Standing alongside the National Football League commissioner, Gov. Mark Dayton said Friday that the state Capitol’s top DFL and Republican leaders were committed to trying to pass a plan for a new Minnesota Vikings stadium this spring.
But the resulting press conference, which drew a large crowd outside the governor’s office, left few immediate signs that a political breakthrough between the DFL governor and the Republican House and Senate leaders had occurred.
“If all eight of us pull together, work together and are truly committed to passing this bill, it will pass,” Dayton said. “If we’re not, if we don’t work together, it won’t.”
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said there were no threats by the league or Vikings owner Zygi Wilf to move the team should legislators not pass a stadium bill before they adjourn in as little as two weeks. “There were no implied threats, or any threats at all,” said Goodell. “What we talked about is the importance of creating a solution here.”
Though Dayton had said earlier this week that NFL officials had essentially issued a “warning”, he said Friday that Goodell did not initiate any discussion about the Vikings moving to Los Angeles or any other city looking for a NFL franchise.
“One of us – a legislator – brought the subject up,” the governor said. “[The NFL] said they would like to have a team in Los Angeles [and] they would like to have it not be the Vikings.”
Much of the focus Friday was on the state's Republican legislative leaders, particularly House Speaker Kurt Zellers. Zellers has been vague on how much influence he will exert to help push the nearly $1 billion stadium, which for now sits politically dead in a House committee after being surprisingly defeated on Monday.
Zellers did not promise the Vikings stadium public subsidy package would be voted on by the full House before the Legislature adjourned. “We’ll have that answer for you in the next couple of days. Right now, I think it’s a little too early,” he said. “Essentially, the bill is dead [but] there’s creative ways around here to make sure that things do continue to move.”
The first step Friday will be in the Senate where the plan to build a Vikings stadium in Minneapolis will be heard by a Senate panel that listened to testimony earlier, but never cast a vote. But in a sign of the confusion still surrounding the proposal, the panel Friday will also hear a proposal to instead build the stadium in Ramsey County’s Arden Hills and also a plan to give the Vikings nothing beyond a $300 million state loan.
In addition Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, the chief Senate author of the Minneapolis stadium proposal, hinted Friday that there would likely be amendments in the coming days at the state Capitol to change the proposal, perhaps substantially.
Rosen's plan would have the Vikings contribute $427 million to the project, have the state add $398 million and have Minneapolis contribute $150 million. The team would also contribute $327 million to the stadium's operation, and the city would add another $189 million.
Harry Melander, the president of the Minnesota Building and Construction Trades Council, said after Dayton’s press conference that Goodell’s visit had moved the issue forward, but passing a Vikings stadium bill this spring still remained difficult. “There’s an opportunity here, and we need to make it happen,” said Melander, who is a leader in the push by labor unions who want the construction jobs the stadium would create.
“[But] it’s a difficult issue,” he said.
The large crowd outside Dayton’s office included many familiar stadium supporters. As Goodell made his way into the governor’s office, he was greeted by Larry Spooner, a Vikings fan who wore a team jersey and held a sign that read: “Vikings Stadium – Yes.”
“We love our Vikings! We love our Vikings!” Spooner called out as Goodell passed and nodded.
“It was kind of like seeing God walk by – not really – but God’s assistant,” a smiling Spooner said afterward.