|AP INTERVIEW: Wilf to donate money to bridge victims|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 03 August 2007 15:35|
MANKATO, Minn. (AP) -Minnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wilf has watched from afar while rescue workers sift through the murky Mississippi River in search of victims from Wednesday's bridge collapse.|
On Friday, he pledged to donate all proceeds from the team's annual training camp practice with the Kansas City Chiefs to relief and recovery efforts for the families of the victims.
In an interview with The Associated Press, the owner also said that he's still committed to pursuing public money for a new stadium - despite the potential for perceived insensitivity following the catastrophe that occurred just a half-mile from the Metrodome that Wilf wants to replace.
Five people were confirmed dead, with others still missing, after the Interstate 35W bridge into downtown Minneapolis collapsed during rush hour on Wednesday evening.
``We all understand that there has to be a focus on the infrastructure, that we have to dedicate ourselves to make transportation a priority for the sake of safety and for the sake of a growing community that needs transportation infrastructure that will move us into the 21st century,'' Wilf said.
``That does not exclude the fact that we understand that the Metrodome is also one of the oldest facilities in the league, and we want to make sure that we have a facility that meets the standards of the 21st century.''
Wilf is entering his third season as the team's principal owner, and so far has yet to gain legislative approval for a new stadium. He thought he had a deal to build one in the suburb of Blaine, but that fell through last fall.
Now Wilf has turned his attention to building a new facility downtown on the site where the 25-year-old Metrodome stands. He has already purchased several pieces of land around the area and is working on a massive redevelopment plan that includes housing, shopping and dining surrounding a retractable-roof stadium.
Just how it will be paid for is a major question. Wilf has pledged about $250 million of his own money for the $954 million project, but said he is still reviewing plans for the rest of the tab.
``We're still working very hard analyzing all the different options available to us and trying to see what would be best suitable,'' Wilf said.
In the wake of Wednesday's heartbreak, some have questioned the fairness of putting public dollars toward stadiums - as the state legislature has done recently in approving new buildings for baseball's Twins and the University of Minnesota football team - when so many roads and bridges need work.
Wilf stressed that he thinks the safety of Minnesota roads should take precedence over a stadium, but said he thinks there is also room for his plan, too.
``We believe that they both have to get done,'' Wilf said. ``It's just a matter of first making sure that our priorities as they deal with transportation infrastructure get addressed immediately. And that we will move forward on a stadium'' as well.
Unlike previous owner Red McCombs, who drew the ire of Vikings fans when he talked about moving to Los Angeles if he didn't get a new stadium, Wilf has maintained that he wants to keep the team in Minnesota.
He said that despite last year's disappointing 6-10 finish and a fan base that was frustrated and apathetic by the end of the 2006 season, he's encouraged by the support he has seen.
``When fans and people have passion for a team like that, there's no other home than Minnesota,'' Wilf said. ``I just hope, and I know, that everyone concerned realizes that we have many other priorities to deal with. ... We have to all address those priorities. We all realize that the well-being of the Minnesota Vikings, for everyone concerned, will always be an important issue.''
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