Reporting Esme Murphy
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Somewhere in the haze of the past few months of the Vikings stadium debate, I heard someone say if legislators really thought people wanted a Vikings Stadium that they would vote for it.
I honestly can’t remember where I heard it, or who said it. But I kept thinking about it. It was so simple, so basic, so true. And in the end, it was why I was convinced that there was not a chance of a stadium bill getting through the legislature.
A couple of months ago, if you mentioned the topic on the radio, the phone calls and the texts were overwhelming in anger and opposition. But in a remarkable and fundamental turn around, public opinion began to shift and ultimately lawmakers began to soften.
Those involved, including Ted Mondale, the governor’s lead person in the battle, point to the visit to the state capitol by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney late last month as the key turning point.
It was obvious then that the league was backing the Wilfs in their demand that the stadium vote happen this session. The Vikings blew out their website, listing legislators’ emails and phone numbers, and urging fans to contact them.
Mayor R.T. Rybak held a news conference with unemployed construction workers, framing the issue as a job creating public works project. And Gov. Mark Dayton and two Republican legislators, Sen. Julie Rosen and Rep. Morrie Lanning, simply never gave up.
It was memories of the shutdown last summer that had me convinced partisan paralysis would once again rule the day.
And it almost did.
Maybe the chants of “Skol Vikings” echoing through the capitol swayed some votes. In the end, legislators decided this is what the people and they themselves wanted — a guarantee that the Vikings would be the “Minnesota Vikings” for at least another generation.