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NFL leaders come to town, and stadium bill comes to life

The Vikings stadium proposal, all but dead this morning, has new life after a visit from NFL officials.

The National Football League got its money’s worth from a quick flight to Minneapolis this morning.

A Vikings’ stadium bill, that appeared to be at death’s door Monday night, is alive and well and likely will be moving toward a floor vote before this session ends.

Roger GoodellREUTERS/Mike SegarRoger Goodell

After an hour-long meeting with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell this morning, legislative leaders, Gov. Mark Dayton and NFL executives came to microphones, singing praises of each other and all talking of how the meeting had been “productive.’’

No one would say exactly what was said in the meeting. But the end result was clear: For the first time this session, all leaders were clearly on board for getting a floor vote on the stadium.

House Speaker Kurt Zellers, who has spent most of the session being vague about the issue, and Senate majority leader Dave Senjem, an out-front stadium supporter, were so fired up after the meeting that they were thanking NFL leaders for coming to Minnesota and thanking Dayton for “his leadership.’’

What remains unclear is if, even assuming the bill comes to the floor, there are the votes to pass the $1 billion project.

A former House leader, who was watching the post-meeting news conference, noted that in the past, legislative leaders would have already had “a nose count.’’ Those days are gone.

Zellers might have some arm-twisting strength in the House. But Senjem’s caucus is much more difficult to control.

All leaders agreed that there are bi-partisan supporters of the project; bi-partisan foes.

Looking for support

For his part, Dayton said he’ll do all that he can to find support for the measure.

“I’ll speak at their caucuses, I’ll invite them to my office, I’ll go to their offices,’’ he said of the efforts he’s ready to make to urge legislators to support the bill.

Senate minority leader Tom Bakk, a stadium supporter, vowed that he would make sure there are enough DFL votes to get the measure through a Senate local government committee, which is dominated by Republicans unfriendly to the bill. That bill has been on hold in that committee for weeks.

How did the mood swing so rapidly on the Vikings’ deal?

Goodell insisted the league did not issue any threats, though he did tell legislative leaders, “action needs to be taken now. . . .There were no threats, no threats  at all.  . . .The Wilfs (the Vikings owners) are frustrated but they want to remain here.’’

Apparently, Goodell did tell the leaders that if the bill doesn’t pass, the Vikings’ situation would be seen as a stalemate by league owners. Stalemate is a requirement of the league that allows teams to apply to the league for re-location.

There were different versions from meeting participants whether the subject of Los Angeles was brought up. Senjem said Los Angeles, a possible re-location site for the Vikings, was not a subject of the meeting. Sen. Julie Rosen, the Senate author of the bill, said LA did get mentioned.

Dayton broke the tie on LA. The city was mentioned in the meeting.

Said Dayton, “The commissioner said they’d like a team in Los Angeles, but not the Vikings.’’

Goodell and Andy Rooney II, an owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers who heads the league’s stadium committee, answered very few question.

“They have a plane to catch,’’ said Dayton in explaining to hordes of reporters why they had to quickly get out of town.

Their mere presence for the meeting, Senjem said, “elevated the tone’’of the stadium issue.

Football analogies

Senjem then filled the air with football analogies.

Dave SenjemMinnPost photo by James NordSenate Majority Leader Dave Senjem claimed the presence of NFL officials ‘elevated the tone’ of the stadium debate.

“We’re here to move that ball,’’ Senjem said. “It’s the two-minute drill. We have to move the ball and hopefully get it across the goal line. . . .It’s complicated. But we have to keep working until we find the right play.’’

Rep. Morrie Lanning and Rosen, the authors of the bill, were more optimistic about passage than they’ve been all session.

On Monday night, after the House government operations committee voted against advancing the bill, Lanning had been down and disgusted.

He had said then that someone would “need to pull a rabbit out of a hat’’ to revive the bill this session.

He said this morning the magic had happened. The rabbit had been pulled from the legislative hat.

Both Rosen and Lanning said they expected amendments to their bill.

Look for at least some DFLers to push for more support from business leaders, who have been cheerleaders for the project but have not put any money behind their cheers.  Look for DFLers to suggest a tax on suites as a way to get a little business skin in the game.

All together

What made this meeting different from all of those that had preceded it, Lanning said, was that Goodell, who has met with the authors and the governor, for the first time was in the same room with all legislative leaders.

There apparently was some talk of the politics of the situation. Since the start of the session, most had believed that legislators would try to duck the controversial stadium issue, putting it off for next year.

But Bakk said there are big problems with that approach. Next session, legislators likely will be facing another deficit. Beyond that, as many as a third of the members in the next session will be new, Bakk said.

“It would be only harder next year,’’ Bakk said.

Dayton said NFL executives – and the Vikings – clearly were not inclined to look favorably on the “next year’’ strategy.

“No action [this session] is essentially a ‘no’ on the stadium,’’ Dayton said. “It creates an environment of uncertainty.’’

As always, Dayton used words such as “urgency’’ to describe the status of the Vikings, the stadium and the possibility of re-location.

He talked of the importance of all leaders – Senjem, Zellers, House majority leader Matt Dean, Bakk, House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, Lanning, Rosen and himself—“pulling together.’’

“If we’re truly committed,’’ he said, “it will pass.’’

Comments (9)

  1. Submitted by Tim Walker on 04/20/2012 - 02:37 pm.

    Bring Wilf to the table, darn it!

    It’s all about return on investment. Yes, the state will benefit, but Wilf is asking for the moon, and the sheep at the Capitol are going to give it to him.

    I thought legislators were good at negotiating. Why don’t they bring Wilf to the table and demand he open up his books to show everyone why he needs us to subsidize his business? He won’t do that unless we force him to, and for now, he’s just lying through his teeth and no one is calling him on it.

    If this gets rushed through as it stands now, it is a terrible deal for the state.

  2. Submitted by Solly Johnson on 04/20/2012 - 04:35 pm.


    We are a plutocracy, not a democracy. Goodell meets for an hour with the state brass and everybody is ecstatic after the meeting? There are reasonss that world organizations rank our nation 22nd in honesty in government.

  3. Submitted by Eric Ferguson on 04/20/2012 - 05:10 pm.

    ticket taxes

    Why are ticket taxes off the table? Is the taxophobia so bad they can’t do the obvious? Put a tax on tickets, parking, anything to do with the stadium. If that’s not enough, let’s have an upper income surtax, with “upper income” defined as “being able to afford the luxury boxes”.

  4. Submitted by Bill Kahn on 04/20/2012 - 10:56 pm.

    Throw them out on their ear and

    get real. About the easiest, most dishonest and disgusting way to become super rich is to buy a professional sports franchise, get the public to finance a new stadium, doubling or tripling your investment, and sell.

    George W. Bush got rich this way along with all sorts of others in the 1% of folks who get away with highway robbery every day.

    The Minnesota Legislature is getting ready to commit to the biggest subsidy ever in the history of the NFL to pave the way for an out of state owner to get rich on our dime, and it is just plain idiocy.

    Say no. Call their bluff. Even if it ain’t a bluff, we can do better for our economy by funding things that really put people to work and keep money in the state. If it is about ROI, then we better not invest in a sports stadium; it has been proved as a loser in just about every market our size, and that is unlikely to change. The only folks who win are Wilf, the NFL, and the other owners.

    Don’t build the Vikings a stadium: evict them from the Metrodome and offer it to a Major League Soccer franchise or expansion team.

  5. Submitted by Beryl John-Knudson on 04/21/2012 - 06:45 am.

    Capone was a long time ago, but…

    When the Touchables came to town

    did all the media wear suit and tie?

    and big wheels

    making deals?

    Was twisting-arms the

    weapon-of-the day?


  6. Submitted by Richard Pecar on 04/21/2012 - 09:34 am.

    Which Minnesota voter – either working person or a main street businessperson – can waltz into the statehouse and get the legislative leadership to state, “The writing is on the wall.”

    Regular folks – such as all of us, or groups like the “occupiers” and the “tea partiers” – are relegated to stapling placards on sticks and amassing someplace and pumping our message up and down in the air overhead hoping its read. But, none of us will get special consideration or a special session.

    The legislature would be well-advised to remember the “writing is on the wall” and it’s called “the ballot”.

    My suggestion is voters should remember come November all the chaos caused last year by the GOP legislative leadership shutting down the state and this year are cowering to the moguls of professional football. Did I forget the virtuous tribunal convened by GOP to sack Sen. Koch and her assistant, Mr. Brodkorb?

    Put another way, the legislative GOP leadership can’t block, tackle, throw or catch…they have no qualification to mess around with public/private transactions that will indenture Minnesotans for decades. Plain and simple, it’s the wrong time to spend state money on recreation unless it’s improved fishing and water quality which are counted among hundreds of more important state priorities.

    I say bring back the White Earth Nation and get their proposal published warts and all and put it on the table. It may take some hammering and negotiation between the Vikings and White Earth, but at the end of the day it will be better for the state. All state government needs to do is give a gaming license to the White Earth Nation.

    Then, the so-called job creators would be “the investors” and “the private sector”. We hear the GOP so often singing praise and extolling these folks, I say let’s open the door wide and them walk their talk.

  7. Submitted by Niel Ritchie on 04/21/2012 - 11:06 am.

    Zellars a cheerleader?

    He sure didn’t sound like one on Almanac last night. More like the
    same tentative leader with no intention of twisting any arms for
    anything. I guess he must have been temporarily star struck
    by the Commish.

  8. Submitted by Francis Ferrell on 04/21/2012 - 02:27 pm.

    BUILD IT! USE IT! Make Money from it!

    Can’t anyone see the writing on the proverbial wall? Keep belly aching, complaining, and politically create a brouhaha that will cost 5-15 times more to fix in the near future and you will an economic mess in Minnesota.

    Build the venue and hold the Vikings and owners responsible &/or accountable for every penny subsidizing this venture. Meanwhile, the Vikings owners and players are paying their fair share of MN taxes, too. The Wilfs aren’t the only folks who should be making money off football.

    Build the venue and use it for the people and other activities that helps brings revenues into the state’s treasuries/coffers. This venue belongs to the people of Minnesota. Let the people make a profit for a change. Build the venue. Let the Vikings be the major tenant with certain [spelled-out] agreed rights and responsibilities. The Vikes are the main show here but this is a multiple use facility! The people should be making some green backs, too.

    Build it! Use it! Make Money from it. Show the country that Minnesotans aren’t a bunch of outdoors hicks! Minnesotans can learn from the mistakes and successes of other cities who built stadiums that we love our sports and quality of life. Show we can be progressive with our public works, make money, and be resourcefully beneficial to all our citizens. Build it! Use it! & Be Proud of it!

  9. Submitted by Beryl John-Knudson on 04/22/2012 - 01:23 pm.

    Two domes to worry about and which to choose…

    “…and hold the Vikings and owners responsible&/or accountable for every penny…”

    That will be the day? Responsibility usually happens .how do we hold them responsible? Usually that happens after-the-fact and results in so many headaches called lawsuits defining responsibility that the whole debacle becomes a nightmare?

    The question is…who wants the Vikings? A scrub by any other name should smell so…?

    Sven and Ole may vote for them but Eric the Red would have thrown them off his ship?

    Then again, maybe the state legislators and and visiting guests at the Capital – in the ‘other dome’ – should wear hard hats – or football helmets – to protect themselves from falling debris?

    Speaking of falling debris…I’m out of here….

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