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John Myers / Forum Communications Co., Published February 09 2012

Politician places Duluth in the mix for Vikings stadium

DULUTH, Minn. – Shakopee made a stab at it. Arden Hills was tops for a while. Minneapolis has had two sites on the table. So why not Duluth?

State Sen. Roger Reinert, DFL-Duluth, sent Gov. Mark Dayton a letter Thursday urging him to consider the 500-acre former U.S. Steel mill site in Morgan Park as the site for a new stadium for the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings.

Reinert said he knows the chances are slim or nil, but said the lack of consensus for any Twin Cities stadium site prompted his action.

“It seems as if the stadium is going to be the biggest issue we tackle down here this year, so I thought, why not throw our hat in?” Reinert told the Duluth News Tribune. “If all this does is enhance Duluth as a prime (tourist) destination, then I’m fine with that.”

Reinert’s letter to Dayton included a litany of facts supporting the Duluth site.

Reinert notes that Duluth is only a little farther from the Twin Cities than Green Bay is from the Madison or Milwaukee metro areas. Duluth also expects to be connected to the Twin Cities by the proposed Northern Lights Express high-speed passenger rail line that could move Twin Cities fans to the game in about two hours. And Reinert also noted that Duluth already hosts about 3.5 million tourists a year, about half of whom are from the Twin Cities.

“They already come up here to visit; they would certainly come to watch football,” he said.

Katharine Tinucci, Dayton’s communications director, said Thursday afternoon that the governor has not yet seen the proposal.

“The governor has said time and again that he is site-neutral. … But I can’t comment on the proposal until we have seen it,” Tinucci said.

Reinert’s plan included almost no specifics on what the stadium would look like, how roads would be built to funnel 70,000 fans in and out of the big stadium nor how it would be paid for. It’s expected that the local municipality that eventually lands the stadium will have to pay about a third of the nearly $1 billion cost.

So far, Reinert is on his own. No other Duluth official has signed the letter. And the Vikings hadn’t heard of the plan until Thursday afternoon.

“We want to compliment leaders in Duluth for seeing that there is real value to hosting a Vikings stadium. We have great fans in Duluth,” said Lester Bagley, the Vikings’ vice president of stadium development. “But we’re three weeks into a 10-week legislative session and we are running

out of time to start vetting new sites.”

Myers writes for the Duluth News Tribune