Minn. House approves revised Vikings stadium bill

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Ponder drew cheers when he said, “I want to be here in Minnesota for the rest of my life.”

The Vikings have pushed for a new stadium for more than a decade, but their efforts went nowhere until their lease at the Metrodome expired. Rep. Morrie Lanning, the bill’s sponsor, said the team likely would leave the state if the legislation fails.

“Whatever you think of this bill, this is our one chance,” said Rep. John Kriesel, R-Cottage Grove. “This bill works, it’s been fine-tuned and it will build a stadium.”

The House is the first test for a proposal that must also clear the Senate and likely would face House-Senate negotiations before another round of votes.

The plan negotiated by the governor, key lawmakers, the Minneapolis mayor and the team would have the Vikings cover about $427 million of the construction costs, or about 44 percent. The state would pay $398 million, with the money coming from an expansion of gambling. The city of Minneapolis would kick in $150 million by redirecting an existing hospitality tax.

The amendment raising the team’s share won strong bipartisan approval. Another would give the state a bigger share of any proceeds from a team sale once the stadium is built.

A plan to pay the state’s share through a gambling expansion survived an attempt to remove it when House members turned back a push to replace that money with fees on tickets, concessions and other fan purchases.

The Vikings will play the upcoming season at the Metrodome but are free to leave after that. The team hasn’t threatened to move, but fans fear they could relocate to Los Angeles or another city seeking its own football team.

“If they don’t do it now, they’re out in LA by next year, or someplace else,” said J.P. Charney, 24, of Minnetonka, who came to the Capitol with his brother to support a new stadium.

Dayton made the stadium issue his top priority last fall, urging lawmakers to act to avoid losing a valuable asset. Dayton has also touted the thousands of jobs that stadium construction would bring.

The governor has acted as lead cheerleader for the project, joining in chants of “Build it!” in a raucous rotunda rally with construction workers before the House debate Monday.

“Minnesota’s a can-do state,” he told the crowd. “We’ve been successful because we say, `Yes we’re going to move ahead. Yes, we’re going to create more jobs. Yes, we’re going to do the things we want to do to remain vital and strong.’”

Supporters weren’t ready to predict passage. The legislation appeared all but dead until NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell visited in April, raising pressure on lawmakers to act. After that, the bill limped through several committees.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said stadium supporters picked up momentum after fans and construction workers mobilized to support the project over the weekend. Dayton appeared at rallies at the Mall of America on Saturday and a Minneapolis sports bar on Sunday.

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