Mayor Rybak, Vikings fans finally get to celebrate stadium victory

Vikings superfan Larry Spooner presented Mayor RT Rybak with a 'rock star' trophy for his stadium advocacy.

Larry Spooner can finally rest — or start tailgating.

The Vikings superfan has been attending legislative committee hearings, marathon floor sessions and Minneapolis City Council hearings for months, all in support of getting a new stadium for his beloved football team.

His — and other purple-clad, horn-helmed Vikings fans’ — dream came true on Friday when the Minneapolis City Council — the $975 million stadium plan’s final stop — approved using local hospitality taxes to fund the city’s share of the proposal.

“We finally won the biggest game!” Spooner nearly screamed outside of Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak’s office. “We’ve never had this experience. We’ve always had the rug pulled out from under us. We’ve always been shafted by the refs or shafted by [Council Member] Gary Schiff … this is the first time that we can wake up, and we won!”

Supporters crowded into Rybak’s office after the 7-6 vote, a repeat of Thursday’s preliminary tally.

The full council voted to support a measure that would use hospitality taxes to begin funding their $150 million share of the stadium, plus renovations to the Target Center and Minneapolis Convention Center, once other obligations have been filled. Interest costs will drastically increase the city and state contributions.

The cheering Vikings fans streamed into Rybak’s office before the mayor had a chance to make his way inside. One purple proponent cracked a can of Grain Belt Premium, a “Minnesota beer,” and chugged it out of a drinking horn.

Minutes later, Rybak took a few gulps. He looked relieved.

The fans crowded around Rybak to thank the mayor, but nobody was more vocal than Spooner.

“All Vikings fans have something for Mayor Rybak!” he shouted.

“It has been mentioned many times: people that pass this stadium bill would be treated as rock stars, OK? Right now, Mayor Rybak is ‘Rock Star Rybak,’ ” he said, passing the mayor an electric guitar trophy.

But during the morning debate, opponents of a public subsidy for private sports teams provided a much more sobering picture of what they said the stadium could do to Minneapolis and its residents.

They said continued use of city hospitality taxes would far outweigh any of the property tax reductions that Rybak touted when he shopped around the proposal.

Opponents also said that all Minnesota’s taxpayers should help pay for the team since proponents called it a “statewide asset,” and they contested many of the economic benefits that stadium supporters promised.

“This is too much public cost for not enough public benefit,” Council Member Lisa Goodman, a strong opponent, told her colleagues.

Council Member Gary SchiffMinnPost/James NordCouncil Member Gary Schiff

Council Member Gary Schiff, another vocal opponent, said the council should send the deal back to the Legislature so that it could be funded with another source, such as user fees. He said the city should address more pressing issues.

“We need a fair democracy,” he said. “We need more reasonable and more equitable economic investments. We need the energy that was put into this deal to be placed on the city’s real priorities. We need a blitz on poverty.”

Despite the choreographed opposition and the impassioned speeches, even the detractors knew they’d lose the vote before the meeting started. They’ve known it for more than a month.

So, with the opposition dispatched and the plan moving forward, what’s in the works for Rybak?

He now has to appoint two members to a sports authority and work with city officials to create an implementation board. But Rybak also said he’d take a breather.

“I feel, obviously, incredibly happy to have this over. This has been a bruising fight. I feel in my gut a little like I imagine the Vikings feel after a win. You’re happy you won, but you’ve got to go sit in the hot tub and take care of the bruises for a little bit.”

And, of course, there was one last rendition of “Skol Vikings!”

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Comments (12)

  1. Submitted by Pat McGee on 05/25/2012 - 04:54 pm.

    Rybak drinking on the jo

    Any other City employee would be disciplined up to the point of being fired for having alcohol in the office, much less drinking any! RT is pathetic. Save it for the bar AFTER working hours like every other employee!

  2. Submitted by larry smith on 05/25/2012 - 06:08 pm.

    Sellouts and grown children

    They can shove their lousy deal and lousy team. No more Democrats. Minnesota social services will not be protected by sell-outs, sports flaks, and union pressure. Let’s stop kidding ourselves. They’re for sale.

  3. Submitted by George Kimball on 05/26/2012 - 07:35 am.

    Rybak drinking

    Seriously, P McGee? The comment reeks of sour grapes and over-zealous political correctness. A Viking fan brings the beer in, not Rybak. I could take or leave the new stadium, but geez! Focus on the legitimate stadium bill issues. Not this!

  4. Submitted by Matthew Zabka on 05/26/2012 - 08:55 am.

    Dayton

    I remember when my democrat friends wouldn’t vote for Tom Horner only because Horner wanted to use taxpayer money for a stadium. I hope they all feel silly now.

  5. Submitted by mark wallek on 05/26/2012 - 01:07 pm.

    The worthless dome

    Now that the dome, which the city TAXPAYERS did not want either, is garbage, the only thing the taxpayers get again is the shaft. It’s clear his Highness is on an upwardly mobile path. That just leaves the rest of us to try and hold steady. Who knew, when we were younger, that something as unimportant as pro sport would command such excessive capital sums? And who knew that many pols would cater to this money encrusted class to the detriment of the general population? Our priorities are very clear, but they’re no longer human centered.

  6. Submitted by Pete Barrett on 05/26/2012 - 04:41 pm.

    Times Up?

    Are Mr. Spooner’s 15 minutes up yet?

  7. Submitted by Jeff Thompson on 05/26/2012 - 08:14 pm.

    Thanks

    I want to thank all of the anti-stadium posters over the past few months. While it worries me that people can be so utterly joyless, I have gotten quite a few good laughs out of the comments on these pages. The Rybak drinking in the office post was priceless. Thanks again.

  8. Submitted by Lauren Maker on 05/27/2012 - 03:37 pm.

    Mr. Spooner

    And where does Mr. Spooner live? Plymouth. Sure he’s happy about winning–he gets a new boy toy palace and I get to pay for it. I’m sure he’ll complain about the rough city streets around the new stadium when we don’t have the money to fix them.

    Just check Forbes magazine, Larry–compared to the 49ers, we got royally suckerpunched. They are getting a better stadium and the team is paying for most of it. Just another bad development deal brought to you by the City of Minneapolis.

    • Submitted by Ott Lukk on 05/28/2012 - 12:14 am.

      Agree, this is the ultimate pulltab disaster. A future case study about conned legislators and fiscal irresponsibility.

    • Submitted by larry spooner on 05/28/2012 - 01:35 am.

      boy toy!

      over 500 million dollars will be collected from just they nfl players income taxes for the state over the lease. Are you aware , that 37 million dollars a year will go to charity from the states gaming proceeds? Not just a stadium bill is it?

      • Submitted by Bill Karns on 05/28/2012 - 11:50 am.

        Mortgaging MN future for Vikings is disgraceful

        Income taxes! So what? All of us who work pay income taxes. Does that mean my business deserves an office built by the state? I’d love to see that!

        And charity? Please! If expanding GAMBLING to fund charity was such a great idea, we could do that without any new stadium.

        That Minnesotans are being forced to pay for a stadium we don’t need or want with money we don’t have in order to benefit a fantastically profitable monopoly is disgraceful and shameful.

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