ST. PAUL, MINN. (AP) - The Minnesota Vikings took a giant step Monday night toward a new taxpayer-subsidized football stadium when the state House approved legislation, but lawmakers upped the share the team would have to pay.
Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton hailed the vote by thanking fans who have flooded lawmaker phone lines, email inboxes and the Capitol itself to push for passage. Several stood outside the House chamber singing the team fight song after the vote.
“The voices of the people of Minnesota were heard tonight,” Dayton said.
Vikings vice president Lester Bagley, who has spent about a decade trying to get the team to this stage, also breathed a sigh of relief. But he said franchise owners will find it tough to stomach an amendment that would put the team on the hook for $105 million more.
“There’s time to work on it and get it fixed,” Bagley said. “I don’t want to take away from the moment. It was a great day.”
Early in a nine-hour debate, the House overhauled the proposal to boost the team’s share from the $427 million owners have committed to find from private sources, including the NFL. It was among almost four dozen amendments considered, with relatively few controversial ones succeeding.
Toward the end of debate, House members rose one after another to defend their intention to back or oppose the bill.
Rep. Larry Hosch, DFL-St. Joseph, made it personal. He told of being born during a Vikings game, with his dad having to break away from an overtime game to ferry his mom to the hospital. Hosch said he can’t fathom not having Sunday games to share with his own kids.
Others urged their colleagues not to let nostalgia cloud their decisions on a massive public subsidy.
“Let’s not build a monument to misplaced priorities,” said Rep. Doug Wardlow, a freshman Republican.
Many who were against it raised concerns that the gambling money needed to repay bonds wouldn’t materialize, putting taxpayers on the hook.
“It’s like purchasing a house and hoping you can make the payments,” said Republican Rep. Mary Franson. “We are building a stadium and we are hoping we can make the payments.”
Discussion on the House floor was overshadowed at times by the chants of Vikings boosters rallying in the rotunda outside. Dayton and Vikings players, including quarterback Christian Ponder, fired up purple-clad fans, who chanted, “Build it!”