Stadium Bill Regains Momentum in House and Senate

The proposal to build a new Vikings stadium in Minneapolis passed Senate and House committees during the past few days, potentially propelling the plan toward votes by the full House and Senate.

About a week after the plan to fund a new Vikings stadium appeared all but dead in the Minnesota Legislature, the proposal has been revitalized-and there are signs that the full House and Senate could vote on the plan by Friday.

The Senate's Local Government Committee on Friday passed an altered stadium plan after having tabled the bill in March, according to a report by Minnesota Public Radio (MPR). The bill now includes a 10 percent tax on stadium suites, which is opposed by the Vikings, and it no longer includes a provision that would allow the City of Minneapolis to use tax funds to rehabilitate Target Center.

And on Monday night, the House Ways and Means Committee advanced the stadium funding plan, according to media reports. The advancement of the revised bill came one week after the House Government Operations and Elections Committee had rejected the plan in a 9-to-6 vote.

The $975 million stadium proposal would place a new stadium in downtown Minneapolis at the Metrodome site. The Vikings would cover $427 million of construction costs, while the state and Minneapolis would contribute $398 million and $150 million, respectively.

The Star Tribune reported that the process of propelling the plan forward remains complicated: For example, there were reportedly “behind-the-scenes attempts” on Monday to steer the proposal away from certain legislative panels where it may not have the necessary votes to pass.

And during the past week, legislators have tentatively altered the stadium proposal in two significant ways: New amendments make it more likely that Minneapolis residents could have a referendum on the stadium plan, and the plan to provide financial relief for the Target Center is in jeopardy, according to the Star Tribune. (Unlike the Senate version, the House bill currently preserves funding for the Target Center.)

The chief author of the stadium bill now in the House said Monday that it was likely too late to make major changes to the proposal, and some legislators on both sides of the debate are anxious to advance the bill to a final vote, according to the Star Tribune. (To read the newspaper's full report about the revitalized stadium plan, click here.)

In addition to the movement at the Capitol, the Minneapolis City Council will hold a hearing on Tuesday night, during which it reportedly won't vote on a bill, but rather determine whether to support a Vikings stadium financing package as part of its legislative agenda. Mayor R.T. Rybak said in March that seven of 13 council members supported the stadium plan, but he recently told MPR that the Target Center funding is a key part of the plan for the council.

And despite its new life at the Capitol, the stadium plan reportedly continues to draw opposition from state lawmakers from both sides of the aisle. Gambling revenue continues to be a key sticking point, as some lawmakers have expressed concern that revenues from expanded gambling may come up short.

The new momentum for the stadium plan comes just days after National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell met with Governor Mark Dayton and legislative leaders. According to a report by the Star Tribune, Goodell said there were no threats from the league or Vikings owner Zygi Wilf to move the team if a bill isn't passed during this legislative session, although some have said that Goodell's visit illustrates the high stakes in the stadium debate.

In other stadium news, the Star Tribune recently delved into the issue of how local business leaders have been linked with the construction of sports stadiums, calling specific attention to the behind-the-scenes role of John Griffith, Target Corporation's executive vice president for property development, in the ongoing Vikings stadium debate.

Griffith reportedly testified recently at a House committee in support of the stadium bill, but e-mails obtained by the Minneapolis newspaper suggest a close relationship between Griffith's team at Target and key players in the debate, including Rybak and a Vikings official. Others included in the e-mail correspondence reportedly included U.S. Bancorp CEO Richard Davis; Bill McCarthy, president of the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation; and Target Chairman, CEO, and President Gregg Steinhafel. To read more about Griffith's role in the stadium debate, click here.