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Fourth and long: Vikings stadium creeps back into the legislative session

Just a week ago, conventional wisdom around the Capitol said the Vikings stadium was verboten — what with the bridge collapse, the state’s dreary economic picture and much work to do on major transportation, health care and bonding bills.

Well, guess what? Conventional wisdom at the Capitol doesn’t count for squat. Talk of a new home for the Purple poked up in a Senate Taxes Committee Thursday morning, to the chagrin of some and the surprise of many.

“A small step forward in terms of the discussion about the future of professional football in Minnesota,” is how Sen. Dan Larson, DFL-Bloomington, introduced an amendment to the Senate’s omnibus tax bill, Senate File 2869. “It gets the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission [MSFC] and the Vikings together to provide some background information and do some initial work that would be provided then to the 2009 legislative work.”

And with that, Larson turned it over to Roy Terwilliger, a former state senator who is now chair of the MSFC, which owns the dome. Smart move by the Vikings to send Terwilliger to do the dirty work, and he pulled the “listening tour” card — saying that the MSFC had gone around the state to get citizen input on the “need to have a … multi-purpose stadium” that can be used year round. See, it’s not a stadium for the Vikings, it’s a stadium for Minnesota. (He mentioned something about trying to land a Final Four Friday).

He went on to note that owner Zygi Wilf has made no threats to move the team, but that the Vikes do rank dead last in the league in stadium revenue.

Terwilliger talked about the “urgency” of the issue because it takes 32 months to “reconstruct” such a facility on the grounds of the Metrodome. See, they aren’t building a new stadium, they’re reconstructing an old one.

Terwilliger emphasized that such a stadium would utilize existing infrastructure, and talked about a retractable roof. Then he said the team and the Vikings and MFSC would share the cost of a $2 million study for such an undertaking — costs, resources, revenues, etc. But delaying a study could cost $40 million to $50 million because of inflation.

The usual suspects stepped in to howl. Sen. John Marty, a DFLer from Roseville and longtime stadium opponent, said the “listening tour,” to some, was a “promotion” for a new stadium.

“This is based on the assumption that we should be building the new publicly financed, at least, part of a new NFL stadium,” Marty said, “and I guess I don’t think that’s the appropriate role of the commission. …This is the first step in the state making a commitment to putting hundreds of millions of dollars into a football stadium.”

Marty, in other words, thought the MSFC was playing for the team, assuming the Legislature would approve funding for a stadium, and using its resources to simply promo a stadium that many “Minnesotans think is a lousy idea,”

But Marty’s colleagues on the committee apparently didn’t share Marty’s view. By a 9 to 4 vote, the panel authorized the study, to be completed and presented to lawmakers by January next year.

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