Commish Stumps for Stadium

NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue testified Tuesday to a state congressional conference committee discussing potential stadium bills for the Vikings and Twins, hinting that, if passed, Minnesota would get back in the hunt for a future Super Bowl.

The ongoing saga of the Vikings stadium situation took a couple of more twists and turns Tuesday, as the stadium went from near-flatline status early in the day and gained momentum in the congressional conference committee.

Early in the day, the Vikings were sticking to their recent proposal not to put a roof on the stadium in order to reduce or eliminate the amount of state funding that would be required for the project. They enlisted the help of NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who testified before the committee for 30 minutes, explaining the NFL's perception that a stadium is needed to assure the Vikings will remain in Minnesota.

It was viewed as a positive sign that Tagliabue addressed the committee – he claimed a domed stadium would put the Vikings in line to get another potential Super Bowl, which Tagliabue said would generate $250-300 million in revenue for the area. However, the roof question came to a head and, for a time, looked like it could derail the entire project for this legislative session.

Representatives from Anoka County, which would like to use the proposed stadium year-round for business other than NFL games, said they would pull their support from a stadium if it did not include a roof. Apparently by day's end, the roof was back in play and there was growing support that a Vikings stadium deal was moving forward in this session.

There are still a couple of major roadblocks ahead, however, as the Vikings stadium hits the 11th hour. Adjournment of the session is expected by Monday and there is still a possibility the Twins and Vikings stadiums will be separated by the committee and allowed to pass or fail both bodies of the state legislature on their own merit. Another potential hurdle came from spokespeople from the Minnesota Department of Transportation, who stated the Anoka County estimates of $115 million being needed for road improvements is more likely a figure closer to $270 million.

Even Governor Tim Pawlenty seemed pessimistic about the Vikings bill Tuesday, saying the bill has "some substantive challenges and problems."

The committee is expected to re-convene this morning and hear more testimony. A vote on a compromised bill or bills is expected by Thursday.

WEDNESDAY NOTES
* Fullback Joey Goodspeed is potentially lost for the season. Head coach Brad Childress wouldn't elaborate on the extent of his knee injury suffered in Saturday's first minicamp practice, but it is feared he may have a torn ACL.
* In a recent poll of Minnesotans done by the Star Tribune newspaper, 73 percent of respondents said they would not favor public funding for a Vikings stadium.
* Special teams coach Paul Ferraro is looking to reverse a recent Vikings special teams trend. Former special teams coach Rusty Tillman preferred to have a quarterback as a holder on kicks – the theory being that in the event of a bad snap or gadget play, an experienced passer could be the difference between making or blowing a play. Ferraro believes a punter should be the holder on kicks so the players can get more time in together during practice. It was unlikely that the Vikings would have used last year's holder – starting QB Brad Johnson – in that capacity this year.
* The Dolphins signed former Vikings linebacker Keith Newman.
* Fred Smoot was looking tough at minicamp, having gained 15 pounds of muscle lifting weights in the offseason. After weighing 185 pounds last year, he checked it at 200 pounds last weekend.
* Tagliabue displayed a sense of humor during his testimony before the state legislature Tuesday. As Rep. Brad Finstad used a political sports analogy, saying the stadium proposal was in "the fourth quarter (with) three seconds left and a 45-yard field goal to kick," Tagliabue didn't miss a beat. Sitting next to Vikings stadium front man Lester Bagley, Tagliabue joked that he would have been better suited bringing kicker Adam Vinatieri with him than bringing Bagley.
* Thirteen coaches and players were elected to the College Football Hall of Fame Tuesday, including former Vikings Carl Eller (Minnesota) and Jeff Siemon (Stanford).

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