Vikings owner Zgyi Wilf Thursday had chats with lawmakers -- and Gov. Mark Dayton.
"It wasn't planned," Dayton said of his meeting with Wilf.
The governor had an unrelated meeting at the University Club Thursday night, the same day Wilf made a 'surprise' visit to the Minnesota Capitol. Dayton said Wilf was also in the University Club that evening and Lester Bagley, Vikings' lobbyist, realized it would be an opportunity to bring the two together.
"it was an informal conversation," Dayton said. He said Wilf seemed "hopeful and I said I was hopeful (a new Vikings stadium) would be passed through the legislative process this session."
Dayton said his hopes rest, in part on the fact that: "We have some very good authors in both the House and the Senate and bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate."
Dayton said since the 10 minute chat wasn't planned, it didn't delve into details.
"I wasn't planning on meeting with him so I didn't have anything specific to discuss," the governor said. Their chat ranged from the fact that Wilf's 26-year-old son just got married (and Dayton's slightly older sons are still single) to Dayton's belief that a statewide car rental tax and a metro hotel tax should be part of the package.
Mike Kaszuba, Baird Helgeson and Rachel E. Stassen-Berger
Minnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wilf visited the Capitol on Thursday to meet with legislators and express his hope that a stadium deal could get done soon.
“We’re confident that we have the parts in place to get this done this session,” Wilf said in a brief news conference. "I am optimistic it will get done this session."
Wilf said he believed the team was close to securing a local governmental partner, which could be a crucial lynchpin for legislators critical of a new stadium as the state faces a $5 billion deficit.
"We are working with several potential partners and hopefully in the near future we will come up with one that can work," he said.
Wilf was thin on details, declining to answer more probing questions about financing, possible stadium sites or what happens if no deal is reached.
“Our goal," he said, "is making sure the Vikings play in the state of Minnesota.”
He echoed Gov. Mark Dayton’s assertion that the new stadium would not solely be a Vikings stadium, but rather a multi-use facility for other hallmark sports and entertainment events.
But he said the Metrodome is "antiquated" and no longer a suitable home for the team.
Wilf said he wants to make sure the new facility is “the best project that Minnesotans and our fans can get.”
The Vikings owner created quite a spectacle as the House was in session.
Before the news conference, Wilf walked through the marble halls of the Capitol chatting with staffers and legislators. He drew throngs of journalists who followed him to offices of legislators before he met with them privately.
Among those meeting with him: Rep. Kate Knuth, DFL-New Brighton, Rep. Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights, Rep. Terry Morrow, DFL-St. Peter.
Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, met with Wilf earlier in the day in Lanning's Capitol office.
Lanning, the sponsor of a bill that sets out a blueprint to get the Vikings a new stadium, called it a "courtesy visit" and said Wilf offered no breakthroughs in the ongoing negotiations to find a local government partner to help fund a stadium.
"We stand a better chance of moving this forward if we have a local partner," said Lanning.
Lanning said it was important for Wilf to come and meet key players “and show they are trying to put together a deal.”
“They’ve got a lot of money they need to come up with,” he said.
Knuth said she met with Wilf in the hallway because of Ramsey County's interest in hosting the Vikings stadium in her district in Arden Hills.
"I'd like to see him bring more to the table," she said, referring to the proposed legislation that would have the Vikings pay roughly a third of the stadium's cost.
"Right now, you've got the public paying two-thirds," she said.
Baird Helgeson contributed to this post.