The Minnesota Senate said Wednesday it would hold two public hearings on the possibility of using tax money to help build a Minnesota Vikings stadium.
The first hearing will be held on Nov. 29, with a second on Dec. 6. News of the hearings came as Gov. Mark Dayton and others looked for ways to resuscitate the long-debated stadium amid mounting evidence that the project would not be seriously considered by legislators until at least next year.
Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, the chief author of Senate stadium legislation, quickly praised the hearings but said there are no plans before the hearings to unveil a formal proposal to select a site for the stadium or specify a source for any public subsidy.
The announcement also came as a colorful group of stadium supporters, known as the Viking World Order, marched into Dayton's office at the State Capitol to boost the chances for a new stadium in Ramsey County's Arden Hills. The group, which featured members wearing purple camouflage and face paint, included one man who cried as he sat in the office's reception area and wrote a note to Dayton urging him to get the stadium built.
"It's not about the team, trust me," said a tearful David Willard, whose shoulder-length hair partly covered his Vikings leather jacket. "It's a way of life, the way I was brought up."
The public hearings were called by Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen, who heads the influential Senate Taxes Committee. Dayton called the hearings a "very positive step forward."
Speaking to reporters after meeting with Arden Hills officials Wednesday on stadium issues, the governor said that "hopefully those hearings will present a clear picture, to at least the senators, as to what the options are and where to go from here."
With House Republicans so far downplaying the need for an immediate resolution to the Vikings stadium issue, it was unclear how much impact the Senate hearings would have. House Speaker Kurt Zellers has said he does not think a special legislative session is necessary for the Vikings, whose lease at the Metrodome in downtown Minneapolis expires after this season.
In between the two hearings will come the state's latest revenue forecast, on Dec. 1, with projections of how much the state has to spend over the next two years.
"We are holding these hearings to invite the public and interested parties to come and testify and offer their views," Ortman said. "It is an issue that people are very passionate about."
In a statement Ortman said that based on information provided in those hearings, "we will determine if there is a consensus for further action."
Rosen said the Nov. 29 hearing would focus on the history of the Metrodome, the team's lease and the proposed stadium sites in Arden Hills and Minneapolis.
The Dec. 6 hearing, she said, would discuss possible funding options, including those to expand gambling in the state to help pay for the project. No time or location for the hearings has been announced.
"It was a tremendous first step," Rosen said of the decision to hold hearings.
Mike Kaszuba • 651-222-1673