Stadium urgency increases in Minnesota Legislature
Vikings stadium talk reached a fever pitch Thursday in anticipation of the National Football League commissioner's Friday visit with a message that appeared likely to be: Build a stadium or lose the team.
"There is a sense of urgency that I have not seen," stadium supporter Rep. John Kriesel, R-Cottage Grove, said.
The heightened urgency came from a telephone call between Gov. Mark Dayton and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in which Dayton said he was told the league has "serious concerns" about the Vikings' future in Minnesota if the Legislature does not approve a new stadium before it adjourns.
A day earlier, Dayton was talking about continuing stadium debate next year, but on Thursday there was no talk about 2013.
Legislative leaders say they want to adjourn for the year by April 30. But the stadium bill has been stalled in a Senate committee for a month and lost a 9-6 vote Monday night in a House committee.
The House author of a stadium bill, Rep. Morrie Lanning, said work continues on ways to resurrect the stalled plan, but no decisions have been made.
"I take it a day at a time," the Moorhead Republican said.
The current plan calls for a $975 million stadium on the site of the Metrodome, home of the Vikings for three decades. The state would pay $398 million, Minneapolis $150 million and the Vikings and other private sources $427 million.
Funding the state portion is a major controversy, with some people doubting the numbers and others opposing the concept of expanding charitable pulltabs and bingo with the use of electronic devices.
The Vikings and Dayton joined forces Thursday to ask Minnesotans to tell legislators they support the plan.
"We can't do it without your help," their message said. "Your voice really does make a difference. Please take a moment to let our state leaders know that building a new facility will create jobs, have a significant economic impact on our state, help maintain the great quality of life we currently enjoy and retain our status as a major league city."
While Zygi Wilf, head of the family organization that owns the team, has said he will not move it out of Minnesota, he could sell the team.
Since Monday night's failure in a House committee, Republicans and Democrats have played the blame game. It ratcheted up on Thursday when House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, offered a motion to move the bill from the committee where it failed into the Taxes Committee.
After Lanning strongly objected, the House tabled the motion.
"This was not part of a strategy that I was part of," Lanning said, objecting to Thissen offering the motion without talking to him.
Thissen said he wants to make sure the bill continues to move ahead.
"I don't think we should yet throw in the towel before the fourth quarter is finished," he said.
House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, said Thissen's attempt to move the Vikings bill was a "petty, partisan game."
"The place to do the work is in the committee," not in the full House, Zellers said.
For a stadium bill to happen, it needs to be a "fair, bipartisan process," Zellers said.
Friday's visit from Goodell, his second about the stadium in recent months, and Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney II will be with Dayton, four legislative leaders, Lanning and Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont.
Lanning said the NFL wants the Vikings to stay in Minnesota, but others are standing in line to buy the team, so action is needed soon.
"I don't know if the team is going to wait," he added.
Kriesel said he was more optimistic Thursday about stadium chances than he was a couple of days earlier. However, he added, "the bleeding hasn't stopped."
Legislators are hearing more now from voters that they want a stadium, Kriesel said of why the atmosphere has changed.
Zellers would not say whether he thinks this session is the deadline for a Vikings stadium bill, and said continued conversations could keep the issue moving.
"As long as we're still talking, that's always a good thing," he said.
Danielle Nordine of the state Capitol bureau contributed to this story. She and Don Davis report for Forum Communications Co.