Vikings stadium showdown could take place on Monday

by T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol reporter

That the most ballyhooed vote of the legislative session could be only three days away has not escaped attention at the State Capitol.

Vikings stadium advocates lined a committee room table at a media availability this afternoon (Friday, May 4), restating their cases for supporting the legislation that looks to build a new $975 million Vikings stadium at the site of the Metrodome.

Whether this artist depiction of a new Vikings stadium in downtown Minneapolis becomes reality or just another stray idea could be decided in the Republican House on Monday (May 7). It's expected a Vikings stadium bill floor vote will take place. (Image courtesy of Minnesota Vikings)

“This absolutely has to pass,” said Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, Senate stadium bill author.

“I haven’t even thought about it,” she said of the idea of her bill crashing on the Republican Senate floor.

Minnesota Vikings stadium front man Lester Bagley styled the needed stadium votes as “within striking distance.”

Bagley had only generous words for one lawmaker, House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, who recently said he could not support the stadium bill, which contains electronic pull-tabs and bingo provisions, in its current form.

“He’s a good man,” said Bagley of Zellers.

“He’s (Zellers) a Vikings fan,” he said.

Although the advocates largely did not discuss alternative stadium proposals, Bagley did shoot down the idea of using user fees to finance the proposed $400 million state contribution towards constructing a new stadium.

Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, explained today (May 4) she's worked so hard on her Vikings stadium bill that the idea of it failing doesn't occur to her. (Photo by T.W. Budig)

Bagley coined user fees, which have been proposed during committee hearings, “a false promise.”

“It will not build a stadium,” he said.

Sen. Terri Bonoff, DFL-Minnetonka, feels confident Rosen’s stadium bill can pass the Republican Senate.

“I do,” said Bonoff, who has worked on the stadium legislation with others over the past months.

But it has to get to the Senate first, she explained.

And that means passing the Republican House, Bonoff explained.

Reportedly, Zellers told National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell last Saturday that there were 34 or 35 stadium votes among House Republicans.

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton yesterday morning said that if Zellers’ vote count was added to the 34 votes the Democratic House Caucus promised, that would be enough to pass the stadium bill.

Minnesota Vikings stadium front man Lester Bagley believes the needed votes to pass the stadium bill are “within striking distance.” (Photo by T.W. Budig)

But Zellers said yesterday he never told Goodell about any votes.

House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, recently did promise 34 votes from his caucus for the existing stadium bill.

But the bill could dramatically change during floor debate in the House.

Dayton Administration stadium front man Ted Mondale dismissed the idea that anybody actually had a hard vote count on the stadium.

Anyone who tells you they do, Mondale quipped, doesn’t know how the State Capitol works.

Stadium supporters will be drumming up support for the stadium bill relentlessly over the upcoming hours and days, Mondale explained.

Dayton was scheduled to appear Saturday with colorful Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen at a rally at Sears Courtyard at Mall of America in Bloomington at 12:30 p.m.

A Dayton Administration official indicated that a possible stadium-related media appearance involving the governor could take place in Minneapolis on Sunday.

According to Dayton Administration spokeswoman Katharine Tinucci, out of 1,107 constituents contacting the Governor’s Office regarding the Vikings stadium bill, 966 voiced support; 141 opposition.

Still, Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, recently on the Senate floor indicated the number of stadium supporters and opponents contacting his office over past months were about equally split.

New ideas on the stadium keep being proposed.

Sen. Sean Nienow, R-Cambridge, has proposed tapping into the income tax revenues from visiting team players, a surcharge on ticket prices, and a user fee only on game- and stadium-related items to fund the stadium.

Just these three funding sources, according to Nienow, could generate $350 million and pay for the state’s portion of stadium construction costs.

“At this point, many stadium funding mechanisms have been proposed but none have gotten the support needed to pass. We need to keep searching for viable options for stadium funding that do not overburden Minnesota’s taxpayers,” said Nienow in a statement.

That a Vikings stadium bill is poised to get a vote is remarkable, given the long history of the stadium quest.

“Monday is Game Day,” said Mondale of the expected House floor vote.

The Vikings stadium issue has lingered for more than a decade, he explained.

The currently stadium legislation has been refined over the past 18 months, said Mondale.

“This is a jobs’ bill,” he said.

Mondale spoke of the project creating thousands and thousands of new jobs.

“I think we have a good bill on the table,” said Rosen.

Because stadium contractors plan to use a fixed bid process, there’s absolutely no risk to taxpayers for stadium construction cost overruns, Mondale said.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak styled the stadium bill as reflecting “the best of politics.”

Public officials were given a tough challenge, he said.

And on a bipartisan basis, they delivered, Rybak argued.