roof of the Metrodome is shown in this aerial view in Minneapolis on Sunday, Dec. 12, 2010. The inflatable roof of the Metrodome collapsed after a snowstorm that left 17 inches on Minneapolis. No one was hurt. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)

With the task of a new Minnesota Vikings stadium squarely before him, Ted Mondale was named Friday by Gov. Mark Dayton to lead the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission.

Mondale said that the controversial project may be an "impossible task," but "I think if it's doable, this is the year we do it."

In an interview Thursday, Dayton was even more direct regarding a project that polls have shown most Minnesotans do not want to use taxpayer money to build. "I would say it must be done this year. This [legislative] session," he said.

The appointment is seen as a strong signal by Dayton that the state must find a way to build a new stadium with the Vikings, whose lease at the crippled Metrodome ends this year.

In selecting Mondale, Dayton chose a former Metropolitan Council chair who under Gov. Jesse Ventura helped build the state's first light-rail line.


Mondale, 53, the son of former U.S. Vice President Walter Mondale, also brings connections that might help: He is a boyhood friend of Roger Goodell, the National Football League commissioner, and has served on the Vikings' board of advisers, a group of community leaders that includes former Vikings coach Bud Grant and the chief executive officer of Best Buy. Mondale said Friday he would resign from the board to avoid a conflict of interest.

"[He's] someone that can pull people together regionally," House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, D-Minneapolis, said of Mondale. "If a solution is going to come out to build a stadium, that's going to be an important piece of it."

But House Majority Leader Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, said a Vikings stadium debate would have to wait until lawmakers dealt with the state's projected $6.2 billion budget deficit. "We have a big budget hill to climb," Dean said. "That's what we need to focus on."

Mondale will face several immediate challenges, including easing the tension between the sports facilities commission and the Vikings over the team's lease at the Metrodome, which expires after this year. The team and the commission, which owns the Metrodome, have publicly feuded over the Vikings' insistence that the team will not renew its lease at the indoor stadium, where it has played since 1982.

Mondale also will have to navigate through a Legislature that for the first time in more than a generation is controlled by Republicans.

Lester Bagley, the Vikings' vice president for stadium development and public affairs, called Mondale's appointment "an excellent choice."

Mondale said he had a "very long" conversation with Dayton on Tuesday, in which the governor repeated that while he wanted the team to get a new stadium, he would not "cross his values to get it done."

Mondale said Dayton gave no directions on a specific site, whether the stadium should be roofed, or type of public subsidy available. "The public benefit needs to be above ... the public dollars," said Mondale, who said the governor referred to the project as "the people's stadium."


Dean, meanwhile, said he was lukewarm to generating revenue for the stadium through a racino -- slot machines installed at the state's horse racing tracks. He acknowledged that he had voted for racinos in the past, but said he was "not necessarily" agreeable to using it to fund a stadium.

Rachel E. Stassen-Berger contributed to this article.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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