ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — The National Football League turned up the heat on the Minnesota legislature on Friday, and now some movement is being made on the Vikings stadium front.
The NFL Commissioner himself delivered a message to lawmakers: It’s now or never for a Vikings stadium.
Several hours after the commissioner’s visit, the stalled stadium started moving again in a Senate committee. A proposed bill for a stadium in Arden Hills was discussed for about an hour Friday afternoon before talks ended without a vote. Lawmakers said it wouldn’t get enough votes to advance.
The committee moved on to discuss the stadium site around the Metrodome. The Minnesota Senate Local Government Committee passed the bill by an 8-6 vote. It now advances to a Senate jobs and economic growth committee for further review.
But, a revived plan isn’t without opposition from lawmakers who think taxpayers should put in less and stadium users more.
“People who benefit from the stadium and use it the most should pay for it,” said Sen. Roger Chamberlain, R-Lino Lakes. “It’s not a stadium we are opposed to, we are working on improving the funding mechanism who pays for it.”
Roger Goodell’s appearance had the feel of a visiting dignitary. The private meeting with Minnesota’s top lawmakers described as “urgent.” And the consequences of not passing a bill for a new stadium: unmistakable.
Meeting privately with lawmakers earlier Friday, the NFL made it clear: It’s a new Vikings stadium or no Vikings.
“There are no implied threats or any threats at all. What we talked about was the importance of creating a solution here,” Goodell said. “It works for the team, it works for the community.”
NFL officials said they wanted to judge the Vikings status for themselves. They emerged from the hour-plus meeting expressing optimism.
“I think the legislative leaders and the governor understand the time is now. Let’s get this addressed,” Goodell said.
The $1 billion Vikings stadium planned for downtown Minneapolis on the site of the current Metrodome is stalled at the Capitol. And only extra-ordinary maneuvering will keep it alive now.
“They served us a reality check,” said lawmaker Julie Rosen, who spoke of a boost to the entertainment and hospitality industry, and a lift in Minnesotan’s spirits, during the Senate committee meeting.
“The restaurants, they have to hire extra people for that day, the amount of revenue generated on game day is tremendous. It’s not just about a stadium on game day, it’s about a feel, a vibe in the state,” Rosen said.
Rosen is one Senator who’s sponsoring the stadium bill. She said the commissioner openly spoke about moving a team into Los Angeles.
“I do believe there is a feeling among some legislators, and even some folks around the state, that they would never leave, so it was good to hear from the NFL…that they do have the right to move or be sold,” Rosen said.
Vikings fans gathered in the Capitol hallways outside the meeting, carrying signs and dressed in purple. They were urging lawmakers to act now.
“It’s the Minnesota Vikings. If they go to L.A. and they rock the colors like the Lakers and they take our name, that’s a travesty,” said Diggs Garza. “Purple and gold belongs here.”
There are 11 days left to get something done before the legislature adjourns.
The stadium plan has several more stops until it hits the Senate floor, but no hearings are scheduled in the House.
After the Senate vote, Vikings spokesman Lester Bagley said he is pleased the bill is moving forward after a week of ups and downs, without much time left.
“This is critical, we need to get this done now, or this team is gone!” said super fan Larry Spooner, who sat through the Senate hearings.
Watch Pat Kessler’s Earlier Report