A red circle on a map has become the latest obstacle that Vikings owner Zygi Wilf might have to overcome to win support for his proposed stadium in Arden Hills.
The circle, surrounding 120 acres next to Wilf’s planned 260-acre stadium parcel, drew gasps last week at a St. Paul Rotary luncheon when business leaders saw the label imposed on it — “Potential Convention Center Hotel.”
Ramsey County Commissioner Tony Bennett, the Vikings’ key stadium ally, said that Wilf isn’t looking to build a “major” convention center that would compete with those in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Instead, there might be a “medium-sized convention center/hotel” at the stadium site, Bennett said.
“It’s just a concept. It may change,” he added.
Within a day, Bennett and the Vikings backpedaled, saying the map passed out at the luncheon was out of date.
Team Vice President Lester Bagley, who attended the Rotary lunch and is the architect of the Vikings’ stadium effort, now says the convention center idea is dead.
“There are no plans for a convention center. We are entirely focused on the stadium component,” Bagley said Friday.
But even the possibility that Wilf entertained ideas for a convention center at what would be a state-subsidized project has left some members of the Twin Cities business and political communities stunned.
In moving the Vikings to Arden Hills, Wilf “not only would … be taking this business [the NFL franchise] from us,” Minneapolis City Council President Barbara Johnson said. “But he’d be taking convention business and using state taxes to do it. Yes, it would be bad.
“I don’t know what he’s thinking,” Johnson said.
Karolyn Kirchgesler, president of Visit St. Paul, said the Twin Cities already is unusual in having two convention centers in the same metro area.
“To add another convention center to the mix would not be prudent from an economic standpoint,” she said.
Welcome to Zygi World.