Page 2 of 2 Previous

Continued: Zellers walks fine line on stadium

More than 50 days after he gaveled the Minnesota House into session, Kurt Zellers remains a puzzle to those who want a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings.

With the $975 million proposal teetering in the balance and the Legislature edging closer to adjourning, no one person at the State Capitol is likely to have more to say about what happens to the stadium this year.

Unless the plan passes a legislative committee Friday -- there are no hearings scheduled -- it will need a procedural exemption in the House and Senate to stay alive this session. While Senate Majority Leader David Senjem has indicated he will grant the exemption, Zellers, the Republican speaker of the House, has refused to say what he will do.

The five-term legislator from Maple Grove, a football fan and former college football player, has said that he will not grant the project any legislative favors. He says he is unlikely to decide Friday but could still rescue the plan late in the session by supporting its revival.

It's a disconcerting position for stadium supporters, who say they have been confounded by how little the speaker has done to help the project.

Only last week, Zellers was asked if he would make calls to fellow House members in search of votes if the measure was just a few votes shy of passing. "No. Again, it's the advocates' " job, he said.

"I think he's under a lot of pressure, but he hasn't said that," said Rep. Joe Hoppe, R-Chaska, chairman of the House panel where the stadium project will have its first hearing -- if there is one. Hoppe said he believed that, should a stadium plan that does not rely on state general fund money come forward, Zellers would not stop the project.

"I asked him how he's doing," Hoppe said. "He's like, 'What pressure?'"

The pressure however is visible and comes almost daily.

When the 70-page stadium legislation was made public a week ago, Gov. Mark Dayton's first stop that morning was a private meeting in Zellers' office to lobby for the stadium.

Business leaders such as Ecolab CEO Doug Baker Jr. and U.S. Bancorp CEO Richard Davis have joined the stadium lobbying, focusing on House and Senate committee leaders and Zellers. With Dayton and Senjem already strong stadium supporters, Zellers is a major wild card. Adding to the uncertainty is that Zellers is acutely aware that approving public subsidies for a Vikings stadium does not poll well and could jeopardize the Republicans' 72-62 majority in the House.

So business leaders, who have close ties to Zellers and many top Republican legislators, have visited him regularly, sometimes one by one, stressing privately that the business community will support the plan and provide political cover for him and other nervous legislators.

"I have met with some of these business leaders," Zellers said.

They made a simple request, he said: "If they can get a deal done, that I am not going to squash it."

Zellers said he told them he would not stand in the way but also stressed that he will not lobby wavering legislators. For now, business leaders continue pressing Zellers to do more than stand on the sidelines.

Stadium supporters, however, have more to worry about at the State Capitol than just Zellers. That was evident Wednesday, when a Senate panel, after giving the proposal its first legislative hearing, abruptly adjourned without voting when it became apparent there were not enough votes to pass the plan.

Rep. Mark Buesgens, R-Jordan, said Zellers -- at least in the House -- remains a key. "There's pressure, but I think it's from two sides, not one," Buesgens said. "One side [is saying], 'What the hell are we doing even talking about this?'

"The other side [is saying], 'Get this damn thing done,'" Buesgens said. "I'm sure he's [between] a rock and a hard place right now. I don't envy him that position."

Rep. Mindy Greiling, DFL-Roseville, said she suspects much of the pressure to do nothing comes from Zellers' own House Republican caucus. "He has to speak for them. If he doesn't, he could be out on his ear. So, they are his first masters," she said.

"He has to put up a good game for the business interests," Greiling said.

Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, said Zellers was employing a "duck-and-cover" political strategy on the stadium to avoid taking a stand. "What's driving him? Fear," Winkler said.

"Why would the speaker of the House want to raise revenue for a stadium when [the Republicans] shut down state government last summer because they didn't want to raise revenue?" he asked.

At times, however, Zellers has indicated that he was moving toward supporting a Vikings stadium. When the Legislature convened in late January, the House speaker raised eyebrows with his comments. "When you look at where we've come, even in the last six weeks -- let alone six months, or a year -- we've actually now kind of gotten down to a point where we're site-specific," he said at the time.

Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, chairman of the House Taxes Committee, said that he wants to give the stadium plan a hearing, but that he remains unsure where Zellers stands. "I haven't visited with him recently about the Vikings," Davids said. "I probably should stop down, and kind of see what the plan is."

Mike Kaszuba • 651-222-1673

  • related content

  • Passage of new Vikings stadium

    Sunday May 12, 2013

    Complete Star Tribune coverage of Vikings stadium proposal.

  • Gov. Mark Dayton recently made a trip to House Speaker Kurt Zellers’ office to try to get his support for the stadium bill. Zellers has said he won’t block the project, but he has said he would not call legislators to request their support for it.

  • Rep. Kurt Zellers has not said whether, as House speaker, he will grant an exemption to continue talks on the plan for a new Vikings stadium.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

NY Mets 3 FINAL
St. Louis 2
Pittsburgh 4 FINAL
Atlanta 2
Miami 7 FINAL
Washington 11
Detroit 4 FINAL
Philadelphia 4
Minnesota 6 FINAL
Baltimore 5
NY Yankees 7 FINAL
Houston 0
Tampa Bay 2 FINAL
Boston 3
Baltimore 4 FINAL
Toronto 2
Cincinnati 8 FINAL
LA Angels 6
Chicago Cubs 7 FINAL
Kansas City 0
Los Angeles 9 FINAL
San Francisco 11
Chicago WSox 4 FINAL
Cleveland 1
Milwaukee 0 FINAL
Oakland 7
Seattle 5 FINAL
San Diego 8
Texas 5 FINAL
Los Angeles 10
Colorado 11 FINAL
Arizona 10
Arizona 1 FINAL
Colorado 2
Houston 99 FINAL
Washington 91
LA Lakers 99 FINAL
Brooklyn 107
Minnesota 88 FINAL
New Orleans 110
Philadelphia 86 FINAL
Cleveland 87
Detroit 102 FINAL
Miami 109
LA Clippers 119 FINAL
Boston 106
Dallas 99 FINAL
Indiana 104
Memphis 89 FINAL
San Antonio 103
Oklahoma City 109 FINAL
Phoenix 97
Washington 5 FINAL
NY Rangers 2
Calgary 5 FINAL
Nashville 2
Boston 2 FINAL(OT)
Carolina 1
Detroit 4 FINAL
NY Islanders 5
Florida 4 FINAL
Ottawa 2
Anaheim 2 FINAL
New Jersey 1
Chicago 4 FINAL
Winnipeg 3
San Jose 2 FINAL(SO)
Pittsburgh 3
Michigan State 76 FINAL
Louisville 70
Gonzaga 52 FINAL
Duke 66
Philadelphia 0 FINAL
Chicago 1
Toronto FC 1 FINAL
Real Salt Lake 2
(7) Florida State 74 FINAL
(3) South Carolina 80
Villanova 70 FINAL
West Virginia 75
Michigan 69 FINAL
Southern Miss 60
Temple 69 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 57
Siena 50 FINAL
Louisiana 52
St Marys-CA 66 FINAL
UCLA 82
(5) Baylor 68 FINAL
(2) Notre Dame 77
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami NoonX37-35
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago NoonX13-9

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: What should the Vikings do with Adrian Peterson?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close