Dayton, NFL commissioner, legislative leaders to talk stadium on Monday

MINNEAPOLIS NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will be in Minnesota on Monday, and not just to see the big game between the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears played on an icy college football field. Goodell will meet privately with Gov.-elect Mark ...


NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will be in Minnesota on Monday, and not just to see the big game between the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears played on an icy college football field.

Goodell will meet privately with Gov.-elect Mark Dayton and legislative leaders over the Vikings' stalled drive for a new, publicly subsidized stadium to replace the aging Metrodome.

Goodell's meeting with Dayton was scheduled before the Metrodome's inflatable roof collapsed a week ago, but more evidence emerged Friday that the team is trying to use the roof collapse to rally support for a new stadium.

However, Goodell's upcoming visit -- and the Metrodome's continuing problems -- appeared to bring little unanimity to the stadium debate.


In comments to reporters, and again during a radio interview Friday, Vikings spokesman Lester Bagley said the team had "significant concerns" about the Metrodome's safety and that the roof collapse had people around the country wondering about Minnesota's "lack of investment" in its infrastructure.

"Who knows if that facility's going to be safe?" Bagley, the team's vice president for public affairs and stadium development, said of the Metrodome.

Dayton indicated Friday that he would support a new Vikings stadium, provided the benefits to taxpayers outweigh the costs. "As I said throughout my campaign, any new stadium must first benefit the people of Minnesota," he said in a statement.

"If it's 8,000 construction jobs over the next three years," Dayton said, and the tax revenues, Minnesota business contracts and other economic benefits exceed any public costs, "then it is a good deal for the people of Minnesota and I will support it."

There were more indications Friday, however, that the Republicans who are preparing to assume House and Senate majorities in January are uncomfortable with any stadium talk while a $6.2 billion projected deficit looms.

"A lot of people want things," said Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, an incoming assistant Senate majority leader. He said the Metrodome's roof collapse "doesn't elevate this to a crisis."

But, he added, "teams have learned that they can kind of put the public over a barrel and force them to pay for something that otherwise the [teams] themselves would have to pay for."

Minneapolis City Council President Barb Johnson said city officials remain opposed to any Vikings stadium plan to divert sales tax money now paying for Minneapolis' convention center once that facility's debt is retired. Stadium backers earlier this year made that proposal in a since-scuttled stadium plan.


Johnson also took aim Friday at Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, a strong stadium proponent. Rosen said Thursday she plans to introduce a Vikings stadium bill by the end of January and said the proposal might be "very similar" to the previous plan that included Minneapolis' convention center money.

A new Vikings stadium, said Johnson, should be paid for by the entire state, and not just by Minneapolis or any one local government. "The whole state has to pay something," said Johnson. "You know, in these rural areas, that's the only entertainment on Sundays. There's way more stuff to do here in the city than there is in Sen. Rosen's Fairmont."

Johnson's comments came as another Vikings stadium-related drama unfolded, this time involving the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, the Metrodome's owner.

Mayor R.T. Rybak vetoed the reappointment of Commissioner Paul Thatcher, who had initiated a major public disagreement with the team a year ago.

Citing the state's struggling economy, Thatcher led a push to financially reward the Vikings if the team extended its Metrodome lease while a new stadium solution was found -- and to penalize the team if it did not. At the time, Thatcher said that "no one with a political IQ over 3" believed that a new stadium could be funded during a major economic recession.

In a rare veto, Rybak called Thatcher a "divisive voice" who made the commission less effective "by alienating those who disagree with him and not playing a collaborative role."

The council overrode the veto Friday on an 11-1 vote.

"Thatcher is a very strong advocate for the city of Minneapolis," said Robert Lilligren, a City Council member, adding that Thatcher had helped the city push its goal of keeping the Vikings at the Metrodome site without extra cost to city taxpayers.


While some city officials suggested the veto may have been an attempt by Rybak to gain favor with the Vikings, Thatcher said the mayor's veto message spoke for itself and that Rybak later contacted him and was "warm and generous."

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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