The man who is emerging as the lead owner of the Minnesota Vikings isn’t thrilled with Anoka County’s $1. 6 billion stadium development concept in Blaine, and he has tossed the plan into flux, city and county officials said this week. Zygmunt Wilf, a New Jersey real estate developer who is scheduled to visit Blaine today, has told officials that if he and his partners buy the Vikings, a domed stadium is not a priority. He also said that elements of the retail-commercial-housing development in the Blaine proposal don’t appeal to him, and that he is examining land in nearby Lino Lakes as an alternative stadium site.’ He’s got something in mind that he wants,’ said Blaine Mayor Tom Ryan. ‘But he’s the only one who knows. We have to be sure his plan, whatever it is, works for the city.’ Wilf has not returned repeated phone calls from the Star Tribune since February, when it was announced that he was a partner with Arizona businessman Reggie Fowler in an effort to buy the Vikings.
His scheduled visit today, his second to Blaine in three weeks, has officials curious about his intentions and vision.’ We ” re dying to find out,’ said Blaine Planning Director Bryan Schafer. Of the Blaine plan, Anoka County Board Chairwoman Margaret Langfeld said: ‘It’s just up in the air right now.’ Two years ago, after evaluating three potential locales in Anoka County, county officials landed on the Blaine site, which has more than 400 acres ready for development. It stands just west of Interstate Hwy. 35 W, bordered by 109 th Avenue NE. to the north and Lexington Avenue to the east. Soon after, the county proposed a fixed-roofed stadium, with a 300, 000-square-foot medical clinic, a 250-room hotel, 1.
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3 million feet of corporate office space, 200 townhouses and 650, 000 square feet of retail and entertainment facilities. The total cost was estimated at $1. 6 billion. The county and city presented the plan to Gov.
Tim Pawlenty’s Stadium Screening Committee last year and, with the concept, the Anoka County Board approved a three-quarter-cent sales tax increase to help pay for it. But in a meeting with city and county officials on April 14, Wilf was apparently indifferent to a roof, questioned the need for the clinic and told political leaders that he would examine the Lino Lakes land, 8 miles to the east of the Blaine site, near Interstate Hwy. 35 E.’ This isn’t an exact quote,’ said Anoka County Commissioner Dan Erh art, ‘but he said something like, ‘I’m a builder. Let the building to me.’ ‘Langfeld speculated that Wilf’s interest in acreage other than in Blaine could merely be ‘a negotiating tool’ as he begins to meet Blaine landowners, who for 18 months have been smacking their lips at the prospect of being critical to a stadium plan.
For instance, Rick Wilder, who owns 140 acres on the site and operates the Metro Gun Club there, said he believes his land could be worth more than $20 million, a staggering figure he has based on square footage for potential development, ‘One of these guys might make me an offer I can’t refuse,’ Wilder said. ‘But, I tell you, I’m not going to be forced out. I don’t want to be relocated.’ On the other hand, Joe Preiner, who bought 75 acres in 1968 for $300 an acre and who is now asking more than $200, 000 per acre, said, ‘This Vikings thing has screwed up a lot of deals.’ Preiner, whose land sits at the northeast corner of the proposed stadium site, already had one option from a developer expire as the fate of the Blaine land went unresolved. Steve Novak, the county’s stadium point man, acknowledged that the Blaine stadium concept is ‘in transition, but in transition by design. There were always things we couldn’t control, that would create change. New ownership is one.’ But any differences over the need for a roof for the stadium could cause the most tension.’ Without a roof, you have nothing,’ Ryan said.
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‘For this to work, you ” ve got to get into the entertainment business.’ With a roof, the stadium’s year-round capabilities would allow it to play host to events such as the NCAA men’s basketball Final Four and even a Super Bowl, said Novak. Without a roof, the stadium’s use would be limited to a handful of events besides Vikings games. Also, the city’s and county’s need for development around the stadium was based on a finance plan that would have developed a stadium district. From that district, sales and property taxes were to be collected to help fund the project. The Blaine site sits near I-35 W, is served by two interchanges and is near the National Sports Center and the TPC golf course. Anoka County and Blaine officials have promoted their vision of being a sports destination capital for the region.
The Lino Lakes site that Wilf apparently is exploring sits north of the County Road 14 interchange at I-35 E, and south of where I-35 E and I-35 W merge.’ It’s a transportation nightmare,’ said Ryan. But Mary Divine, Lino Lakes’ economic development coordinator, said the 362-acre site, near Centerville, ‘works perfectly’ for a stadium.