Senate passes $975 million stadium bill

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Minnesota Senate passed its version of a $975 million stadium bill for the Minnesota Vikings after an intense day-long debate as part of a decade-long movement to replace the outdated Metrodome.

Following the Senate’s decision late Tuesday night, the bill will now head to a conference committee to reconcile the differences between the Senate and House versions of the bill. The biggest difference between the two bills is an increased contribution above the original agreement of a $427 million coming from the team.

The Senate bill attached an amendment calling for an extra $25 million coming from the Vikings and lowering the state’s contribution by the same amount. The House bill, approved late Monday night, added an additional $105 million burden on the team, which Vikings President of Public Affairs and Stadium Development Lester Bagley repeatedly called “unworkable.”

Senator Julie Rosen, the author of the bill in the Senate, said work in the conference committee would begin immediately Tuesday night with the hope of being able to present a final bill for votes on the House and Senate floors by Thursday, as the Minnesota legislature works towards an agreement before the legislative session ends this week.

“There’s a few that are going to be taking off on Thursday,” Rosen said about legislators leaving town Thursday. “This is serious. That’s our threat; that we have to get this done.”

The Senate passed the bill 38-28 after debating for over 11 hours Tuesday. The Senate bill also calls for user fees, an issue that will need to be addressed in the conference committee and naming rights to a plaza outside of the stadium. The user fees include a 10 percent fee on suites and parking within a half-mile of the stadium and a 6.875 percent fee on Vikings clothing, trading cards and other memorabilia.

Bagley had expressed concern against the legislature changing the bill and increasing the Vikings’ share of the costs, but heralded the passing votes in each of the legislative chambers. Bagley called Monday’s House vote the “first hurdle” and was pleased after the Tuesday vote in the Senate, giving Rosen a hug after the vote and during a press conference.

“Process moving forward, the bill moving forward, the discussion moving forward, great day for Vikings fans and a great day for the state of Minnesota,” Bagley said. “Very excited about it: a lot of energy, but excited about it.”

This progress has been a long time in the making for Bagley and the Vikings, who have sought to replace the Metrodome for over a decade, a struggle that has gone through multiple team owners. The team’s lease at the Metrodome ended after last season, though the Vikings have agreed to play in their longtime home next season.

The Senate worked through several key issues, twice approving amendments that it would later overturn. One key point of contention was an amendment calling for a referendum for the city of Minneapolis to approve certain portions of the bill.

“It was the type of debate you would expect,” Rosen said of the lengthy discussion. “There’s a lot of passionate feelings on that floor and they certainly have the right to express them and discuss them and vote, and that’s what we did.”

The original agreement announced in March called for the state to be responsible for $398 million and the city of Minneapolis $150 million of the proposed $975 million stadium. The city will also have to pay $188.7 million in operating costs over the next 30 years. The Vikings will add $327.1 million in operating costs.

The House bill, approved by a vote of 73-58 on Monday night, increased the Vikings portion by $105 million to $532 million, or about 55 percent of the construction costs, leaving an $80 million gap between the two versions of the bill.

“The Senate position being 25 and the House being 105, we need to work through that issue,” Bagley said. “This is a negotiation. There are a number of issues that need to be sorted out. We have a package of issues. We’re going through the Senate proposal right now so we can meet and talk with the conferees. The whole package, we need to continue to work on it and negotiate the package to be determined how the final package is.

“Right now, we stand with the term sheet, which was negotiated in good faith over a period of months that has us in for $427 million up front and $13 million a year. That’s our position, but we have a negotiation. So rather than speculate, let’s let the discussion move forward.”

The conference committee is comprised of Senators Rosen, Bill Ingebrigsten and Roger Reinert, and Representatives Morrie Lanning, Terry Morrow and Joe Hoppe. Each of the six, including bill authors Rosen and Lanning, approved the vote in their respective floor votes.

While Bagley has resisted stating whether the Vikings would increase their portion, Rosen made it clear Tuesday night that the team will be expected to up its offer.

Asked if she had expressed to the team it will need to increase its share, Rosen said, “No, but I think they got the message.”
 
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