Arden Hills ramps ups Vikings stadium talk
MINNEAPOLIS Arden Hills officials are getting ready to take a formal first step toward hosting a new Vikings stadium in the northern Twin Cities suburb. Council members are expected to vote Monday on a resolution of support for Ramsey County's ef...
Arden Hills officials are getting ready to take a formal first step toward hosting a new Vikings stadium in the northern Twin Cities suburb.
Council members are expected to vote Monday on a resolution of support for Ramsey County's efforts to land the stadium at the city's abandoned federal munitions site. Until now, Arden Hills officials have been noticeably low-key about the county's push.
Several city council members, in fact, declined to comment on the resolution to join the county in exploring the property's potential for a football stadium.
Given the public opposition that is sure to follow and past unsuccessful attempts to develop the property, the city is moving cautiously. "I don't have any comments yet, other than I have been weighing the pros and cons and risks and benefits," said Brenda Holden, a City Council member. "More after Monday when we have a city position."
Mayor David Grant said he expects the resolution to be adopted, and described the move as relatively minor. He acknowledged, however, that "it would be the first official, formal vote" regarding a Vikings stadium on the property, located north of downtown Minneapolis at Interstate 35W and Hwy. 10.
The Vikings "seem interested in Arden Hills," Grant said. "Who knows what will happen in the end?"
Though the city's role in building the stadium would be secondary -- Arden Hills itself would likely contribute little financially -- emotions may already be simmering.
At a town hall meeting in nearby New Brighton on Tuesday, a crowd of more than a hundred was asked at one point by legislators whether they supported a Vikings stadium in Arden Hills. Roughly 75 percent raised their hands in opposition, said Sen. Barb Goodwin, DFL-Columbia Heights, who co-hosted the meeting and whose district includes Arden Hills. "It was overwhelmingly against it," she said.
Goodwin said only a fourth of the crowd raised their hands to indicate support for using public subsidies to build a new stadium.
"People are definitely talking about it," said Rep. Kate Knuth, DFL-New Brighton, whose district also includes Arden Hills. "I'm hearing a real diversity of opinion in the district."
Some legislators and others have scoffed at the Vikings' seriousness about building in Ramsey County, saying the team remains enamored with Minneapolis.
But Knuth said she had spoken to Vikings officials. "They have said to me that they want to make it work wherever it works," she said.
City officials have long been lured by the property's potential. At 535 acres, it is the largest tract open to development in the Twin Cities. But they've also been frustrated by the obstacles in developing the largest Superfund pollution cleanup property in Minnesota.
Two years ago, Ryan Companies abandoned a multi-use redevelopment plan, citing the sagging economy and high costs.
Clayton Larson, the city's planning commission chair, said Arden Hills has seen proposals -- including an equestrian center, a park and a NASCAR racetrack -- come and go for the property. "This is just another in a long line of things that, you know, may be pipe dreams, may be not," he said of the Vikings stadium proposal.
"Since the county's behind it, it seems to have a little more viability than most," Larson said.
In his newsletter to Arden Hills residents last month, before Ramsey County voted to study the site for a Vikings stadium, Grant cautioned the city not to become fixated on redeveloping the property. The mayor, and 22-year city resident, said that while city officials should remain committed to the property, it "should not be our primary focus."
The city, he noted, "has been planning actively and working for more than 15 years to bring this about."
With the Twin Cities North Chamber of Commerce voting to support building the stadium in Arden Hills, the push for the city to embrace the project may be mounting. At a City Council work session 10 days ago that was supposed to focus on setting goals for the city, much of the discussion instead focused on the stadium, said Patrick Klaers, the city administrator. "We didn't get much further than stadium," he said.
Grant said that for now, the five-member City Council "is certainly open to the concept of a stadium." But he warned that until the Vikings and other released a detailed plan, there was little to discuss.
"I think we're pretty much on the same page," he said. "Keep in mind, that page right now is kind of a blank slate."
McClatchy Tribune Media Services