At a time when the State of Minnesota is facing a budget deficit and will be forced to make cuts to state-run programs, the timing of the stadium bill angers some lawmakers even if it includes user fees to pay the majority of the tab.
The 11th-hour addition of the bill to the legislative agenda may not have the steam to pass during this session, but a defeat in the Legislature is not a death sentence for a new stadium. In fact, just the opposite may be true.
There are still a lot of questions left open-ended, like whether the Vikings would play two or three years at TCF Bank Stadium on the University of Minnesota campus if the new stadium was to be built on the current Metrodome site. There are also questions about the viability of the different funding sources. However, the biggest impact may well lie in getting the stadium bill into the public consciousness.
If recent history is any guide, getting the process started is the first significant step in breaking the current gridlock. Similar bills for a Twins stadium failed initially, but set the groundwork for a different approach – Hennepin County imposing a tax to fund the stadium – that eventually got a deal done.
It seems somewhat ironic that stadium opponents are posturing about the state having to kick in money to build a new home for the Vikings. The state has gotten off easy when it comes to building stadiums. The Metrodome is the only major public stadium in the country that doesn't include annual maintenance payments as part of the state budget and the cheaply built Metrodome has been self-sufficient for years. The Legislature sat on its hands for years before Hennepin County stepped up and committed to keeping them in the state. Much of the funding for TCF Bank Stadium was paid for by boosters who banded together to raise much of the required money.
It would seem the Legislature has had somebody else bailing it out so consistently that is appears as though many of them are waiting for it to happen again. With Hennepin County out of the picture to raise taxes and the City of Minneapolis appearing unlikely to impose its own tax, it would seem a Vikings stadium deal is going to have to come from the state – or face the serious potential that the Vikings will leave Minnesota for good.
The ball is now in the court of the legislative leaders that have done nothing for years. Red McCombs was frustrated by the lack of movement on a stadium 12 years ago. In the intervening time, nothing constructive has been done. While the stadium bill may not pass during the current session, getting the debate public and, with the positive feedback coming from Target Field, it may be setting the groundwork for a stadium deal to get done during the 2011 session if it doesn't pass this year. The situation is far from over, but there is a faint glimmer of light visible at the end of the tunnel.
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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.