[size=18px]Vikings want to preserve, enhance league loan program[/size]

The "G-3" program is vital to the team's plans to build a new stadium in Anoka County, but its continued existence is uncertain.

Kevin Seifert, Star Tribune
Last update: March 28, 2006 – 11:45 PM


ORLANDO - As the NFL and its Players Association work through the language of their new collective bargaining agreement, the Vikings are pushing to continue and perhaps expand a loan program that is central to their financing plan for a stadium in Anoka County.
Owner Zygi Wilf arrived Tuesday at the annual NFL meetings and spent part of the evening in a meeting with a handful of team and league officials. The issue is on the owners' agenda to discuss here this morning before the meetings adjourn. Wilf is seeking to reinforce and revise the "G-3" program in a way that would entitle the Vikings to a larger percentage of matching loans.

"We'll be pushing for [a greater percentage]," Wilf said. "I don't know if we'll get any resolution here. But as costs go up, we'll try to lay the groundwork for the G-3 program to be expanded to address our stadium issue."

The program, which provides low-interest loans for stadium construction, was a point of contention during labor negotiations this winter. At one point, union chief Gene Upshaw threatened to eliminate the program, a decision that would have crippled stadium initiatives throughout the league.

Upshaw backed off that stance when the sides agreed to a CBA extension, but it remains unclear what form the program will take once attorneys finish writing the full document. That uncertainty inspired Wilf to seek out a meeting Tuesday evening with a group of officials that included Neil Glat, the NFL's vice president of strategic planning and business development.

Under the previous CBA, the program was set to provide 34 percent of the total private contribution to the stadium. In the Vikings' original financing plan for the $675 million stadium, Wilf would have provided $185 million and the G-3 program about $95 million for a total $280 million private contribution.

Pointing to the rise in stadium costs since the program began in 1999, Wilf apparently wants the Vikings to qualify for a higher-percentage loan, believed to be worth 51.5 percent of a private contribution.

Wilf would be responsible for the G-3 loan if it defaults; loans are paid back through stadium revenues. In total, Wilf has committed another $720 million to a surrounding retail and commercial development for a total $1 billion in private investment.

Meanwhile, Wilf said he was encouraged by recent movement in the University of Minnesota's drive for a new on-campus football stadium. Tuesday, two 'U' stadium bills advanced in the state Senate.

"It's very positive for our efforts," Wilf said. "We certainly have always advocated that the best thing for the Twin Cities is to have all three stadiums done [including one for the Twins]. I'm happy that they were able to make accomplishments on the Gophers stadium, and hopefully they'll be able to move into legislation for our Vikings stadium."

Wilf has made several visits to the Capitol this month and said he believes his inaugural stadium drive as the Vikings owner "seems pretty positive."

"It seems like they've been able to work on the stadium issue there," he said. "And it seems to me like they're going to resolve one of them, and hopefully they'll be able to address the two others. I give a lot of credit to the administration [of Gov. Tim Pawlenty] for finding a way to solve it, as hopefully they will do for us and the Twins."

Notes

• A tentative preseason schedule calls for the Vikings to play host to Oakland in a game televised nationally on ESPN. The date of the game had not been determined as of early this week, but it would mark the return of receiver Randy Moss to the Metrodome. The official schedule could be announced as early as today.

• The Vikings plan to wait until Friday night before announcing their intentions for receiver Nate Burleson, who signed an offer sheet last week with Seattle.

Because the contract contains two "poison pills" that would force the Vikings to guarantee Burleson $49 million, it is considered highly unlikely that the Vikings will match. Instead, they would accept the Seahawks' third-round draft pick in next month's draft, giving them five picks on the draft's first day.

Vikings want to preserve, enhance league loan program