Vikings stadium legislation introduced

by T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol reporter

Two Greater Minnesota lawmakers have released their Vikings stadium legislation.

Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, and Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, said today (April 8) now that House and Senate have completed their committee and floor work on the state budget, they’re ready to begin the stadium conversation.

“Many individuals and groups are working to formulate a plan that will serve the facility needs of Minnesotans and keep the Vikings anchored in our state.” the lawmakers said in a statement.

“The plan we have submitted today with authors of both party designations is a framework that will help us achieve resolution to this issue,” they said.

The lawmakers propose a sales tax on sports memorabilia to help fund a stadium project, and would have the revenue from a state lottery stadium-related game placed into a special stadium account.

The legislation specifies that the Vikings must slate $1 towards the cost of stadium construction for every $2 state and local government commit.

The legislation calls for a long-term Vikings stadium lease of at least 40 years.

Additionally, the bill creates a stadium authority, one with a member from Hennepin County, from Ramsey County, and the remaining three from outside of the two counties.

The stadium authority would take bids for naming rights to the stadium.

Rosen and Lanning envision a multi-purpose stadium, with a roof, that should keep the Vikings in the state for many years, they explained in a recent letter to lawmakers.

Lester Bagley, Vikings vice president of public affairs and stadium development, indicated the new legislation has merit.

“The Vikings are encouraged,” he said in an email.

“We think the bill provides a workable framework to negotiate a stadium deal and secure the team for the long term,” said Bagley.

“While we have concerns about some provisions in the bill, we are appreciative of state leaders and their efforts to bring it forward,” he said.

“This issue needs to be resolved during this session, and it is in position to do so,” Bagley said.

Republican legislative leaders today did not change the budget-first, stadium-later attitude that they have expressed all session.

“Our focus has to be on the budget,” said Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo.

House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, explained that many questions remain open.

“That’s their part,” he of the Vikings finding a local government partner to team up with.

“It (the legislation) leaves open all the sites, all of the locations,” said Zellers.

One site seen as a possible Vikings stadium site is some 430 acres of vacant land in Arden Hills on the fringe of the old Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant.

According to media reports, the federal government could be putting the 430 acres up for sale.

The site can be reached by 35W and Highway 10.

Other possible sites include the site of the Metrodome, the area of Target Field in downtown Minneapolis, and a site in Brooklyn Park, according to media reports.

Anoka County Commissioner Dan Erhart, who was heavily involved in the county’s efforts some six years ago at landing a Vikings stadium in Anoka County, believes the most likely site for a new stadium is downtown Minneapolis.

He puts Arden Hills lower on the list.

“Not going to happen,” he briskly said of a new Vikings stadium being built in Anoka County.

“I  have no regrets,” said Erhart of the county trying to corral a stadium a few years ago.

“It was close,” said Erhart.

For Anoka County to succeed, things had to happen fast with the stadium, explained Erhart.

The state’s big money interests — prominent business — did not want the new stadium built in Anoka County, Erhart believes.

They wanted it in Minneapolis.

And this was a powerful force, Erhart explained.

Beyond this, Erhart and Anoka County stadium supporters waited for action from former Republican governor Tim Pawlenty that failed to materialize, Erhart explained.

Erhart’s feelings about Vikings official are positive.

“I found him personable, reasonable to work with,” Erhart said of Vikings owner/chairman Zygi Wilf.

Erhart views the attempt to bring the Vikings stadium to Anoka County as showcasing the county in a favorable light — that of mover and shaker.

A place where big things could happen.

Erhart views the current county board as letting go of expansive visions.

“That has stopped,” said the former county board chairman.

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