Committee rejects Vikes stadium bill

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- A Minnesota House committee voted down the Vikings stadium bill on Monday night, dealing a major blow to the team's decade-long effort to secure a taxpayer subsidy for a replacement to the Metrodome.

The House Government Operations Committee mustered only six votes for the stadium proposal, with nine members voting against it. The vote, which followed a four-hour hearing on the bill, makes it extremely unlikely the bill could be revived in the remaining weeks of a legislative session expected to wrap up before the end of April.

"Somebody's going to have to pull a rabbit out of a hat for this thing to be alive at this point," said Rep. Morrie Lanning, the chief House sponsor of the $975 million stadium plan. A Senate version of the stadium bill has been stalled in that chamber for the past month.

Lester Bagley, the Vikings' point man on the stadium push at the Capitol, said afterward the team was "extremely disappointed" at the outcome. "I guess I would ask the state, what else would you expect us to do? What else can we do?" he said.

Gov. Mark Dayton has been a committed and vocal supporter of the stadium proposal, repeatedly stressing he believes failure to help the team build a new stadium could result in Minnesota losing the Vikings to another city.

"I've done everything I can think of to persuade people and will continue to do so," Dayton, a Democrat, said Tuesday. "If we don't get it this session, we'll get it next session. Sometimes the difficult takes a while, the impossible takes a little longer."

"We have to get a stadium next year or the Vikings will leave," he said. "It's just as clear as that. We can't have it both ways. We can't not do a new stadium and have the Vikings remain here very long."

Bagley said the team would continue to push the proposal as long as the Legislature remains in session.

"But this is extremely disappointing, and it sends a strong message to the Vikings and the NFL about the situation," he said.

He would not say whether the committee vote made the team's future in Minnesota any less secure.

The proposal that fell in the House committee would have split the tab three ways for a stadium proposed to be built at the current Metrodome site in downtown Minneapolis: $398 million from the state from taxes on expanded gambling, $150 million from the city of Minneapolis from existing sales taxes and $427 million from the Vikings with assistance likely from the NFL.

Prior to the vote, Vikings officials faced tough questioning from several committee members who said they weren't convinced the proposal is a good deal for taxpayers.

"How do we as representatives of public taxpayers, how do we know we're getting a good deal?" asked Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley. Winkler went on to vote against the proposal. Rep. Bev Scalze, DFL-Little Canada, questioned whether a football stadium was a defensible use for $398 million in proposed new tax revenue when the state is just starting to recover from several years of persistent budget deficits.

Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, raised a question frequently heard from stadium bill critics as the team's bid has dominated headlines: "Why should we help a billionaire build a stadium he can afford to build himself?" he asked, referencing Vikings owner Zygi Wilf.

Urdahl ultimately voted to keep the bill alive, one of five Republicans on the committee to support it along with one Democrat. Of the nine no votes, five came from Democrats and four were Republicans.

Leading up to the vote, Bagley had reiterated the view of the team's owners that the Metrodome is no longer sufficiently profitable compared with other NFL venues. While the team is committed to play in the Metrodome for the 2012 football season, it no longer has an active lease in the 30-year-old facility, and team officials have said they do not intend to sign one.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.