Stadium supporters warm up for legislative face-off

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

Supporters of a new Vikings stadium opened their campaign today to win Monday's vote in the Minnesota Legislature. They plan a weekend-long drive aimed at the getting the public to convince lawmakers to vote for the stadium bill.

On Thursday, Republicans lost the coin flip to decide which Vikings stadium plan would get a vote this year. Now, boosters are lining up for an all-out offensive to win the 68 votes they need to pass their original bill in the Minnesota House.

"Monday is game day," said Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission chairman Ted Mondale, the state's chief negotiator for the deal.

Mondale offered a preview of the campaign about to unfold.

"The governor, organized labor, people all across the state, business leaders, both in corporate headquarters and Main St. fans," Mondale said. "People who believe this is a good idea are at work. And we're going to be working all day, all night, all day Saturday, all day Sunday and all day Monday."

Dayton on Friday vetoed the tax bill passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature and then spoke on KFAN-FM sports-talk radio to urge fans to let lawmakers know how they feel about the stadium.

"I think phone calls are excellent, you leave a voice mail. Emails are good too, and it's just direct communication from a Minnesotan to a legislator, and those add up," he said.

Fans, too, were organizing. Cory Merrifield of SavetheVikes.org said he is sending email, Twitter messages and Facebook posts to a long list of supporters.

"We've got direct email list of tens of thousands of people. We'll be reaching out to them," Merrifield said. He hopes to rally hundreds of people at the Capitol Monday morning.

"We've already asked fans today to let their boss know that they plan on being at the Capitol on Monday, so let your boss know that you're taking the day off."

Organized opposition to the plan, on the other hand, seems spotty. Opponents of a Vikings stadium in Arden Hills say they are taking a wait-and-see approach, suspecting attention may turn again to Ramsey County if the Minneapolis plan fails.

Organizers of an opposition campaign in Minneapolis, NoVikingsTax.com, have not updated its website in more than a month, and did not return inquires about the group's plans.

The Taxpayer's League of Minnesota issued an alert, calling on Minnesotans to tell their representative to vote against the measure.

The group's president, Phil Krinkie, said he felt it was a bad investment of tax dollars.

"This is giving a huge handout to the Wilf family," he said, and the Vikings owners will be the principal winners in the deal.

"After the Twins stadium agreement was made, Forbes magazine increased (former Twins owner, the late Carl Pohlad's) net worth by $200 million dollars. I would assume that the same thing would happen should this process go forward, that anyone looking at Mr. Wilf's net worth will see it jump dramatically," Krinkie said.

Resistance to the stadium is already rising at the Capitol. The governor's veto of the GOP tax bill brought a sharp rebuke from Republicans. Senate tax committee chair Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen, suggested the veto may have a direct impact on the stadium vote next week, since Dayton killed a top priority for her caucus.

"Tax relief for all Minnesota businesses, small and large, and for property tax payers, homeowners, should come first before we consider a big subsidy program for an out of state business that wants to build a stadium here. That's my priority."

Dayton said he hoped that lawmakers would consider the issues separately.

"It's not about whether I win or I or lose or somebody else wins or somebody else loses. It's about the people of Minnesota winning jobs."

The Vikings are pulling out all the stops. Team vice president Lester Bagley said the Vikings have three lobbying firms under contract and a team of eight lobbyists that will be working on the matter over the weekend. Bagley said they're trying to help shape a final bill for lawmakers to consider, since there are different versions in the House and Senate.

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