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Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published April 17 2012

Next Vikings news about team leaving?

ST. PAUL – The Minnesota Vikings football stadium issue sits on its own one-yard line, 99 yards from a score. It’s fourth down and players await a play call by legislative leaders standing on the sidelines.

Oh, and the clock is nearly at zero and it is not clear the leaders want to move the ball forward.

Supporters of building a $975 million Minneapolis stadium said Tuesday that hope, as slight as it is, remains eternal after a late Monday committee vote rejected a stadium plan. A similar Senate bill has been stalled for weeks.

“It’s going to take some extraordinary moves now to keep it alive,” said Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead.

Gov. Mark Dayton, his chief stadium negotiator and Lanning said the Vikings are likely to leave Minnesota if lawmakers do not approve a stadium. Dayton said legislators must decide next year or the team will move.

“I wouldn’t blame the team for saying they are thinking about moving the team or selling the team,” Lanning said.

Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley refused to say if those options are in play.

“How much patience can you expect a business to have?” Lanning asked.

Lanning, House author of the stadium bill, said leaders of the Republican-controlled Legislature and Democrat Dayton now must take up the issue if it is to have life. He had not talked to them Tuesday afternoon, and they have other views about the situation.

House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, said Dayton and Democratic-Farmer-Laborite leaders must work to get more of their members on board. Dayton said it is up to Zellers and Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, to take the lead.

There was no indication on Tuesday that anyone would make a move to advance the stadium in the waning days of the legislative session. Legislative leaders say they want to adjourn for the year by April 30.

Zellers, Senjem and Dayton met Tuesday, but said they did not discuss the stadium.

Upon leaving the meeting, Zellers told reporters: “If I was the governor, I’d be livid.”

He said pro-labor also should be upset because just one Democrat voted for Lanning’s bill Monday night. Labor and business support the stadium because they say it would provide jobs.

Rep. Michael Nelson of Brooklyn Park was the only Democrat to vote for the bill in the 15-member committee. Five Republicans joined him in support of Lanning.

The Moorhead lawmaker said he told DFL leaders and Dayton they needed to work with Democrats on the committee to get enough votes to pass the measure.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said Tuesday he thinks the stadium still has a chance, but he provided no road map of how the bill could pass.

“I am confident that legislators will want to create the jobs and benefits that the bill provides for all Minnesotans,” Rybak said.

Minneapolis representatives voted against the stadium in committee.

Rep. Dave Hancock, R-Bemidji, illustrated the problems a stadium faced in the Monday night committee hearing.

“I’m torn,” Hancock said minutes before he voted against the Lanning plan.

While Hancock said he thinks the full House should vote on a stadium, “there are things in this bill I cannot support.”

The first-term Republican said he does not want to expand gambling. Lanning’s plan would allow charitable gambling to expand by using electronic devices for pull tabs and bingo, which state officials say would bring in enough new taxes to repay stadium construction loans.


Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.