Gov. Mark Dayton said Tuesday he hopes a deal for a new Vikings stadium can be hammered by the end of next month.
The governor is convening with state officials, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and the Vikings owners to move toward crafting a plan for a new stadium where the Metrodome now stands. Dayton said he would like to see the stadium matter settled at the Capitol by the end of February.
"I want the people of Minnesota to see the Legislature have a specific proposal that's in the public interest, that builds a people's stadium, owned and operated by the public in the public interest," Dayton said. Then I want them to have the chance to see their Legislators vote it up or down in this session."
Dayton told the Vikings this week that if they want a deal completed this legislative session, then a new stadium on the site of the existing Metrodome is the best they can hope for.
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"I think the Vikings and we are partners in this endeavor. We need to negotiate the terms, but the whole bottom line is to create jobs, build a stadium and keep a team in Minnesota," Dayton said.
Within minutes of the opening gavel of the legislative session, more hurdles arose.
House bill author Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, expressed new reservations over a key part of a proposed $900 million deal to build on the Metrodome site. Minneapolis wants some of the money involved in the deal to go toward an upgrade of Target Center.
"I know there's an issue with Target Center, but the minute we try to do the two things at the same time, we run the risk of losing votes," Lanning said. "We know that this is going to be a tight vote in both the House and the Senate."
Money for the arena is a must-have for Rybak and the Minneapolis City Council.
"Because we are the only local unit of government that has put any money on the table, and in fact a lot of it, this is what we have to get done to get the support that we need," Rybak said. "It also means that Target Center's revenue from the sales tax go primarily to the state. So this is a big upside to the state.''
House leadership reacted coolly as the stadium seemed to move toward an endgame. House Speaker Kurt Zellers said he would not actively push for a stadium deal.
"I think our job is to make sure they have a fair day here on the House floor, in committee, so if it does come to the House floor, there's 68 votes to pass," Zellers said. "But make sure it's also a good deal for Minnesotans."
In the Senate, newly-elected Majority Leader Dave Senjem had doubts. He suggested the issue will hinge on expanded gambling, a perennial controversy.
"It might be the pull tabs. It might be Block E yet. But it won't be taxpayer money," Senjum said. "If we can't make gaming work, we may not be able to make the stadium work."
Dayton has said that he would support electronic pull tabs to pay the state share of a new stadium. However, supporters for that idea were also wary of the combination of stadium and gambling politics.
Expanding pull-tab gambling into an electronic form was proposed by the Allied Charities of Minnesota, the trade group for pull-tab gambling in Minnesota.
Charities want the extra money to rollback a tax increase that dates back to the 1990s, and give more money to beneficiaries.
King Wilson, executive director of Allied Charities, doesn't know if there's enough to do that, and build the Vikings a new home.
"Lot of ifs there. There might be something that can work for both sides," Wilson said.
But the chief stadium booster in the Senate, Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, says it's now or never.
''There is no reason why it should not happen this session. We're at the end of the lease. We have elections coming, We've got new people coming in next year," Rosen said. "Why would we want to start this process over again. There's absolutely no reason to start it all over."
The Vikings, Rosen and the rest of the stadium negotiators will meet Wednesday morning in the governor's office to put together a final deal.