Larry Spooner loves Vikings football, so much that he has taken more than 40 days vacation over the years to ask legislators to approve a new stadium.
But as he parked his van in front of the Minnesota Capitol Monday, where it will return later this week as lawmakers consider a stadium, he said his support of building a new stadium goes well beyond love of the game and tailgating; he also wants to help his state.
So alongside his van is a banner that reads: “New stadium yes! Let’s not become the third Dakota.”
The passionate Vikings supporter, to put describe him mildly, said he is not so much against North Dakota and South Dakota as he is against being in a state lacking a professional football team that attracts people to Minnesota,.
“There are not a lot of people who pack up the family and go to Minot,” Spooner said about one of North Dakota’s biggest cities.
While Spooner and friends Monday watched his big-screen television, hooked up a satellite dish anchored in an old beer keg, little was happening on the stadium front inside the Capitol.
Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, said he and Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, talked about their stadium bills, but Republican legislative leaders were waiting to see if they could agree with Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton on tax-relief and public works bills before bringing up the stadium for full House and Senate votes. As they blew past their self-imposed Monday deadline for ending the 2012 session, leaders gave no indication when it could be debated.
Lanning, however, said it likely will be several days.
Spooner, known as the Vikings super fan, did not let that from being his enthusiastic self.
He frequently testifies in front of legislative committees in favor of building a new stadium, as he did as recently as Friday.
Born in 1960, his parents divorced five years later. When his father began taking him to Vikings games, Spooner became hooked because of their time together and his blood has run purple ever since.
Now, he looks around and sees no one fighting the stadium with the same enthusiasm he shows, and believes Minnesotans in general agree with him. Three-quarters of Minnesotans attend, watch or listen to Vikings games every fall Sunday, he said, and all would be disappointed with legislators who vote against it.
Spooner said he would turn his enthusiasm to politics and campaign against those who vote against the stadium this year.
If it wins, however, he promises a rib barbecue, like the 100 pounds he prepares before every Vikings home game, for legislators. Those who vote for a stadium will get ribs he said, but those who vote “no” will eat hot dogs.
Lawmakers such as Devils Lake, N.D., native House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, should not vote for a stadium, Spooner said; only native Minnesotans should.
“If you’re not from here, you just don’t get it,” he added.
However, he did not complain about Lanning, an Oregon native who has worked for a stadium for a half-dozen years.
Monday was the second time recently that one of Minnesota’s neighbors to the west was insulted.
House Majority Leader Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, put down North Dakota’s skyscraper Capitol as being ugly. While it was meant as a jab to Zellers, who likes his native state’s Capitol, it drew a sharp response from North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple.
Lanning, whose district adjoins North Dakota, said he thinks there are enough House votes to pass the plan to build a $975 million stadium in downtown Minneapolis. But the tax and public works bills must come up first, he said.
“It’s not going to happen in the next couple of days,” Lanning said, adding that he does not expect the bill to get a vote until late this week or early next week.
House and Senate leaders would not guess when a vote may come.