Odd legislative couple suggests giving Vikings the Metrodome

ST. PAUL -- A conservative representative and liberal senator who seldom agree on political issues want to give the Minnesota Vikings football team the Metrodome if the team agrees to stay in the state 25 years.

Minnesota Rep. Linda Runbeck, R-Circle Pines
Rep. Linda Runbeck, R-Circle Pines, on Friday explains a bill that would give the Minnesota Vikings the Metrodome while requiring them to stay in Minnesota 25 years. With her is Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville. (Don Davis, Forum Communications Co.)

ST. PAUL -- A conservative representative and liberal senator who seldom agree on political issues want to give the Minnesota Vikings football team the Metrodome if the team agrees to stay in the state 25 years.

Rep. Linda Runbeck, R-Circle Pines, and Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, disputed the Vikings' reaction that their idea is a "nonstarter," holding out hope that the National Football League team will join with them.

"Last week, Christian Ponder was a nonstarter," Marty said about the Vikings rookie quarterback who is slated to start the rest of the season.

While Marty said that the decision to bench veteran Donovan McNabb in favor of Ponder shows the Vikings can change their minds, the team was not buying it.

"This isn't the first time the idea has been discussed, but even stadium opponents understand the facility no longer works for the team, our fans or the state," said Jeff Anderson, Viking's corporate communications director. "These unrealistic ideas prevent serious discussion about the only viable stadium plan in Arden Hills."


Vikings owner Zygi Wilf wants the stadium to be built on a former ammunition factory site in Arden Hills, in northern Ramsey County. He says the team cannot make enough money in the Metrodome, in downtown Minneapolis.

The two lawmakers from opposite ends of the political spectrum said plans for using $650 million from Ramsey County and state taxes to help build a $1.1 billion stadium never will pass the Legislature. They expressed confidence their proposal can pass, if the Vikings get on board.

"It definitely is not a nonstarter," Runbeck said of the proposal, the latest version of an idea that has been around for years.

The money bothers Marty: "We have to inject some fiscal sanctity into the debate."

Marty said if the state and county pay what the Vikings want, it would be the largest public subsidy for any sports facility in history. The current plan calls for the state to pay $300 million and the county $350 million, with the Vikings paying the rest, including any cost overruns.

The senator, a former governor candidate, and Runbeck said they do not think the Vikings understand that economic and political times have changed since stadiums were built elsewhere with public help.

"What are they smoking?" Marty asked.

The bill sponsors said they have not tried to talk to the Vikings, Gov. Mark Dayton or others involved in stadium talks.


Dayton's spokeswoman, Katharine Tinucci, said the governor welcomes all ideas, but since the Vikings do not like the idea, the Runbeck-Marty plan is a tough sell. She said the Dayton administration is interested in working with the Vikings.

Another idea that has cropped up is using so-called "legacy funds" from a sales tax increase Minnesotans approved for cultural and outdoors projects. Tinucci said that Dayton has not seen the proposal, but Marty said he would not use legacy funds for a stadium.

Republicans, in particular, have been critical of some of the arts and culture funding in the legacy program and some of them are looking at moving money to a stadium.

Friday's Marty-Runbeck announcement came at the end of Vikings week at the Capitol.

Dayton hosted Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday meetings with key players in the stadium debate. He had hoped to meet again with legislative leaders next Monday, but they cannot make it then and he is busy with an all-day business summit on Tuesday.

The governor wants to hear all stadium ideas in the next week before he announces his stadium plan on Nov. 7. He plans to call a special legislative session to deal with the stadium issue on Nov. 21.

Wilf says he wants a new stadium deal by the time the team's current Metrodome lease ends on Feb. 1. While Wilf says he will not move the Vikings, Dayton says he is convinced the team could be sold and move to Los Angeles or another city if a new Minnesota stadium is not built.

Davis is the Minnesota State Capitol Bureau correspondent for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Herald.

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