Vikings stadium debate under way in House
ST. PAUL -- A debate a decade in the making began this afternoon as the state House considered whether to build a nearly $1 billion Vikings stadium.
"This is our one chance," Rep. John Kriesel, R-Cottage Grove, said. "This bill works. It has been fine-tuned and it will build a stadium."
Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, said the bill he authored will provide much more than just a Vikings stadium to replace the downtown Minneapolis Metrodome.
"Quite simply, the Metrodome will not meet the needs of Minnesota for the next 40 or 50 years," Lanning said at the beginning of what was expected to be a several-hour debate.
The Vikings' 10 days in the new facility would be joined by more than 300 other events each year, Lanning said.
Lanning warned fellow representatives that the Vikings most likely will leave if they do not get a new stadium.
"The time has come for Minnesota to make a decision," he said, reminding lawmakers of several other attempts to build a facility for more than 10 years.
Soon after the debate stated, Rep. Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, Gov. Mark Dayton and others revved up a stadium rally not far from the House chamber.
An electric feeling began filling the Minnesota Capitol this morning.
"Build it now" chants filled the rotunda as Dayton met with Vikings fans and union workers this morning, and moments later representatives heard the chants as they gathered for the historic session.
"This is first and foremost about jobs, putting Minnesotans back to work," Dayton shouted to those gathered under the dome.
Rallies over the weekend and a former stadium opponent becoming a "yes" vote appeared to give proponents momentum that was lost Friday when Dayton vetoed a tax-relief bill Republicans wanted.
Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, said he would for vote for the stadium today because people need to work.
"Minnesota's economy remains slow, and too many of our citizens are still looking for jobs and cannot find them," Winkler said. "We have an immediate jobs shortage, and we must take action to create a broadly prosperous state for our children and grandchildren."
Winkler, a Bemidji native, was a vote that helped defeat the Vikings bill in a House committee last month.
The bill would provide $398 million in state money and $150 million from Minneapolis for stadium construction. The Vikings and other private sources would kick in $427 million.
While the bill authors' favored form of state money would come from expanding charitable gambling options, legislators have a variety of other ideas.
Sen. John Howe, R-Red Wing, wants to put user fees on everything in the stadium, ranging from broadcast rights to concession sales. But Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley said the Vikings cannot accept the concept.
Lawmakers are expected to try to amend the stadium bill with dozens of changes. That could expand debate to more than 12 hours.
If the House passes it, which could come well past midnight, it would go to the Senate where another lengthy debate is expected. It is not clear when the Senate would take it up.
The stadium would be built on the Metrodome site, where the Vikings have played for three decades. Besides about 10 Vikings games a year, the stadium would be used for other sports and activities ranging from concerts to, possibly, the Final Four basketball tournament.
This morning's crowd mixing horns-adorned football fans and workers wearing safety vests attracted Dayton as soon as he arrived at the Capitol.
"This is a team effort all the way around," he said.
Workers gathered in the Capitol thanked Dayton.
"Thank goodness we have you, governor," one worker told Dayton, the chief stadium cheerleader.
Besides the Vikings bill, lawmakers today were to consider a public works finance bill, to be funded by the state selling bonds. The House passed it earlier today and the Senate was expected to take it up. At nearly $500 million, it would fix state facilities statewide, help build roads and bridges and provide a start to state Capitol renovation.
Also, legislative tax leaders were meeting with Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans in an attempt to bring back a tax bill the Democratic governor and Republican legislators can back.
Legislators had planned to go home for the year a week ago and can meet only another handful of days.
Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.