Senate sacks Vikings stadium study

The team said the rejection sends a bad message to the National Football League, which is meeting this week.

The state Senate on Wednesday rejected a proposal for a $2 million study on how to replace the Metrodome with a new publicly subsidized stadium for the Minnesota Vikings.

The Vikings expressed disappointment at the loss of the study, which was intended to help launch a major campaign during the 2009 legislative session for a $954 million stadium on the Metrodome site in Minneapolis.

The study was stripped from the Senate tax bill on a vote of 41 to 22. It had been approved last week by the Senate Taxes Committee at the behest of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, which owns the Metrodome.

The study would have directed the commission and the Vikings to arrive at a recommendation by January for a new retractable-roof stadium on the Metrodome site.

Funding for the study would have come from Metrodome reserves and the team.

Senators backing the report said they need to know their options before the Vikings' Metrodome lease expires after the 2011 season and the team becomes free to move.

But Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, said that it was "a slippery slope" from a simple study to the large outlay of public funding that the team hopes to obtain for the stadium.

Under the Vikings' plan, public funding would be needed to pay for three-quarters of a $954 million stadium; the balance would come from the team and the National Football League.

"First, you do a study, then you put a little more money into it, then you talk about what kind of taxes to use, and there's never a discussion on whether this is an appropriate role for state government," Marty said.

Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen, who joined Marty in voting against the study, said her concern was that it would come back with a recommendation that local government work with the Vikings to impose a stadium sales tax without a referendum.

'Community approval'

"If local communities want to raise taxes for projects, they should get community approval," Ortman said.

The Vikings don't have a government partner for their proposed Minneapolis stadium. In 2005, they reached a financial deal with Anoka County for a stadium in Blaine, but that fell apart after the Legislature declined to fund a retractable roof and the team turned its sights on Minneapolis.

Lester Bagley, a Vikings spokesman, said Wednesday that team owner Zygi Wilf is attending the NFL's annual meeting in Palm Beach, Fla., and that the Senate's action sends an unfortunate message to the league about Minnesota's interest in a new stadium.

"At some point, state leaders have to engage in problem-solving to solve this issue," Bagley said. "The Vikings have 40 games left on their lease. We have our sleeves rolled up, but we need others to do their part, and in due time."

Gov. Tim Pawlenty criticized the study proposal last week, saying that the issue already had been "studied 15 times."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Kevin Duchschere • 612-673-4455

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