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Gov. Mark Dayton

Kyndell Harkness, Star Tribune

Vikings stadium talks not dead yet

  • Article by: MIKE KASZUBA and ROCHELLE OLSON
  • Star Tribune staff writers
  • November 3, 2011 - 11:21 PM

Trying to restart momentum on a Vikings stadium deal, Gov. Mark Dayton and legislative supporters said Thursday they will try again for a special session, possibly by late January.

The DFL governor was joined by the two leading Republican sponsors of the stadium bill one day after Dayton said a special session before Thanksgiving was no longer possible, largely because of opposition by GOP House Speaker Kurt Zellers.

"We'll keep moving forward," Dayton said after the meeting. But, he said, the responsibility would now fall to Republican leaders to put together a plan that could win legislative approval. Dayton had planned to release his own proposal on Monday. "It's counterproductive for me to come out ahead with something, because it seems to have the opposite effect," Dayton said.

The latest developments, coming after weeks of high-drama stadium politics, also indicate a growing political rift between Moorhead Republican Rep. Morrie Lanning, the chief House stadium bill author, and Zellers.

"I disagree with it," Lanning said of the House speaker' stadium stance. Lanning said he realized that, in the face of a hot-button issue, Zellers was "going to be reluctant to get too far out in front."

"But there comes a point where leadership has to step forward," he said. "If it has to be those of us who are rank-and-file [legislators] to step forward as leaders, so be it."

Zellers said Thursday that if the new stadium were to last as long as the Metrodome, "it's a 30-year project. We should do it right and we should take our time to do it right. Without question we should have public input. And I don't know that we could get a plan, have that introduced and have the public input in the time that we had."

An angry response

Zellers said he has received angry messages from voters after sending an e-mail to House lawmakers earlier this week in which he said the stadium was not important enough for legislators to meet in special session. One pro-stadium website featured the headline: "How Kurt Zellers killed the Vikings stadium deal."

Zellers said he had made his objections to a special session known to Dayton before, but may have been too mild. "Maybe it was a Minnesota Nice kind of thing and I should have said 'No, It's just a bad idea.' "

Appearing outside the governor's office, Dayton, Lanning and others acknowledged that many hurdles remain, like where to put the stadium and how to fund nearly $650 million in public money.

But the group, which included DFLers, said it would keep working toward a draft bill so public hearings could be held in advance of a special session.

"I would hope that this would be all wrapped up, and put away and done, in a bipartisan spirit before session starts," said Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, the lead Senate stadium legislation author.

Ted Mondale, Dayton's chief stadium negotiator, said stadium supporters were "moving ahead" but added that the issue "probably" would have to wait until the Legislature's 2012 regular session, which starts Jan. 24 and ends in May.

There were signs Thursday that some see the political stalemate as an opening.

While the Vikings continue to insist on the Arden Hills site in Ramsey County, Minneapolis City Council President Barbara Johnson said there should be no rush.

"I like the idea of having some public hearings," said Johnson, who hopes to generate fresh enthusiasm for the three sites Minneapolis has proposed. Too many political leaders, she said, are "only responding to the Vikings. That's a mistake."

A Dayton spokeswoman confirmed that Dayton's deputy chief of staff met with lobbyists from the Mille Lacs and Shakopee tribes last week to discuss the Vikings stadium and a trio of gambling proposals, including electronic pulltabs, racino and a downtown Minneapolis casino, that could help fund the project.

A suggestion that the tribes help finance the stadium has yet to be discussed, but Katharine Tinucci, Dayton's spokeswoman, said the governor is open to it. "If you ask about any form of financing for a new stadium, everything is on the table," she said.

But a tribal contribution isn't very likely, said John McCarthy of the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association. "The revenue that 95 percent of our member tribes make doesn't even come close to covering half of what their needs are -- housing, health care, education, public safety," he said. "And what are you left with? Probably Shakopee. And Shakopee's focus has been to help the other tribes and they've done a lot of philanthropic stuff."

The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community also helped fund the University of Minnesota's stadium, McCarthy said. "But that's the University of Minnesota and that's a lot different than a private corporation that is owned and operated by wealthy people."

Bill Lester, executive director of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, which owns the Metrodome, said the Vikings' Metrodome lease effectively expires Feb. 1. He said he has had no talks with the team to renew it.

Staff writers Rachel E. Stassen-Berger and Mary Lynn Smith contributed to this report. mkaszuba@startribune.com • 651-222-1673 raolson@startribune.com • 651-925-5035

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