As we enter the crunchiest of crunch times in Minnesota politics, let's weave through a quick calendar update on the Minnesota Vikings' stadium -- an exercise that will include my strong feeling that the team's final proposal will include a roof despite some Twitter discussion we had earlier Wednesday.
Today is June 29.
That makes tomorrow June 30.
The Minnesota state budget expires at 11:59 p.m. CT on June 30.
State leaders are scrambling to reach agreement on a new budget before that moment.
If they do, Gov. Mark Dayton is expected to call a special session of the state legislature to approve the deal.
The Vikings want their $1.057 billion stadium proposal to be voted on during that special session.
That means we could be a day or so away from finding out whether the Vikings will win long-chased public financing for this project. If denied again, they will enter the 2011 season as pending franchise free agents. Their lease at the Metrodome expires Feb. 1, 2012.
Failure to agree on a budget by Thursday evening would lead to a shutdown of the Minnesota state government. Presumably, the Vikings' stadium would be addressed when the shutdown ends.
As you might expect, last-minute negotiations between the Vikings and state leaders are continuing as both sides try to complete final tweaks and account for a funding gap caused by necessary road upgrades. Rochelle Olson of the Star Tribune reported Wednesday that the Vikings had lowered their project cost estimate from $1.057 billion to $820 million, a $200-plus million gap that prompted many -- including me -- to question whether the team had abandoned plans for a roof.
As we discussed recently, the original proposal called for a $206 million retractable roof. Swapping it with a fixed roof would cut $25 million from the project, but Olson's report suggested the Vikings were contemplating a more substantive cut.
Here's what I can tell you: There is almost no chance a stadium will get built without a roof, be it retractable or fixed. Dayton's support largely rests on the year-round utility of an indoor facility, one that would, in essence, replace the Metrodome. While it's a temping cost-cutting move, the reality is that an open-air stadium would be far more expensive on a per-use basis and it would likely cause Dayton to pull back the state's $300 million contribution.
If Minnesota enters a government shutdown, we'll simply push back this discussion to such time that state leaders actually agree on a budget. But if that agreement is coming in the next 36 hours, we should get some important answers on the stadium as well.