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A Vikings fan shook hands with House stadium bill sponsor Rep. Morrie Lanning in the hallway after the Vikings stadium passed in the Senate on Thursday.

Renee Jones Schneider, Dml - Star Tribune

Hartman: Rep. Lanning says bill was nearly dead

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN
  • Star Tribune
  • May 12, 2012 - 11:45 PM

Rep. Morrie Lanning, one of the co-authors of the Vikings stadium bill in the House, said he thought the bill was dead at one point when the Wilf family refused to add the $50 million to the team's original announced contribution of $427 million.

"The very night that we finally put the deal together, we were trying to get the Vikings to agree to what we thought we needed in order to get the votes in the Legislature and they didn't really respond in a positive way," the Republican from Moorhead told WCCO radio. "I was beginning to think on Wednesday night that maybe we weren't going to get this done, but finally they did come through.

"The Vikings agreed to putting in another $50 million, which was a pretty substantial financial commitment, and that's what we needed, quite frankly, to get the votes and seal the deal."

Lanning said that if Zygi Wilf and Co. had refused to come up with the additional $50 million, the plan was "to go ahead and pass the bill requiring the $50 million and then put [the Vikings] in the position of, 'OK, are you going to do this or not?' And then it would have been totally on their shoulder at that point. We weren't going to pass up the opportunity to vote on it. We would have voted on it with or without the Vikings support.

"That was a bargaining position. It passed the House, had overwhelming support in the House. I think the message from that was, 'Vikings, you need to come up with more.' ... What the amendment did was it underscored the importance that the Legislature felt for the Vikings putting more on the table."

Lanning also mentioned how important the response of Vikings fans was to the process.

"We had a tremendous outpouring of support from people all over the state, from out of state, and I think legislators came to realize that this was an issue we had to address. I think that kind of sealed our fate with the tremendous response we had from people all over," he said. "I've never given up hope. There have been some dark days and some very difficult situations we had to deal with. I must admit that even on Wednesday night there was a moment where I thought this wasn't going to happen."

Lanning said he didn't believe that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's appearance at the Legislature last month was the key turning point, but he said it certainly helped get the bill passed and created a tremendous sense of urgency.

"No. 1, the NFL really wanted to see this deal done, they really wanted the Vikings to stay, and I think it also underscored the importance of recognizing that if we said no or if we didn't do anything, there are others out there standing in line ready to buy this franchise or move this franchise. It was a significant event," Lanning said.

Numbers will work

Lanning said he has no doubt that the numbers to finance the project "will be there and maybe even more than projection showed."

"Obviously, any time you have a new venture, you run some risks that it won't materialize, but pulltabs have been around for 30 years, bingo has been around for a lot longer here in Minnesota," he said. "What this proposal does is to modernize those forms of gaming, providing the opportunity to do it electronically. I think we believe that is going to generate more revenue for all of the charities, all the businesses that host charitable gaming, and we believe it is going to generate substantial revenues for the state of Minnesota."

He added: "We will have additional revenues that we can have available to us should -- in the initial phase of this, the first year or so -- [we] not have the new revenues come in as projected. Then we also have the so-called 'blink-on' provisions, which is a sports-themed lottery game that will be put in effect if the revenues aren't there. Secondly, a tax on all of the luxury suites and the people who are paying a premium to have special seating at the games -- they'll be paying an additional tax."

City Council has final say

Lanning touched on the final issue with the stadium bill, the vote of the Minneapolis City Council. The council provisionally agreed to a bill with a 7-6 vote, a vote it has to recommit to now that the bill has been signed into law.

"Should the Minneapolis City Council change their view -- any one of them that voted for it before now vote no -- this deal is dead," he said. "We would then have to revisit this whole thing again next year, which would be a very sad state of affairs for Minnesota and for all the people who are now thinking and believing that we have a deal.

"In the legislation, it requires that the Minneapolis City Council has 30 days to confirm this deal. If they weren't to do that, we would be back at square one."

Jottings

• Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman said the fact that the coaching staff was able to coach one of the teams in the Senior Bowl before the draft was a huge benefit. Leslie Frazier’s staff guided the North team to a 23-13 victory over the Mike Shanahan-led South in January in Mobile, Ala. “We had a goal set before we went down there and talking with Coach Frazier and our coaches, we said: 'Let’s take advantage of this opportunity, we should know everyone here at the Senior Bowl better than everyone,’ ” Spielman said. “They had them in meetings, they found out how they learned, how smart they are, they got to actually coach them on the field, they got to coach them during a game to see how they react during the game.”

• What was interesting about the comments from Ted Mondale was that the plan for the new Vikings stadium will include better views for baseball fans than the Metrodome. Mondale is Gov. Mark Dayton’s right-hand man on the stadium. The Metrodome has at times been used 18 hours in a day with a number of outstate and local baseball teams playing at all hours. That can continue with the new stadium.

• Gophers wrestling coach J Robinson was named the Dan Gable Coach of the Year, the third time he has received the prestigious honor. He led the Gophers to a second-place finish in the NCAA championships, and the Gophers finished with seven All-Americas, the most of any school.

• Bemidji State product Matt Read had a great season for the Philadelphia Flyers, leading NHL rookies in goals with 24. He also had three goals and five assists in 11 playoff games.

• The Celtics’ Kevin Garnett showed he can still dominate, as the former Timberwolves star had 28 points and 14 rebounds to knock out Atlanta on Thursday and 29 points and 11 rebounds in Saturday’s opener vs. Philadelphia.
 

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