- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 8, 2012

ST. PAUL, MINN. (AP) - After years of setbacks, the Minnesota Vikings can finally point to a major victory in the franchise quest for a new stadium. Tuesday could make it two in a row.

The Minnesota House voted 73-58 on Monday for a stadium financing proposal. In the process, lawmakers substantially raised the required private contribution toward the $975 million facility, a change Vikings‘ owners find troubling.

The state Senate planned to act on a competing version Tuesday. Passage there would send the bill into final negotiations and put the team closer than ever to a replacement for the aging Metrodome. The Vikings have been after a new stadium since the mid-1990s.

“It was the first hurdle, a couple more to go,” Vikings vice president Lester Bagley said after Monday night’s vote, which would be the first of four needed before a plan can reach a supportive Gov. Mark Dayton.

Bagley said the team’s owners aren’t prepared to shell out $105 million more _ beyond a prior $427 million private commitment _ toward construction of the stadium in downtown Minneapolis. But lawmakers will have the final say on how big a taxpayer subsidy is provided.

The bill passed with support of more Democrats than Republicans despite the GOP controlling that chamber. It reflects a hard push by organized labor, which promoted the Vikings stadium as a much-needed boost for the construction sector.

Dayton hailed the vote by thanking fans who have flooded lawmakers’ 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. He urged fans to keep up the pressure in the days ahead.

Toward the end of a nearly nine hour House debate, 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 on a Vikings Sunday, 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.

“It might not make sense in dollars and cents,” Hosch said, adding, “I can’t imagine a state without the Vikings.”

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 the stadium debt in direct competition with schools, nursing homes and other valued programs.

The plan negotiated last winter by the governor, key lawmakers, the Minneapolis mayor and the team would have the Vikings cover about $427 million of the construction costs. 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.

Story Continues →