Vikings Stadium Plan Clears Minnesota House

 
on May 08 2012 3:34 PM
Vikings
The Minnesota Vikings are seeking a new stadium in the Minneapolis area. Reuters

(Reuters) - Minnesota state representatives advanced a $975 million plan on Monday to build a new domed stadium for the Minnesota Vikings in downtown Minneapolis that would require a much higher contribution from the National Football League team than previously planned.

Representatives voted 73-58 after more than eight hours of discussion to approve a stadium funding plan with several changes from a deal negotiated by the governor, bill sponsors, the city of Minneapolis and the Vikings.

The Vikings have been lobbying the legislature and others for more than a decade to replace the Metrodome in downtown Minneapolis where the team has played since 1982.

The stadium plan next goes to the state Senate and with the changes. Representatives said they expected the plan ultimately to end up in a conference committee for further negotiations.

The deal, as brought to debate on Monday, called for a $427 million contribution from the Vikings, $398 million from the state and $150 million from Minneapolis with state appropriation bonds issued for the public contribution.

Representatives voted to increase the Vikings contribution to the stadium by $105 million and cut the state contribution by that amount. The House also voted to require the Vikings to give the state a bigger payback if the team is sold, sign a longer lease and cover overruns in operating costs.

The Vikings were valued at nearly $800 million by Forbes last year and a new stadium would be expected to increase the team's value significantly.

The team favored building a stadium on the site of a former U.S. Army munitions plant until March when state sponsors, Minneapolis and the team announced plans for the Metrodome site.

The state portion of the bonds would be covered by extending charitable gambling to include electronic pull-tabs and bingo. Hotel, liquor and restaurant taxes now used for the Minneapolis convention center would extend to 2047 for the city's portion.

The effort to at least bring a stadium plan to a vote of the full legislature looked stalled in April until NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell met with Governor Mark Dayton, Senate Majority Leader David Senjem, House Speaker Kurt Zellers and other state political leaders.

Representative Morrie Lanning, the bill sponsor, said Monday Minnesota would not likely host another college basketball championship or Super Bowl without a new stadium and the Vikings likely would move eventually.

The reality is that if we don't modernize our facility, we not only run the risk of losing a major tenant, the team, but also a facility that makes Minnesotans all over proud to come and participate in activities ..., said Lanning, a Republican.

The Vikings would be the key tenant, but the stadium would host more than 300 events each year from high school football and soccer games, to college baseball, concerts and other events, supporters said.

Opponents of the funding plan questioned whether the electronic bingo and pull-tabs would be sufficient to meet debt payments and whether it would be right to subsidize the Vikings.

Are we being good stewards of taxpayer dollars and resources by prioritizing a Vikings stadium now ahead of so many other things, said Republican Representative Doug Wardlow, who said he supported a Vikings stadium, but the bill was not good enough and he thought it should be revisited next year.

Democratic Representative Mindy Greiling called the stadium funding plan a case of misplaced priorities given funding needs for education and other programs.

Representatives offered more than 40 amendments to the plan on Monday. Stadium supporters could be heard outside the House chambers chanting build it when doors opened.

The Minneapolis City Council has voted 7-6 to support the stadium, but would have to vote again on a final plan.

(Reporting by David Bailey; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Lisa Shumaker)

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