The Vikings have long struggled to get a stadium bill to be voted on, but that could be changing. A leading senator said a bill is in the process of being introduced and could be decided on in this session. It's been a long process to get to this point.
The discussion of a Vikings stadium is nothing new. From the time Red McCombs bought the team in 1998 and was aghast to learn of the lack of concern that Minnesota politicians had about building a new stadium for the Twins, Gophers or Vikings, it has been a topic that has been either avoided or swept under the rug politically. First there was the argument that the lease agreement lasted so long (through the 2011 season) that there was no great rush. Then there was the general indignant attitude of lawmakers toward providing public funds to billionaire owners that had no business at the public trough. Over the last couple of years, after the economy went in the tank, the argument has been that there simply isn't the money available.
That perception may change – and in a big way – in the coming weeks. In a Star-Tribune
story, State Senate Taxes Chairman Tom Bakk (DFL-Cook) said a bill is in the process of being introduced, claiming that "most of the pieces (of the proposal are) pretty well drafted."
The bill is being framed at this point and, with more than a month left in the 2010 Legislative session, Bakk is confident that a palatable proposal can be crafted and be voted on in May. At a luncheon of business leaders earlier in the day, Vikings president Mark Wilf said he is confident the Vikings will be able to get a deal done for a new stadium.
While no legislation has been introduced since the Vikings pulled out of a combo-platter discussion of a Twins stadium deal, the momentum clearly seems to be building on the side of getting a new stadium deal done. Perhaps the reality of the Vikings lease in the Metrodome coming to an end has hastened things. Fans may recall that the Twins actually allowed a vote to allow Major League Baseball to contract (as in eliminate) them and the Montreal Expos from existence. Only then was the panic button hit and the stadium process moved forward to avoid the Twins vanishing. There is much the same buzz coming out of the Legislature that, after years of delaying and denying, the Vikings could go to the open arms of Los Angeles with a Super Bowl-caliber team.
Whether anything comes out of this session in terms of a stadium agreement is far from assured. The economy is still struggling and, but there are legitimate claims that the construction of a downtown stadium would not only provide hundreds of millions of dollars in jobs to those working on the project, but also businesses in the downtown area would experience increased revenue both during and after the construction. It may be the light at the end of the tunnel Vikings fans are hoping for, and considering that the stadium issue hasn't even received lip service the last couple of years, a groundswell of growing support from lawmakers has to be viewed as a positive sign.
With the changes to the draft process, which is moving from a late-Saturday morning start time to prime time on Thursday, April 22, the annual Vikings draft party is going to change as well. Typically held on the Saturday of draft weekend at Winter Park during the first round, the switch in logistics will have the draft party changing as well. The Vikings will host draft parties at 12 Twin Cities locations from 6 to 11 p.m. April 22 – Major's Spots Café in Albertville, Joe Senser's in Bloomington, Primetime Sports Bar and Grill in Burnsville, Buffalo Wild Wings in Chanhassen, Cuzzy's Brick House in Chaska, the Farmington American Legion, Babe's Sports Bar and Grill in Lakeville, The Lookout Bar and Grill in Maple Grove, Moose on Monroe in Minneapolis, Bunny's Bar and Grill in St. Louis Park, Jimmy's Food and Drink in Vadnais Heights and Ray J's American Grill in Woodbury. Fans attending the events will be eligible for prizes, including a trip for two to New Orleans when the Vikings meet the Saints – presumably in the season opener.
In addition to the draft party sites on Thursday, the Vikings will kickoff their 50th season celebration from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 24 at the Mall of America in the Best Buy Rotunda. Players representing each decade of the franchise's history will be on hand to sign autographs and flagship station KFAN will broadcast live from the site.
Players scheduled to appear at the M.O.A. signing include a who's who of Vikings greats, including Matt Blair, Joey Browner, David Dixon, Chuck Foreman, Robert Griffith, Steve Hutchinson, Steve Jordan, Joe Kapp, Jim Marshall, Tommy Mason, Jake Reed, Mike Tingelhoff, Kevin Williams and Ron Yary. A more detailed scheduled of who will be signing when will be on the Vikings official website as the event draws closer.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.