Stadium bill lands with a thud at Capitol

Vikings stadium rendering
This artist rendering provided by the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission shows how a new Vikings stadium might be situated on the exiting Metrodome site in downtown Minneapolis.
Courtesy Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission

The long-awaited Vikings stadium bill gets a formal hearing at the Capitol Wednesday in a Senate committee.

More than 14 months in the making, the proposal is one of the highest profile measures of this Legislature.

It's got a billion-dollar price tag. It's 88 pages long, and supporters have been talking about it for more than a year.

But for all that, the formal proposal to fund and build the Vikings a new home got hardly a flicker of attention from Legislators Monday.

Sen. Ray Vandeveer, R-Forest Lake, chairs the Senate local government committee, which will give the bill its first hearing tomorrow. Vandeveer said he doesn't know what will happen to the stadium bill there.

"I'm not certain. I haven't read the whole bill yet. And not totally familiar with it, so, we want to give it full attention, and read through the whole bill and understand it fully," Vandeveer said. "Then, we'll have a better idea."

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The ranking DFLer on the committee, Sen. Katie Sieben of Newport, said she expects there will be some support for the stadium effort among her colleagues.

RT Rybak calls touts stadium jobs
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak speaks about the prospects for employment at a new Vikings stadium in downtown Minneapolis. He and City Council President Barbara Johnson said they were still short of what some legislators say would be a must-have vote in support of using city sales taxes to support a Vikings stadium.
MPR Photo/Tim Nelson

"I think there's an inclination from the Democrats to give it a fair hearing, and I think there's some strong support, too," she said. "Many Democrats on the committee, I think, see the need for the job creation that would result from the construction."

But that is about as positive as the reaction got at the Capitol. DFL Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk thinks odds are against a stadium bill even getting a vote in the Senate this year.

"Seems unlikely that it'll get to the floor of the Senate. There are a number of committees it has to go through," Bakk said. "There are only about five or six weeks left in this session, so it's pretty heavy lifting."

The plan has been dogged by doubts nearly from the start. The initial proposal to build the stadium in Arden Hills fizzled in November when Republicans ruled out a tax increase in a deal the Vikings struck with Ramsey County.

A plan to build the stadium in Minneapolis near the Basilica of St. Mary rose and then collapsed in the face of opposition from the church.

And the current proposal to pay for the stadium with sales taxes in Minneapolis still faces an uncertain future in light of opposition from the Minneapolis City Council.

Doubts persist over whether charitable gambling can generate enough money to pay the state's $400 million share. The Dayton administration and stadium supporters have proposed legalizing electronic pull tabs to increase the state's tax revenue.

But charities still want a tax break, and say they're not interested in helping pay for a stadium without a bigger cut of the proceeds themselves.

Stadium concept
This concept image provided by the Minnesota Vikings shows the development of business in the area surrounding a possible football stadium in Arden Hills.
Courtesy of the Minnesota Vikings

"All the way along, we've known this is going to be an uphill struggle," said Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, the chief stadium bill sponsor in the house.

"The first major stumbling block we have right now, potentially, is reaching an agreement with the charitable gaming folks, as to their portion of revenues that they would share in, with regard to the additional proceeds that come from electronic pull tabs," Lanning said.

Lanning's colleagues want assurance that the deal will work before they go on record supporting it. GOP House Commerce Committee Chair Joe Hoppe of Chaska, worries the state will be on the hook if proceeds from electronic pull tabs aren't sufficient.

"The bill right now, I've talked to the supporters of the bill, and there are a few things that need to get done," Hoppe said. "We can't have general fund revenue being the backstop for anything. And when they get that fixed, and the charities are on board, then I think we can have a hearing."

That could happen yet this week, Hoppe said.

But the ranking DFLer on the committee, Joe Atkins, said he is unsure it will even be scheduled for a hearing.

Under self-imposed legislative deadlines, the bill has until Friday to make it through at least one policy committee in either chamber.