MN House Committee Rejects Viking Stadium Proposal
ST. PAUL - A decade-long effort to build a Vikings stadium may be over for the year after a Minnesota House committee late Monday defeated the proposal.
The House Government Operations Committee voted 9-6 against a bill to build a stadium.
While a bill always can be resurrected, the vote makes it very difficult to approve a new stadium in the final days of the 2012 legislative session. Legislative leaders want the session to end by April 30, and now the bill has lost in a House panel and is stalled in a Senate committee.
"You can't do anything because this is the end of the line at this point," bill author Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, said. "And like I said, someone would have to perform a miracle at this point."
Committee Chairwoman Joyce Peppin, R-Rogers, opposed Lanning's bill, but said it still could resurface.
Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley was subdued after the vote, but also said a chance remains.
"I think we have got time left in the session to address this issue," he said, but refused to tell reporters what the Vikings would do if no new stadium is approved.
"We have done everything we have been asked," Bagley said. "What else are we supposed to do?"
Bagley said the vote "sends a strong message to the Vikings and the NFL," but would not say how he reads the message.
Moments before the vote, Lanning pleaded for votes to allow the stadium funding measure to continue.
"The only way this issue is going to go away is if we can get it to the (House) floor and either vote it up or down," Lanning said.
Without votes in the full House and Senate, he added, "I can guarantee you it will be one of the biggest issues in the fall campaign." It also will be a major issue again next year, he said, when the Legislature faces a budget deficit.
A legislator who asked the night's toughest question voted for the bill. As Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, said, he wanted to "move this through the process,"
Urdahl's question set the stage for a night as tough for the Vikings as any they have experienced on the football field: "Why should the state of Minnesota contribute to a stadium for a billionaire who could pay for it himself?"
Bagley responded by saying the stadium would be owned by the public, not the team-owning Wilf family. As a state facility, the Vikings would use it for about 10 games a year, he said, but it would be available for other activities like the Metrodome is now.
Some committee members wanted to give Minneapolis residents a chance to vote on a stadium.
"Without ... this, we are doing a disservice to the people of Minneapolis," Rep. Dave Hancock, R-Bemidji, said.
The referendum proposal, which passed on a voice vote of the House Government Operations Committee, was one of many attacks on a bill to build a $975 million stadium in Minneapolis.
Rep. Ryan Winkler said Bagley "does a very good job of skating around the issues" of whether the team would leave Minnesota without a new stadium and how much more the team would be worth with a new stadium.
Winkler, a Bemidji native and now a Golden Valley Democrat, told the Vikings they were forcing legislators to negotiate a deal without knowing if state money is used well.
Vikings Vice President Steve Poppen and Ted Mondale of the Sports Facilities Commission said the deal is good for the state, but offered no proof.
Bagley said the Metrodome, Vikings' home for three decades, "will not sustain an NFL team."
Poppen said the team is $40 million behind average league revenues.
"The Vikings are not cash-flow positive as we currently stand," Poppen said.
Committee members considered more than a dozen changes to the bill, which would have provided $398 million in state funds. The team and other private sources would contribute $427 million, with Minneapolis chipping in $150 million.
Mondale said that without the Vikings - and he said they would leave if no stadium is built - the Metrodome could last a year financially after the team leaves.