Legislators still waiting for stadium details

Gov. Mark Dayton, with Vikings owner Zygi Wilf and Rep. Paul Anderson

By Danielle Nordine and Don Davis

Minnesota legislators hope to vote on a Vikings stadium this session, but many said the details still are missing.

“I’m just full of questions,” Rep. Mary Murphy, DFL-Hermantown, said hours a stadium proposal was released Thursday. “And, frankly, I haven’t found anyone to ask today.”

State and Minneapolis leaders, along with Vikings owners, Thursday announced a $975 million plan that would put a new stadium at the current site of the Metrodome, the Vikings’ home for nearly 30 years. Funding for the project would be split among the team, state and Minneapolis.

Many legislators are confident a Vikings stadium proposal could be passed this year, despite a planned early end to this year’s legislative session.

“The intent is to get it done this session,” Sen. Dave Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, said. “I’d be surprised if it doesn’t.”

But it won’t be easy.

Thursday’s plan is the one proponents said is most likely to make it through the legislature. But many lawmakers are waiting for legislation to evaluate.

“We have an agreement, we don’t have a bill,” Rep. Mark Murdock, R-Ottertail, said.

One could be introduced next week.

Both the Legislature and Minneapolis City Council must approve the proposal. That could be an issue, Rep. Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, said.

“I’m still not convinced Minneapolis wants it there,” he said of the stadium.

He said he still thinks his proposed Arden Hills site should be a possibility.

According to the Thursday proposal, the state’s $398 million contribution would come from electronic pulltabs and bingo games. That is a catch for some.

“The purpose of e-pulltabs is to increase the amount of gambling,” Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville, said. “I don’t think the state should have a huge financial stake in that.”

Rep. Deb Kiel, R-Crookston, said she needs more details on how the e-pulltabs funding would work.

Kiel, Murphy and other lawmakers said one of their prime concerns is how charities would fare under the plan, which would allow those that sponsor pulltabs and bingo in locations around the state to begin using electronic devices. Supporters of the plan say electronic devices would increase use, providing more money to both charities and the state.

Rep. Paul Anderson, R-Starbuck, emphasized that people need to understand “it is not just a Vikings stadium.” He said Minnesotans would use the facility for events like high school football playoff games, “something dear to my heart.”

“It looks like it will be a good multipurpose facility, which is a wise investment,” Rep. John Persell, DFL-Bemidji, said.

Dayton said the project would put thousands of construction workers and suppliers to work. That was appealing to many.

“The jobs aspect is just what the doctor ordered,” Persell said.

The Vikings stadium proposal would need to be heard in multiple committees in both the House and Senate before a full vote. The rules can be bypassed, “but I’d be surprised if that’s the route the proponents choose,” Thompson said.

Hamilton said legislators should respect the process and send the bill through committees, and there still is time to pass legislation this year.

“It’s going to be tight,” Kiel echoed. “It’s possible.”

Sen. Tom Saxhaug, DFL-Grand Rapids said it “absolutely” is possible to get a deal done this session.

“It only takes a few days,” he said.

“I’m glad we’re making progress,” Saxhaug said. “I’m supportive of any good and realistic proposal for a stadium.”

“I think it is a good plan, given the constraints given us by the governor and (legislative) leadership,” said Anderson, a member of a working group that has met behind closed doors for weeks trying to reach the agreement.

Anderson said the stadium will benefit more than just football fans.

“It’s just something we all are going to be able to use,” he said.

Another concern is a potential dual-bill approach. Thursday’s plan mentioned a main stadium proposal and a second bill that would give Minneapolis more control over the rest of the sales tax revenue not designated for the stadium.

Tomassoni said he was hesitant about what effect that could have on the deal. He said he would like to see a provision requiring the project to use only American steel.

“We’ve got a ways to go yet but it’s good to see most people agree on something,” Tomassoni said.

Murdock said a vote needs to come during this year’s regular session.

“We need to vote and get it over with,” he said.

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