Key meetings set for next week on Vikings stadiumby Tom Scheck, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Next week could be critical in determining whether the Minnesota Vikings get a new football stadium. Gov. Dayton said Friday that he's scheduled separate meetings with legislative leaders, the National Football League and Vikings owner Zygi Wilf to discuss the proposal for a $1.1 billion stadium in Arden Hills.
Dayton said the meetings are meant to get an idea of where everyone stands on the stadium issue. He said he's hopeful that the meetings will give him enough information to know whether he can call a special legislative session to get financing for the stadium passed into law.
"Now's the time. Turn your cards face up on the table," said Dayton, referring to the various stakeholders in the plan. "Tell us what it's going to cost. Tell us what you're willing to do."
Dayton said he spoke with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Thursday to discuss the stadium situation. He said Goodell reminded him that Los Angeles is looking to attract a new NFL team.
Dayton said Goodell and Vikings ownership have not threatened to leave Minnesota -- but they didn't have to. The Vikings lease in the Metrodome expires in January 2012, and Dayton said the team isn't willing to sign another lease unless the stadium situation is settled.
"The reality is that if we don't act in some way and get a stadium project going, then it's unrealistic in my opinion to think we're not going to face competition for the team in the near future," said Dayton.
But there are a lot of unanswered questions. Ramsey County is proposing to raise the sales tax a half percent to pay $350 million toward the new stadium. Dayton has said the state is willing to put in $300 million, and the Vikings have pledged to put up more than $400 million.
But Dayton and others continue to raise the possibility that the stadium could end up in Minneapolis. That's an idea the Vikings oppose. Dayton and other stadium supporters also haven't identified how to raise the state's portion of the project.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch said she wants to see Dayton identify his priorities at Monday's meeting, and start lining up Democrats in the Legislature to support the proposal.
"I need to hear some definites from him, and I think the people of Minnesota should hear some definites from him," said Koch. "If you think we're in for $300 million, where do you get that money?"
Koch also said she's not entirely sold on the idea of a special legislative session for the Vikings. She said there are plenty of other areas -- such as the economy -- that are higher priorities.
A spokesman for Republican House Speaker Kurt Zellers said Zellers has declined to comment until after Monday's meeting.
State Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, is the chief author of the stadium bill in the House. He agrees with Dayton that the Vikings will start looking at other options if the Legislature doesn't settle the issue.
Lanning said a Vikings ticket tax, a memorabilia tax or other user fees are options to raise the state's share. He also suggested an expansion of gambling is a possibility. Lanning also said the stadium will need strong bipartisan support to pass.
"That bipartisan support depends on what the final package looks like. What are the ways in which we are proposing that the revenue will be raised? How will that revenue be used?" he said. "All of those factors are coming into play here on whether we have the support we need."
Lanning said one possibility is to use a portion of any future gambling proceeds to pay for the stadium, and dedicate the rest to pay back part of the state's payment delay to schools. But any gambling plan will face opposition. The state's tribal casinos are preparing to lobby against an expansion of gambling.
- All Things Considered, 10/14/2011, 5:20 p.m.