More than 50 Minnesota Vikings fans, some holding infants in team jerseys, rallied on the state Capitol steps Monday for a new Vikings stadium.
But it was inside the Capitol that the real maneuvering this week for the nearly $1 billion stadium was starting to unfold – with signs that the Minnesota House was about to resurrect the stadium plan.
At a hearing before a House panel late Monday, stadium supporters were expected to try to attach the stadium plan to a proposal that would allow electronic bingo and pull tabs and sports-themed tip boards in Minnesota’s bars and restaurants. In order for the stadium plan to move forward in the House before the Legislature adjourns, the maneuver is necessary to revive the project and nullify the plan’s rejection by another House panel a week ago.
There was also other stadium-related jockeying Monday, some of it sure to face long odds. A House legislator introduced a plan to have the Vikings publicly owned, and another legislator asked that any excess money from a Vikings stadium public subsidy package go to early childhood scholarships.
In addition, there was also a move Monday to legalize sports betting pools, and allow the state lottery to operate a sports betting pool.
In a morning rally outside the state Capitol, the fan group loudly cheered Lester Bagley, the Vikings vice president for stadium development and public affairs, who spoke to the crowd in the bright sunlight. “We’re in decent shape,” Bagley, wearing a dark suit, told the crowd. “We got some momentum. Still, the odds are long. We can’t slow down.”
Some fans held signs that read “Keep It Going Dayton”, a reference to Gov. Mark Dayton’s push for a public subsidy package for the nearly $1 billion stadium. Another fan held a sign that said simply: “Packers Suck.”
Scott Asplund of Maple Grove wore Vikings horns, and carried a sword and shield. “I’ve had a [ongoing] dialogue with Kurt,” he said, referring to House Speaker Kurt Zellers, who is also from Maple Grove. “Oh, yeah, he’s been very challenged by me.”
Zellers is the leading Republican in the House, but has been vague on how much influence he will exert to pass the stadium legislation before the Legislature adjourns, perhaps in a week.
“If we don’t get the Vikings kept, we will all remember in November,” said Asplund, nodding to the upcoming state elections.
Under the proposal endorsed by Dayton, the Vikings would contribute $427 million to the stadium, the state would add $398 million – using proceeds from electronic bingo and pull tabs – and Minneapolis would contribute $150 million toward building the project. The team would add another $327 million to operate the stadium and the city would contribute $189 million.
The stadium would be built in downtown Minneapolis on the site of the Metrodome, where the team has played for the past 30 years.
At the rally outside the state Capitol, Sarah Walsh of Lonsdale came with Collin, her nine-year-old son who stood alongside with his hair spray-painted yellow. “Most people really do support it,” she said of the stadium.
Elizabeth Stebbins of Coon Rapids held her 11-month-old son, Mason. Both wore purple jerseys with Vikings running back Adrian Peterson’s name on the back. “I’ve got tons of them,” she said of her Vikings jersey selection.
Does she go to many games? “Oh, yeah,” she said. “And training camp.”
As the group headed to lobby legislators in their offices, Asplund reminded them of what they needed to keep in mind. “This is a no brainer” to vote for the stadium, he said. And if legislators “show they have no brains”, remind them they are up for re-election in November.
“We’re the Purple Party,” he said.