Vikings' stadium bill in writing, but big hurdles remainMinnesota News
-- A Vikings stadium bill finally is in print.
By: Don Davis, Pierce County Herald
ST. PAUL -- A Vikings stadium bill finally is in print.
Given that the debate about whether to build a stadium to replace the downtown Minneapolis Metrodome has gone on for a decade, that in itself is an accomplishment. But the bill remains a long way from the goal line.
“There are lots of ifs in this whole thing yet,” House stadium bill author Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, said Friday.
Those “ifs” include:
-- What the Minneapolis City Council thinks of the plan.
-- Whether a proposal to fund the state portion of construction costs by allowing charities to add electronic pulltabs and bingo is acceptable.
-- How state legislators react now that they can read a real bill.
-- And if House Speaker Kurt Zellers puts up roadblocks or allows the bill to make its way through the process.
There was not much new in the 70-page bill released by the Senate Friday. It follows an agreement announced March 1 among state officials, Minneapolis leaders and the Vikings.
The bill is expected to be in its first committee hearing next week and it faces a Friday deadline for passing out of at least one committee in each chamber (but it is not clear how strictly that rule will be enforced).
The bill calls for a 65,000-seat roofed stadium that can be expanded to handle 72,000 spectators, which would be built on the current Metrodome site. It requires the Vikings to remain in Minnesota 30 years.
The stadium would cost $975 million, with $398 million from the state, $150 million from Minneapolis and $427 million from the Vikings and other sources. The state and local costs would be covered by the state selling bonds and paying them back over up to 25 years.
Lanning, who with Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, led stadium efforts, said the first hurdle is seeing if the Minneapolis City Council supports the plan.
“Unless the majority of the Minneapolis City Council wants to do this, it is not going to happen,” he said.
It is not clear when the first Senate committee hearing will be, but the House commerce committee is expected to take up Lanning’s bill Thursday. He wants to hear from Minneapolis leaders by then.
“It would sure be helpful,” Lanning said about a pre-meeting Minneapolis response. “Not having it makes it more difficult to get it adopted by a committee.”
How the state would pay for its portion of the stadium has been controversial.
Those involved in closed-door meetings decided to allow charities that sponsor gambling operations to introduce electronic devices to play bingo and pulltabs. Gov. Mark Dayton and Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans announced Friday that would bring the state $62.5 million more in taxes to fund the stadium.
“If we see charities back home getting shorted, we will take a time out,” Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, said.
Overall, most legislators have been reluctant to endorse a stadium before seeing a bill.
Many eyes are on one legislator in particular, Zellers. The Maple Grove Republican controls much of what happens in the House and on Friday he clearly said he is not in favor of the stadium bill.
While Zellers did not say he will try to stop it, some stadium supporters fear he will use his power to do that.
“He has had all kinds of opportunities up to this point to put the kibosh on this and he hasn’t done it,” Lanning said.
Even though he doesn’t support the proposal, Lanning and Rosen actually put a Zellers proposal in the bill: the sale of bricks to raise money for the stadium.
The bill requires the Vikings to attempt to get a professional soccer franchise within five years of the stadium’s opening, expected in 2016.
The measure overturns a $10 million limit that Minneapolis may spend for sports facilities. It also is written to avoid a public referendum on the issue in Minneapolis.
Besides hosting a dozen Vikings football games a year, the bill requires that the stadium be available for high school and other amateur sports uses. It is to be used for events ranging from concerts to monster truck rallies.
Also, the bill would allow Minneapolis to use sales tax funds to renovate the Target Center
Talk about a stadium to replace the Metrodome began more than 10 years ago, and increased in intensity as the Feb. 1 end of the Vikings’ Metrodome lease neared.
The bill is available at http://tinyurl.com/78a5y8b
Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.