Gov. Mark Dayton and the key authors of legislation for a Minnesota Vikings stadium tried Thursday to revive the project, saying that a special session before late January was still possible.
The DFL governor and the two Republican lead authors of legislation to help build a $1.1 billion stadium with public subsidies said they were optimistic despite Wednesday’s stadium developments that indicated the project had stalled politically. Their comments came one day after Dayton said a special session before Thanksgiving was not now possible, largely because key Republican leaders, led by House Speaker Kurt Zellers, were opposed to one.
Zellers, during a radio interview Thursday, meanwhile said there are not 68 votes from House Republicans for a stadium and, on principal, they don’t believe in public funding of stadiums. The House Speaker reiterated that he believes special sessions are for emergencies, citing natural disasters. He said when the Legislature returns in late January for its regular session, it could put together a better package.
Appearing outside the governor’s office early Thursday, Dayton and the Vikings stadium legislators acknowledged there were many remaining hurdles, including how to fund nearly $650 million in public money for the project and where to locate the stadium. But the group, which included DFLers, said they would keep working towards unveiling legislation for the stadium so that public hearings could be held in advance of a special session.
But Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, the lead House stadium legislation author, said he could not say whether the legislation could be unveiled by Dec. 1. "That would be nice," he said.
Lanning also said he strongly disagreed with Zellers, who said he did not think a special session for a Vikings stadium needed to occur and that the issue would be dealt with next year. The team's lease at the downtown Minneapolis Metrodome, where it has played since 1982, expires after this season.
"I would hope that this would be all wrapped up, and put away and done, in a bi-partisan spirit, before session starts” in late January, said Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, the lead Senate stadium legislation author.
Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley, who is out of town for the rest of the week, said Thursday that "We are going to let our statement from yesterday stand."
Team officials on Wednesday called the standoff "very disappointing" and said things were only going to get more expensive and difficult to resolve, especially if the state allows the team's Metrodome lease to expire.
Metropolitan Sports Facilities Chairman Ted Mondale said Wednesday that "We're moving ahead in a bipartisan way to get a bill passed."
But, Mondale said, that would "probably" be in the regular 2012 session.
Zellers said he needs to see a Vikings stadium plan and site selection before he can wrangle votes in a special legislative this fall. “Until somebody comes up with a set of plans, a location, it’s tough to come up with votes,” he told WCCO-AM Radio.
Asked what he will need to see to agree to a special session, Zellers said it must have public input and hearings first. “I don’t want to set up a process where the bill will fail and we won’t have a solution,” he added.
He also said: “We think the Vikings are an asset to the state and we want to keep them here.”
Zellers said the stadium issue is “still moving along” but such projects “only come around every 20 or 30 years so you want to do it right.:
Asked if he would shoulder the blame if the team left. “No offense, but it’s not about me,” he said. “I don’t think it’s my job or my fault to find a solution. I think it needs to be bipartisan.”