Stadium bill could get House hearing next week

Mall of America Field
Mall of America Field and downtown Minneapolis, Minn. A House bill to replace the Metrodome could get a hearing early next week.
MPR File Photo/Jeffrey Thompson

Lawmakers in the Minnesota House say there could be a long-awaited hearing on a Vikings stadium bill early next week.

Rep. Joe Hoppe chairs the House Commerce Committee, the first stop a stadium bill is likely to make, and said he thinks there's a solution at hand for doubts about whether electronic pull tabs could pay for the $400 million state share of a Vikings stadium.

"We're working on it," said Hoppe, R-Chaska. "Hopefully we'll get it done. We just want to make sure its not general fund, and we want to make sure the charities are okay with it."

Stadium skeptics in the Legislature have said questions raised by charitable gambling operators made them fear taxpayers might be on the hook if electronic pull tabs didn't work out as a funding source.

"I think things are getting much closer," said King Wilson, executive director of Allied Charities of Minnesota, the trade group for nearly 2,000 charitable gambling operations in Minnesota. "A document has showed up that I was waiting for, and basically I was told that this weekend there may be a get-together, or some phone calls.

"I think things are progressing pretty well," Wilson said. "The deal hasn't been sealed, though. We still need to work on some verbiage."

The issue has been idling since the bill stalled in a Senate hearing earlier this month. Hoppe's remarks are the first indication in a week that behind-the-scenes negotiations may be making progress.

Meanwhile, stadium opponents on the Minneapolis City Council will have public hearings on the stadium proposal.

They won a procedural vote at the City Council Friday morning, referring the stadium plan to council committees. It isn't clear when hearings will be scheduled, but it could take up to two weeks.

Ward 8 City Councilor Elizabeth Glidden said her constituents should be able to weigh in on the stadium plan.

"The intent of the hearing is for the public to express their thoughts, comments and opinions on how tax dollars are being spent in the city of Minneapolis," Glidden said. "This is exactly the kind of thing we owe to the public to have a public hearing on."

The city has offered to pay $150 million up front toward a stadium, and fund operations after it is built. Opponents say that will violate the city's ban on spending more than $10 million on sports stadiums without a referendum.