House Speaker Margaret Kelliher, a DFL gubernatorial candidate, is proposing a "Purple Ribbon" panel be formed to discuss a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings.

Kelliher's proposal, which she first suggested publicly Sunday, is the latest evidence that -- even with a series of numbing state budget problems -- the idea of possible public subsidies for a new Vikings stadium is gaining some momentum among top state officials.  Most of the 2010 gubernatorial candidates have generally shied away from discussing the stadium, and a spokesman for Kelliher quickly said the House Speaker also believed Minnesota had higher priorities.

But Kelliher, in a radio interview Thursday, again said that a special panel might be needed to push the topic out into the open because many Minnesotans are talking about it anyway.

"More and more Minnesotans are asking about the stadium situation," said Andrew Wittenborg, a spokesman for the House Speaker, a DFLer from Minneapolis.  "We really need a public place to talk about what happens next."

Wittenborg said Kelliher, who was not immediately available for comment, believed that a special panel would be a "way to protect the public" because many conversations regarding the stadium "tend to happen just behind closed doors."

"If the conversation is going to go forward, it should go forward in public," said Wittenborg.  Kellliher, he added, believes "this is not a top priority for the state. . .she sees a lot of other priorities -- education funding, health care access, things like that.

"But I don't think there's any escaping that this conversation [about a new Vikings stadium] is taking place" already, he added.

The Vikings, who have played in the Metrodome for more than a quarter century, have proposed building a new stadium on the Metrodome site but has seen its plans for public funding for a new stadium stall at the Legislature.  The team's Metrodome lease expires after the 2011 season, and the Vikings have said they do not intend to renew it.


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