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Dayton signs Vikings stadium bill amid cheers, jeers, familiar faces

Accompanied by singing supporters and chanting protesters, Gov. Mark Dayton praised the bipartisan effort that led to final passage.

Wilf brothers and Gov. Dayton

Accompanied by singing supporters and chanting protesters, Gov. Mark Dayton signed the Vikings stadium bill Monday.

That leaves one final step before the project can move forward — approval by the Minneapolis City Council.

A crowd turned out at the Capitol for the ceremonial signing, and most of the lawmakers who made the bill happen joined Dayton and Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf on a temporary stage set up in the Capitol rotunda.

Many of the Vikings fans that lawmakers came to know over the course of the stadium debate showed up for the proceedings, along with a small group of protesters.

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They crowded in to celebrate — or jeer at — the governor and his efforts to bring the $975 million project to completion. The Legislature passed the legislation in a marathon session last week before adjourning for the session.

The hotly contested bill passed with bipartisan support and opposition from both lawmakers and the public. It faced criticism from anti-gambling forces and from the most conservative and most liberal lawmakers who don’t favor large public subsidies for a private sports team.

But the upbeat lawmakers on Monday were insistent that the bill is a winner.

“Let’s celebrate this achievement because we did good,” said GOP Sen. Julie Rosen, the bill’s chief Senate author. “We moved this state forward, and now the real work begins.”

The governor, legislators and the team’s owners often had to shout to be heard over protests from activists with the Welfare Rights Committee, who challenged them at every turn.

Shouts of “Shame! Shame! Shame! Shame!” mixed in with the lawmakers’ triumphant speeches, and Dayton had to pause for a minute because the yelling was so loud.

Right before remarks from the Wilf brothers, the protesters screamed: “Zygi got bailed out, we got sold out!”

Fans, meanwhile, broke out into a chorus of “Skol Vikings.”

Dayton — as he did at a similar confrontation when as he signed the early Medicaid opt-in during his first days as governor last year — acknowledged people’s right to disagree with him.

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“These bills that involve major public investments are understandably controversial,” he said. “They’re hotly debated. They’re closely inspected.”

He added: “This is the rotunda of our democracy in the state of Minnesota.”

The stadium is expected narrowly to pass the Minneapolis City Council later this month, and Dayton said one of his top priorities is naming the members of the sports authority that the bill created.

The governor was guarded when reporters asked if passage of the stadium bill marked a personal success for him. He noted the urgency that he and others felt when working to keep the Vikings in Minnesota, saying that one of the main reasons a bipartisan group of legislators supported the bill.

“They really put it on the line for all of us, the legislative leaders, that this might be our only chance. This might be our last chance,” he told reporters after the event. “They didn’t make any threats. They didn’t try to predict the future … but they made it clear, the Vikings want to stay here. The league wants the Vikings to be here. Nnow it’s up to us.”