The Vikings stadium drive took a momentous step forward today with Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak stating that he has a city council majority vote in favor of building the $975 million facility on the current site of the Metrodome. This is certainly good news for the team considering the bill has been nonexistent for the past two weeks.
Getting the green light from the Minneapolis City Council is noteworthy because the issue must now be sent back to the state legislature whom up to this point has been hesitant to welcome it. The Senate committee shelved the bill a few weeks ago when it was close to being voted down, but now a key House committee chairman is saying the he hopes to give the bill a House hearing before the end of the week. “I think it helps to have the city of Minneapolis on board,” said Rep. Joe Hoppe, R-Chaska, chairman of the House Commerce Committee. “Time is growing short for stadium supporters in their bid to secure the Vikings in Minnesota for another 30 years, with the legislative session likely to be over in a month’s time or less.”
The current stadium bill under propositions a $975 million stadium in downtown Minneapolis and includes a city sales tax to the tune of $150 million to cover a local cost share. Those against the Stadium mention that sales tax has better uses than supporting local professional sports team. Those in favor reference how valuable the Vikings are to the state of Minnesota and that a new stadium would create up to 7,500 construction jobs serving a stimulus project to the city of Minneapolis.
Now comes the hard part of the state’s Capitol. The state’s legislature must work out kinks like the plan to cover the $398 million share of stadium costs with tax revenue from gambling expansion in the form of electronic paper-based games that are currently sold by charities at Minnesota bars. Some state leaders side with those very charities and believe they should be entitled to keep those games rather than allocating those funds to a new stadium. Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton said today his administration continues to work with the charities to address those concerns, both in giving them a bigger share of future profits and directing some of the new revenue to reform the taxes they pay on the games.
And then there’s state lawmakers expressing concerns that gambling revenue is an extremely volatile way to pay for a major construction project, which runs the risk of having a shortfall if the project doesn’t raise as much money as expected. Hoppe eased those concerns by saying that there would be a backup-funding source coming from luxury suites or ticket taxes if that were to occur. It’s certain that as this gets closer to a state legislature vote that more road bumps will occur.
Regardless of how you feel about this politically, time is running short for the Vikings to have a new stadium built in the state of Minnesota. If this doesn’t pass the current legislative session, then the team will hope again for a special session later this year. And if that doesn’t pass the Vikings will hope the stadium is addressed in the 2013 legislative session. And if that doesn’t pass they’ll listen to offers to build a stadium in Southern California, which I’m guessing next to no one reading this blog wants. If you’d like to know what you as a fan can do to help, feel free to contact our friends over at SaveTheVikes.org.
Jon Merckle may be followed on Twitter @thevikingpig