Gov. Mark Dayton said Wednesday that he intends to regroup with sponsors of the Vikings football stadium bill next week for a fresh push, but said he's frustrated by "all the duplicity" he sees on a project that he said is less about football than about needed economic development.
"The stadium, for me, is more about economic development and jobs than it is about football," Dayton said. "Far more. To me this is about a public/private partnership of a large scale that can generate several thousand jobs in the next three years or so."
In an interview with the Star Tribune, Dayton said that while he has not decided on an ideal site for the stadium, a case can be made for the Arden Hills location preferred by the team.
Other private developers have looked at the former munitions plant and "decided it was too expensive to deal with cleaning it up in order to proceed," Dayton said. "We're shouldering some of that burden with a private developer, and in combination, we could ... clean up a blighted site and create jobs. That's, to me, exactly what we should be doing."
Two of the Minneapolis sites, he said, at the Farmers Market and near the Basilica of St. Mary, are "not that much cheaper. That's where you have to negotiate."
Dayton signaled that to get their preference, the Vikings may have to foot a larger share of the cost.
"If the Vikings want Arden Hills, how much of a premium are they willing to pay to have that be the best option?" Dayton asked. As it stands, the team has offered to put up $407 million, or 37 percent of the total projected cost of the $1.1 billion Arden Hills stadium.
But before the deal even gets to that stage, Dayton must reconcile his differences with a Legislature that appears to have little appetite for an immediate decision.
"If they don't want to deal with it, then say it," Dayton said. "Just say, they don't want to deal with it, for whatever reasons."
Referring to House Speaker Kurt Zellers' disclosure that he opposed a special session just days before Dayton was scheduled to release his own plan, Dayton said that "to me, it wasn't coincidental that my timetable got derailed before I could even put my plan forward. I'm skeptical that there's a real bottom-line commitment."
House Majority Leader Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, reacting on behalf of his caucus, said Wednesday that he understands Dayton is "genuinely frustrated."
"But," Dean said, "That doesn't necessarily mean having to devise a stadium funding plan and present it to him on a date that he says."
Zellers has said the issue can wait until lawmakers return in January. But Dayton said a special session is needed.
"I want to isolate the stadium because if this goes into the regular session ... the leveraging everyone will try to pull with their votes ... it's going to get very messy and very ugly."
Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch countered that lawmakers are working on stadium issues daily.
"We have a number of members, including myself, who are working on this every day," said Koch, R-Buffalo. "There is good commitment to this. ... I respectfully but completely disagree with the governor's assessment."
No magic hat
Now, while Dayton is still meeting with various people about the stadium -- he talked with a real estate expert Wednesday to discuss potential sites for the new football home -- he said he does not have a "rabbit to pull out of a magic hat" to get people moving.
"I wish we had the means and the reasons to develop both of them for the economic, as well as the environmental, benefits for the people of the state,'' Dayton said, referring to sites in Arden Hills and Minneapolis.
In the days to come, Dayton said "we'll be as involved as they [legislators] want us to be, and provide all the expertise. ... And they can bring in their own if they choose."
But, he said, "I've made it clear it's now the responsibility of the legislative leaders to lead, and to decide whether they're going to deal with this any time this year or next year or not and to be straight with people."
Staff writer Jim Ragsdale contributed to this report. Rachel E. Stassen-Berger Twitter: @rachelsb