Commentary: Stadium sees glimmer of hope

The introduction of a Vikings stadium bill received mixed reviews, but at least it was being heard. Past stadium efforts have taken more than one year, which could portend to a future solution even if this year's session doesn't bring passage of the bill.

The Vikings stadium proposals were good news for fans concerned that the team may eventually leave Minnesota, but, just about as quickly as the bill was announced, critics came out of the woodwork to blast the proposal – some without the benefit of having even read the 39-page bill.

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.

TUESDAY NOTES

  • As reported over the weekend, a decision by Darren Sharper was expected early in the week. After being courted by the Jacksonville Jaguars, Sharper decided to accept the one-year offer that was on the table from the Saints and will return to the defending champs for the 2010 season.

  • One of the concerns the Saints and Jags had with offering a contract to Sharper was the fact that he underwent microfracture surgery in the offseason, surgery that isn't always 100 percent successful in solving injury problems.

  • The Vikings announced Monday that they have signed two players that were part of last weekend's mass tryout at the Vikings rookie minicamp. Iowa State wide receiver Marquis Hamilton and Southwest Minnesota State offensive tackle Bill Noethlich were signed to contracts.

  • There are rumors that the Vikings might have a passing interest in running back Chris Brown, formerly of the Titans and Texans. He was waived by the Broncos Monday.

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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.

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