A Minnesota Senate committee narrowly approved a public subsidy on Friday to help the Vikings build a new football stadium, reviving the team’s struggling effort just hours after NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell visited the state Capitol to jumpstart what had been a stalled stadium debate.
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The Senate’s Local Government and Elections Committee passed the bill on an 8-6 vote after a hearing that stretched nearly four hours. While the stadium bill still faces a long haul in the waning days of Minnesota’s legislative session, the committee’s vote gave it new life four days after a companion bill’s defeat in a House committee sparked near panic among supporters.
"We’re very pleased with the progress and that the bill moved forward," Lester Bagley, the Vikings’ vice president for stadium development, said after the Senate committee vote. "It’s been an up and down week, touch and go."
The setback in the House had prompted the visit Friday by Goodell. He ad Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney II met Friday morning with Gov. Mark Dayton and legislative leaders to stress the urgency of resolving the Vikings’ decade-long pursuit of a replacement for the Metrodome.
Though the Vikings will play next season in the dome, their lease there has expired. That has raised fears the franchise could get snatched by Los Angeles or another city seeking its own football team — a prospect Goodell did not exactly squelch.
"They were here basically to say, ‘This is it folks,’" Dayton said after the meeting.
The Senate bill heads next to another committee of that chamber. Lawmakers are hoping to wrap up their session before the end of April, and even Bagley acknowledged "there’s not that much time left."