Editorial: Strong leadership led to stadium deal

  • Updated: May 11, 2012 - 12:07 AM

Dayton deserves much of the credit, but he wasn't alone.

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Sen. Julie Rosen, the author of the stadium bill, celebrated the passage of the bill with a few Vikings fans outside the Senate chambers late Tuesday night, May 8, 2012 at the Capitol in St. Paul, Minn.

Photo: Renee Jones Schneider, Star Tribune

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Gov. Mark Dayton's savvy and indefatigable advocacy for a new Vikings stadium represents the kind of executive leadership Minnesotans should applaud.

Unlike his predecessor, Dayton did more than occasionally lead cheers for the Vikings -- he delivered on a key campaign promise to the people of Minnesota despite significant political risks.

The threat that the Vikings would have left Minnesota without a stadium deal this year was real, although to their credit the team and NFL leadership negotiated in good faith. Had this market lost the franchise, we no doubt would have seen an expensive reprise of the effort to bring big-league hockey back to the state after the North Stars left for Dallas.

Thursday's passage of a stadium bill ends years of debate over the future of the team and the outdated Metrodome. Dayton deserves much of the credit, but he was not alone in the effort.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak was the architect of a pending city plan that will also finance the renovation of Target Center and provide modest property tax relief.

Dayton wisely tapped Ted Mondale to be his point person as officials worked through a maze of obstacles.

Vikings owner Zygi Wilf, who could have tired of the political games, will invest almost $500 million in the stadium after patiently waiting in line behind the Twins and the University of Minnesota.

(Disclosure: The current stadium development plan includes one of five blocks owned by the Star Tribune near the Metrodome.)

The stadium bill, and the bonding bill that went before it this week, were exercises in effective bipartisan lawmaking, something that Minnesotans have too seldom seen in recent years. Much credit for that success is owed the stadium bill's Republican sponsors, Sen. Julie Rosen and Rep. Morrie Lanning, both 10-year veterans who understood the need for a broad bipartisan coalition and knew how to build one.

Legislative leaders -- even House Speaker Kurt Zellers, who voted no -- allowed the bill to advance without procedural impediments or partisan hiccups. DFL minority leaders Sen. Tom Bakk and Rep. Paul Thissen functioned as de facto majority leaders as their caucuses provided more votes for the project than the Republican majority caucuses did.

Public interest in the stadium bill and live-streaming coverage combined to give many Minnesotans their closest-ever view of the lawmaking process, though it's regrettable that the opportunity to observe did not extend to Wednesday's conference committee deliberations.

That panel kept a quorum at bay in order to stay within the letter of open-meeting rules while keeping doors closed and reporters out, but in doing so violated the spirit of those rules.

Now that the votes have been counted in St. Paul, the state's attention turns back to Minneapolis.

Once the Minneapolis City Council signs off on its contribution, we hope city leaders, state officials and the Vikings will continue to work together to ensure that the new home of the Vikings becomes the first-class "People's Stadium" that Dayton has envisioned.

The new facility and surrounding development has the potential to do for downtown Minneapolis what Lucas Oil Stadium has done for Indianapolis. And just as Target Field has brought new energy to the Warehouse District, only a few light-rail stops away a well-executed Vikings stadium project should jump-start postrecession investment on the other side of downtown.

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