After a day of high drama, a Minnesota Senate panel narrowly approved a public subsidy package Friday for a new Minnesota Vikings stadium and gave the project sudden momentum.
Following a visit to the state Capitol by National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell, the Senate panel voted 8 to 6 to spin forward the plan for the nearly $1 billion stadium in downtown Minneapolis. In doing so, the panel shoved aside – at least for now – an alternative plan to instead build the stadium in Ramsey County’s Arden Hills.
Even Sen. Ray Vandeveer, R-Forest Lake, the Senate panel chair who voted against the project, conceded the stadium’s chances improved Friday. “They’re better with every committee, because the bill becomes more well known and gets more refined,” he said.
For weeks the Senate version of the stadium plan had sat idle after Vandeveer’s panel initially considered the project’s details, but decided not to take a vote. Now, with Friday’s approval, the project will likely go before another Senate panel as early as Monday.
Friday’s Senate action came on a day of renewed optimism for the Vikings stadium, which would have the team contribute $427 million to the project and the state pay $398 million towards it. The city of Minneapolis would also add $150 million to the stadium’s construction.
House Speaker Kurt Zellers, who has long been vague on how much influence he will exert for the project, also contributed to the new stadium energy by predicting Friday the proposal would get floor votes in both the House and Senate before the Legislature adjourns in the coming weeks.
In one key change Friday, the Senate panel added a 10 percent surcharge on stadium suites bought or rented for NFL games.
Vikings vice president Lester Bagley said the team opposed the 10 percent tax on suites because he said it violated the deal the team agreed to when it pledged $427 million to the stadium plan.
“I think it helped to have the commissioner here today,” Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, the chief Senate author of the stadium legislation, said of Goodell. “I feel very good."