Stadium issue must come to end

  • Article by: CHIP SCOGGINS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 8, 2012 - 12:19 AM

The exhaustive debate has reached the point of no return; make a decision and move on.

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Vikings stadium supporters crammed the Capitol Rotunda for a rally to support the Vikings stadium on Monday.

Photo: Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune

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The doors to the state Capitol opened and a rumble of cheers and full-throated rendition of "Skol, Vikings'' echoed off the marble floors and walls.

Fans dressed in Vikings garb with purple paint covering their faces hoisted signs in the air. Union workers stood in lockstep. Some fans tailgated outside. Quarterback Christian Ponder arrived mid-afternoon for a pep rally. Wide-eyed grade school kids touring the Capitol got quite an education Monday. Or at least an interesting story to share with their parents at dinner.

The whole atmosphere felt like the climax to a movie thriller, that anxious moment when you learn whether the main character lives or dies. This is the end, right?

The Vikings finally got their long-awaited stadium vote in the Minnesota House on Monday, and they cleared a significant hurdle after hours of intense debate. The bill passed with 73 "yes" votes, enabling it to see another day, this time in the Senate.

Whatever the outcome, the hope here is for resolution. Yes or no, we need to move on. Everyone involved.

One Vikings fan described Monday's historic vote as "do-or-die." Not literally, of course. But you get the point.

Amid the tension and excitement and rah-rah ruckus, I also sensed fatigue and genuine exhaustion among those involved. They looked emotionally spent. Both sides have battled long and hard, more than 10 years, a campaign that began when Red McCombs owned the team.

"Maybe next year" doesn't seem like an option anymore if it doesn't happen this legislative session. Would anyone honestly have the appetite for another round of this? The debate must have a finish line at some point.

My advice to Vikings owner Zygi Wilf and his family is to put the team up for sale and move on if they suffer a defeat this week. If a stadium doesn't gain approval now, when will it? They've never been this close, but stadium fatigue will only intensify.

The Vikings have played about every card possible to sway support. Adrian Peterson made a surprise visit to the Capitol, Jared Allen attended a pep rally at Mall of America and Ponder mingled with fans and even threw a pass to one. Maybe they should have asked Randy Moss to come back and browbeat legislators in his own unique way.

I won't pretend to know the intricacies of politics in this state and the intense battles required to get things accomplished. This is a complicated issue with numerous points of view that deserve respectful and thoughtful consideration. Many people have poured their heart and soul into trying to solve this debate. Naturally, they have philosophical differences on how to achieve a resolution.

Is a football stadium more important than education or health care? Of course not. Sports always should take a back seat to those things. But if the stadium hits another roadblock this week, we should expect consequences and not just take for granted that the Vikings are too popular and too important to ever leave. Eventually, the "or else" part of the equation will come into focus.

This is an emotional issue for many people, which was evident at the Capitol on Monday. People on both sides voiced their feelings loudly, but they showed civility too.

A cool scene happened in a corridor during a break in the fan demonstration. Bob Monette, a union carpenter from Aitkin and stadium supporter, sought out Minneapolis resident Angel Buechner, who opposes stadium construction using taxes and general funds. Monette explained that a stadium would create construction jobs and lead to employment opportunities. Buechner talked about her need to fight for those on welfare and the importance of other social programs.

Their fundamental differences didn't result in yelling, screaming or name-calling. They had a cordial conversation during which Monette wrote his name and telephone number on the back of Buechner's poster board. He promised to help Buechner's three sons try and find construction jobs if the stadium bill passes.

Both were passionate in their beliefs. And neither was wrong.

This debate can't go on forever though. Thankfully, the vote Monday night moved us closer to that resolution.

Chip Scoggins • ascoggins@startribune.com

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