Legislators got a look at a stadium bill that was altered slightly since the main points were made public last week. The bill will officially be introduced on Monday.
After years of debate, months of chatter, weeks of discussion and days of waiting, the Vikings stadium-bill plan was finally unveiled to the Minnesota State Legislature Friday. However, the bill is going to face more than its share of scrutiny at a time when Minnesota is facing a budget deficit of $5 billion and legislators are waging a gridlock battle about using any taxpayer money as a funding source.
Gov. Mark Dayton, who campaigned on the proposition that a stadium deal should get struck and appointed Ted Mondale to spearhead that effort, said Friday that he was glad the Legislature has stepped up to address the issue.
The bill isn't much different than the blueprint of a plan the authors of the bill made public last week. The state would commit up to $300 million to help pay for a stadium, with the state's share being made up through memorabilia taxes, naming rights and a Vikings lottery game among other revenue streams.
One new element to the bill would be that a stadium authority would be created and would have until Feb. 15, 2012, to decide on a stadium site. As it currently stands, there are three sites being mentioned – the current Metrodome site, a land parcel near Target Field in the west Minneapolis area and the abandoned munitions plant in Arden Hills in Ramsey County.
As stated by the bill sponsors earlier, the Vikings would be expected to contribute one dollar for every two dollars provided by the state and a local "sponsor" – sending the clear indication that a third party will have to be part of the mix.
Unfortunately, for St. Paul insiders the current debate over how to balance the state's budget has made the Vikings stadium a political football. The DFL and IR continue to debate about how to best balance their books, with the stadium issue being eye candy to distract the public, according to some stadium opponents. Whether that is a legitimate argument or not is up to debate, but the bill is officially in the mix.
Both Dayton and legislative leaders remain optimistic that a stadium deal can get passed – or, at a minimum, moved significantly forward – in this session. But, considering that the lease on the Metrodome expires at the end of this year, the timing of getting a deal done is as critical as it's ever been. The Vikings have never had the option of leaving Minnesota because of the iron-clad agreement given the state by then-Commissioner Pete Rozelle. That deal dies at the end of this year. At that point, the Vikings would be "free agents" and able to move to a market like Los Angeles.
The Wilf family has remained firm that they want to keep the Vikings in Minnesota and appear willing to meet the one-third stadium funding requirement. But, for the time being, the Wilfs are on the sidelines and non-football people will decide the football future of the Vikings.
Vikings fans remember running back Ted Brown, who was the replacement as the featured back after Chuck Foreman moved on. His son is hoping for big things in April – not in the NFL draft later this month, but in the Frozen Four. Brown's son J.T. plays hockey for the University of Minnesota-Duluth and is vying for a national championship. UMD plays Michigan today in St. Paul for the Division I hockey title.
Rumors continue to bubble that a Donovan McNabb-to-the-Vikings deal is coming, but, until the current labor unrest is settled, any such talk is little more than hypothetical chatter. As it currently stands, teams can only trade draft picks heading into the annual NFL Draft at the end of the month. While teams can talk to one another about potential trades, nothing can be made official until the lockout is lifted. Whether that happens by judge decree or negotiation remains speculation, as do any talks of McNabb to Minnesota.
A conspiracy theory is being promoted on the World Wide Interweb that the Vikings and Seahawks have been inflating the performance of Washington QB Jake Locker. While good in theory, reality dictates that both teams (linked to having more than a passing interest in Locker) would be downplaying his momentum, rather than building it up. As it stands, the Vikings and Seahawks are the only teams being linked to Locker. It doesn't make sense to play the P.R. card and get more teams taking a second look.
If the Vikings and Seattle are the two teams most interested in Locker, it could make for some draft-day drama. Seattle is still a little salty with the Vikings over the Steve Hutchinson poison pill. The Seahawks, in an act that can only be characterized as retaliation, signed Nate Burleson to a contract that included a trumped-up poison pill. The Vikings pill with Hutch required that he be the highest-paid offensive lineman on his team – a proviso that Seattle couldn't match after making Walter Jones the highest-paid left tackle in the league. When Seattle structured Burleson's contract, it was laid out that his deal would be guaranteed if he played more than four games in Minnesota – yeah, they were angry. Grudges last a while in the NFL and, if they are the two suitors for Locker, it could be a prime-time drama to watch (or, depending on how things pan out, a situation comedy).