NFL Warns of Vikings Sale, Will Meet With MN Leaders

After the NFL cautioned that the time to sell the Vikings might be nearing, Governor Dayton and a bipartisan group of legislators plan meet with NFL leaders on Friday; Dayton also recently said that he wouldn't rule out a special legislative session to address the stadium issue.

Two days after a House vote that rendered it unlikely for a Vikings stadium bill to gain approval before the end of the 2012 legislative session, a top NFL official reportedly warned Wednesday that conditions are “getting ripe” for the team to be sold and relocated. But there are signs that the stadium bill may be inching forward.

According to a Star Tribune report, Governor Mark Dayton said Thursday morning that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will meet with bipartisan legislative leaders on Friday, and that Art Rooney II, the owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the chair of the league's stadium committee, would be present.

“They didn't issue any threats or anything, but it was more of a warning” that the Vikings might leave Minnesota, Dayton reportedly told members of the media. “It was very clear that they see that the Vikings will be in play [to move] if this is not resolved or unfavorably resolved in this session.”

Even some of the stadium's most ardent supporters have begun saying that a public subsidy package is likely dead, as the Legislature is scheduled to adjourn in just a couple of weeks.

On Monday, the House Government Operations and Elections Committee voted 9 to 6 to reject a stadium-funding bill, prompting significant doubt that such a bill will gain legislative approval this session. The bill calls for the Vikings to cover $427 million of construction costs for a $975 million stadium, while the state and Minneapolis would contribute $398 million and $150 million, respectively.

But there are indications that Friday's scheduled visit may already be creating some political movement.

According to the Star Tribune, Senate Majority Leader David Senjem said after Dayton's comments Thursday that a Senate panel where the stadium plan has been stalled for weeks will likely meet Friday to reconsider the bill.

“I think the Vikings are probably going to be around for another year or so,” Senjem told the Minneapolis newspaper. “But I don't think we can forget about St. Louis, Baltimore, Los Angeles, [and] Oakland” where NFL teams have left. “They experienced this. It can happen. It's real.”

Dayton also said Wednesday that he wouldn't rule out calling a special legislative session to approve a stadium, according to a Star Tribune report. The Democratic governor told the Minneapolis newspaper that he has always favored a special session to address something as large and complex as the stadium project, as it would force legislators to stay focused on a single topic and not become distracted by various wish lists that often overtake the end of regular sessions.

“I'd give it consideration, but I would have to talk to the legislative leaders,” Dayton reportedly said.

Separately, a bipartisan group of legislators earlier this week unveiled what would be the fourth funding proposal for an Arden Hills stadium, according to the Star Tribune. This plan calls for a suburban Ramsey County food and beverage tax that would require a November referendum.

Vikings spokesman Lester Bagley on Wednesday told the Star Tribune that the team is trying to revive the Minneapolis plan and isn't currently interested in Arden Hills.

Bagley reportedly added that the team also doesn't favor another plan that some lawmakers are calling “Plan B.” It would authorize electronic bingo and pulltabs, plus sports-themed tip boards, and it doesn't actually address the stadium issue, although there's speculation that the money could be placed in a reserve fund and used to begin preliminary design work on a stadium. That plan will go before the House Taxes Committee on Thursday night.