By Mike Kaszuba
Outgoing Sen. Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing, said Thursday that -- if asked -- he would sponsor legislation calling for public subsidies for a new Minnesota Vikings stadium.
"If they're looking for somebody to take the hit for the team, that would be me because I'm not running again," said Murphy, who acknowledged that any legislator sponsoring stadium legislation would be in the midst of a swirling controversy. "I've talked to [the Vikings] on several occasions. . .if they asked me to carry a bill, I'd carry a bill."
Murphy however said he thought there was "probably [a] 50-50 proposition" that stadium legislation would be introduced this year at the State Capitol and acknowledged that the chances of it passing were "probably pretty low."
"I'm saying we need to do some real hard work this session," Murphy said. "If we can't get something through this year, we need to set it up so that the discussion is carried on, and that there's an actual vote on that issue at least next year."
The Vikings, who have played at the Metrodome for more than 25 years, have said they will not renew their lease, which expires after the 2011 season. The Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, the owners of the Metrodome, has unveiled an updated plan for a new $870 million stadium that would be built on the Metrodome property.
Although the Vikings have not yet announced a funding plan for the project, the team and others -- including Gov. Tim Pawlenty -- have in recent months suggested a variety of possibilities including a metrowide hospitality tax, lottery proceeds and even using President Obama's federal stimulus program.
So how would he sell using public subsidies for a football stadium at a time Minnesota's economy continues to sputter? "It's jobs. It's jobs," Murphy replied. "Everybody's complaining about the lack of jobs.
"It probably doesn't have overwhelming support throughout the state," Murphy said of the stadium. "But I think that that would turn right around if people actually sat down and looked through the financial information that. . .the team has put out."