Capitol changes after stadium debate ends

The Capitol is quiet after days of chants, cheers and songs like “Skol, Vikings.”

The Vikings stadium issue that dominated the just-completed session climaxed with a love fest among state, Vikings and Minneapolis leaders after the House and Senate passed the plan to build a $975 million stadium.

Lost to many people amidst the debate was the fact that it is the largest-ever state government construction project. The bill, with $348 million of state funds, rivals the size of the largest public works bills that fund projects at college campuses, parks, roads and other state facilities statewide.

Also all but lost was a comment by Chairman Ted Mondale of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission claiming that the state actually will make a profit during the life of the stadium.

Mondale said the stadium is not just for Minnesotans.

“This is something you drive from North Dakota and pay $100 a ticket…” he said about what is being described as a first-class stadium. “And it is the best day of the year.”

And it almost did not happen, Gov. Mark Dayton said.

The House had voted to force the Vikings to pay $105 million more than the $427 million they already pledged for stadium construction costs. The Senate opted for a more modest $25 million increase.

From what Dayton said, it appears negotiators were $15 million apart late Wednesday, with time running out. Eventually the Wilfs, the family that owns the Vikings, relented.

“The Wilfs stepped up in a big way,” Dayton said.

While many legislative leaders complain that the media has paid too much attention to the stadium issue (some media outlets have dedicated reporters to cover almost nothing else), the public also is interested.

Lawmaker after lawmaker said no other issue has come close to generating the type of public reaction as did the stadium. Almost all appeared to be in favor of building.

Even some who opposed the stadium proposal said there was a silver lining: People who never were involved in government learned about it because they care about a stadium.

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