Dayton says Vikings stadium bill may be done until next year

Stadium concept
The Minnesota Vikings released this concept of a new stadium in downtown Minneapolis, April, 2, 2012. This concept depicts a night scene incorporating the downtown skyline and events surrounding Vikings game days.
Courtesy of the Minnesota Vikings

The failure of a Vikings stadium in a key House committee Monday night had supporters and opponents wondering what comes next in the decade-long debate over whether Minnesota should build the team a new home.

Gov. Mark Dayton was sounding like a football fan at the end of a losing season on Tuesday: There's always next year for the Vikings.

"In a matter of time, they're going to move," he said. "Hopefully not in the next year. ... If it doesn't pass this session, please give us one more year to work this out. And I'm optimistic that we will do so next year."

He even suggested there might be a change in stadium strategy if supporters can't clear the financial, political and legal hurdles that have cropped up in Minneapolis since January.

"If Minneapolis doesn't want it, if the political leadership other than the mayor and the members of the city council that support it, you know, then someone else, Arden Hills or some other site in Minnesota," he said. "But we've got to get a stadium next year or the Vikings will leave."

The Vikings have not overtly made that threat and for now it appears there is no where else for them to go.

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Stadium opponents said their concerns were legitimate. DFL Rep. Frank Hornstein of Minneapolis was one of the nine "no" votes on the stadium bill in a House committee Monday night. He insisted the plan — not the politics — were the problem.

Hornstein said opponents on the committee objected to using Target Field taxes as a backup funding source and to overriding the Minneapolis charter limiting city spending on sports.

"I raised issues around usurping control around land use, for example," Hornstein said. "These are not minor matters. So, my constituents have been very very consistent for years, over many many years, over public subsidies for stadiums."

He said even if a stadium is going to be built, rejecting this plan is the only way to get NFL owners to up the private share of funding for football stadiums.

But Republicans squarely blamed politics for the stadium's failure. House Speaker Kurt Zellers noted the bill got only a single DFL vote in the House Government Operations and Elections committee.

"We can't pass the stadium by ourselves in the Republican caucuses. Or a bonding bill for that matter," Zellers said. "We said very clearly that this is going to have to be a bipartisan approach, last night obviously was not."

DFLers countered that the committee's chairwoman, Rep. Joyce Pepin, R-Rogers, and Rep. Rich Murray, R-Albert Lea, also voted against the bill.

NOT DEAD, BUT CLOSE

Despite the committee vote and time running out on the session, legislators on both sides of the political aisle said it was too early to pronounce the deal dead.

Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, said he and other supporters were still trying to figure out a path forward.

"We're at this point assessing some of the alternatives that we might pursue, but obviously last night was a serious blow to this whole effort," Lanning said. "But we've not given up and we will continue to see if we can find some way to try and keep this alive and find a way to get this done."

Lanning wouldn't say if a plan to authorize a gambling expansion alone — without actually approving a stadium — might be an option. That alternative was suggested earlier this month by DFL Rep. Joe Atkins in a commerce committee hearing on the stadium.

In the Senate, Republican sponsor Sen. Julie Rosen said her stadium bill was still alive and may yet get a hearing, although she said the House rejection complicates the matter.

DFL Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk agreed.

"I don't think it's dead, because the governor's been pretty clear that he would like the stadium issue resolved this session," Bakk said. "I think you never want to underestimate what a global solution to the session might contain."

The governor and legislative leaders met on and off throughout the day behind closed doors, but the subject was a tax bill, not the stadium. And those talks broke off with no agreement.