There’s no formal legislation, and lawmakers still need to pay for state schools and other necessities, but efforts to build a new Minnesota Vikings stadium appear to be heating up in the state Legislature.
A top Democratic senator told the Star-Tribune most of the pieces of a stadium proposal were “pretty much drafted” and that there was plenty of time to pass it before the Legislature adjourns in five weeks.
Earlier Wednesday, Vikings President Mark Wilf told a group of business leaders he was confident the team would be able to strike a deal to get public subsidies for a new stadium. The estimated price tag now sits at an estimated $870 million.
“There’s five weeks to go in our legislative session here, and we’re confident that we can still reach a resolution to get a stadium solution,” he said. “We feel something will get done this session.”
Lester Bagley, director of the Vikings’ stadium development efforts, said a public subsidy request would likely include a number of different revenue streams and legislative leaders and business officials were privately discussing which package would likely get the most support.
There’s “progress every day about sorting out how and when to position the issue, and move it forward,” Bagley said.
The Vikings’ lease at the Metrodome expires after the 2011 season, and team officials have said they will not consider an extension of that lease without a stadium deal.
Recently, the team has outlined a proposal to use a metro-wide hospitality tax, divert sales taxes already generated by the team and even federal stimulus money for a new stadium.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty has been opposed to the idea of using public funds for a new stadium, but has also increasingly commented on the need to find a stadium solution.
In February, he floated the idea of using proceeds from a state lottery game to build a Metrodome replacement.
Timing will be key to moving any of these ideas forward.
With just five weeks left in the legislative session, Minnesota lawmakers have yet to fund K-12 education and health and human services or make the cuts needed to balance the state budget. They also have a $2.7 billion court case looming over Pawlenty’s state aid cuts to municipalities. If the state loses, officials will have to cough that money back up to cities and towns statewide.
Outwardly, at least, the Legislature has had little to say on the stadium issue so far this year, and polls are still showing widespread opposition to public financing of a new Vikings stadium.
But supporters are hoping to capitalize on next week’s regular season opener at Target Field, the new publicly subsidized home of the Minnesota Twins that’s winning rave reviews from fans and the media.
“I think it helps,” said Roy Terwilliger, chairman of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, which owns the Metrodome. “I think [Target Field] causes people to realize [the Metrodome] is an old … facility.”
Granted, few people have complained about the public money used to build the new field as it debuted this spring, something one Senate leader said people tend to forget once the actual legislation passes.
But the odds are still stacked highly against the Vikings in this battle. Team officials may be on the verge of cobbling a new stadium proposal together, but don’t look for it to go anywhere anytime soon.