The years-long process for the Minnesota Vikings to get the public funding needed for a new stadium -- a process that had many speculating an "L.A. Vikings" future at its worst moments -- took a major step forward on Monday. The Minnesota House passed an amended stadium bill by a vote of 73-58 that would call for a decrease of $105 million in state contributions to a project that is estimated to cost $975 million.
To date, Vikings owner Zygi Wilf has committed $427 million to the proposed construction, and Wilf said in the past that he would not up the ante on his side. But the new bill calls for the Vikings to spend $532 million, adds $150 million from the City of Minneapolis, and factors in $293 million from the state. Shortfall and overbudget spending, the two things that can make final stadium analysis ugly no matter the venue, are still primary concerns.
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak made his way through ecstatic fans at the State Capitol after the vote, and Gov. Mark Dayton -- who had lobbied heavily for the bill to pass -- said that "the voices of the people of Minnesota were heard tonight."
Things were a bit more subdued on the Vikings' side; understandable as the team now considers the financial ramifications and potential political catastrophe that may occur if the increased obligation makes them balk.
"That particular amendment is not workable," Vikings spokesman Lester Bagley said. "[But] I don't want to take away from the moment." Bagley did not say that the team would reject the proposal in its current form, though.
On the other side, some politicians questioned the wisdom of such spending at a time when every state's budget is stressed to bursting. "Let's not build a monument to misplaced priorities," said Rep. Doug Wardlow, R-Eagan. Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, said that the team's lobbying in conjunction with the governor proved that rich people were "very good at bending the rules" to get what they want, but that the project provided "jobs for construction workers right now."
Grandstanding aside, the next step beyond the presumed Senate approval will be to get everyone on the same page regarding how much the Vikings will spend. It has taken nearly a decade for the process to get this far, with two major steps forward coming when the Vikings agreed to build the new stadium on the site of the old Metrodome, and when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell came to Minneapolis to help the PR effort. Of course, it didn't hurt that the Metrodome roof collapsed in December 2010 following a heavy snowstorm in the area. If Wilf was looking for an assist from Mother Nature to make his point, he certainly got one.
"We've worked particularly close with the Vikings over the last two or three years on plans and designs and steps and obviously it can't help but call attention to the fact that the facility is 28 years old," Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission chairman Roy Terwilliger said at the time. "It's one of the oldest facilities in the NFL. There's a problem when we run this risk of not being able to play a game, because it's a huge economic hit to the team. But the policymakers will handle these issues."
The roof was replaced as a cost of $18.3 million, most of which was covered by insurance. It was the fourth time the roof had collapsed in the building's 30-year history, but the first time in 27 years.