ST. PAUL, Minn. — Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and top GOP lawmakers tried Friday to wrap their hands around four possible sites for a new Minnesota Vikings stadium and a list of financing options that might get through a deeply divided Legislature.
Their conclusion after a lengthy private meeting: They need more time.
Dayton said he would wait to schedule a special legislative session until more aspects of a stadium package are known. He said it will give lawmakers and other government staff time to round up more facts about location, cost and construction schedules.
"You can't ask people to make a decision when they don't have the facts," Dayton said.
The leaders are working against a tight clock: The lease binding the Vikings to the Metrodome and Minnesota expires after four more home games, and by early December lawmakers are expected to learn of another state budget deficit that could make a stadium bill an even tougher sell with the public.
Dayton has hopes of wrapping up a deal by Thanksgiving and said he'll convene another round of talks next week.
The mix includes three sites in Minneapolis and a former Army munitions plant in the Ramsey County suburb of Arden Hills. The Vikings want Arden Hills.
There are political realities to contend with, too. It will take more than 100 votes in the Republican-led Legislature to authorize a $1 billion stadium that will likely need a half-billion dollars or more in public money. There's no agreement on how to come up with that.
After their meeting, the governor and leaders declined to discuss specific aspects of their talks. "There's no set proposal so it's about the realm of possibility," said Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo.
House Speaker Kurt Zellers said the same, calling the process complicated.
"It's going to take a very creative solution," he said.
Vikings executive Lester Bagley said the team is upbeat about its chances but anxious for state leaders to say exactly how they will pay a $300 million state share. Team owners have pledged more than $400 million and the rest would come from a local government partner.
"It is difficult for the Vikings or supporters of the stadium to advocate for the solution when there is no package on the table to advocate for," Bagley said. "Because you get a different answer from legislators depending on the question."
Dayton hasn't ruled out any funding option, but coalitions inside the Capitol and out are rising up against several ideas: expanding gambling, raising taxes or tapping money in a constitutionally dedicated cultural heritage account.
Minnesota voters approved a higher sales tax in 2008 to pay for arts, parks and trails, clean water initiatives and programs promoted by hunters and anglers.
The Minnesota Historical Society hurried out an action alert to its supporters this week urging them to oppose using that money for a stadium.