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Committee kills Vikings stadium plan
By Tom Scheck
Minnesota Public Radio
February 18, 2002

A House Committee has defeated a bill that would have built a new football stadium for the Minnesota Vikings and University of Minnesota. Both teams have been seeking a new stadium because they say the Metrodome is outdated and they say they can't make enough money in it. However, lawmakers are cool to the idea of building a new stadium when the state is facing budget problems and the Vikings are under lease until 2011.

The House Government Operations Committee defeated the new football stadium proposal by a 15-5 margin.

Rep. Kevin Goodno, R-Moorhead, who sponsored the bill, called the defeat a "bump in the road" and pledged to continue trying to pass his proposal.

The new stadium would be shared by the Vikings and Gophers. Goodno says it would be built on the University of Minnesota campus and would cost between $365 and $500 million. He says Vikings owner Red McCombs and the National Football League have pledged $151 million toward the stadium. The remaining portion would come from the a variety of taxes on things like tickets, parking and sport memorabilia.

Goodno says he believes it's necessary to move forward with stadium plans because he says the Vikings are losing money in the Metrodome.

"We're in a better position as a state to negotiate with them and get a better deal from the state's perspective at this point when they're relatively profitable, have an experienced a long period of pushing a lot money into the system and into the team. I think it makes sense from our point of view to be prudent in this. We have a tenant that has concerns with the current lease," Goodno said.

Under the bill, the University of Minnesota would pay $60 million for the land for the stadium and a new parking ramp. University officials said they were pleased with most of the portions of proposal but also had serious concerns.

University of Minnesota Vice President Sandra Gardebring said the U of M could lose up to $4 million a year if the parking facility is built. They're also seeking an open air or retractable roof stadium which isn't included in the current legislation.

"We wanted it on campus and we wanted it to have a collegiate look and feel. We also wanted it to have a retractable roof because for university football, for intercollegiate athletics, an open air stadium really is preferable and that really is the standard in the Big 10," according to Gardebring.

Several lawmakers said the Vikings lease with the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission was a factor in their decision. It requires them to play in the Metrodome until 2011. The Twins, on the other hand, have only one year left on their lease.

After a Hennepin County District Court judge ordered the Twins to fulfill their lease, Major League Baseball officials delayed contraction of teams for one year.

Rep. Phil Krinkie. R-Shoreview, said he doesn't think lawmakers should move on a football stadium this year because "the Vikings have an existing lease. The Twins have just litigated the situation with their lease and the Sports Facilities Commission prevailed. So I can't imagine a circumstance where the Vikings would not be bound by their lease which is nine years," Krinkie said.

However, Vikings officials say the Vikings and Twins operate under different leases. Vikings Executive Vice President Mike Kelly said it was "short sighted" for the committee to defeat the bill. Kelly says he'll continue to plead patience with Vikings' owner Red McCombs, who is frustrated with the lack of progress. He says the Vikings would be extremely disappointed if the Twins get a stadium this year and the Vikings don't.

"That would be a big disappointment to us, especially since the real deadline here is the league is offering essentially $50 million to address the situation now. And it just seems to me incredibly short-sighted to pass up on that large amount of money and push this debate back further," Kelly said.

Kelly says he has higher hopes that the DFL-controlled Senate will react more favorably to the proposal. Majority Leader Roger Moe of Erskine said the Senate sees the Twins situation as a higher priority but says the Vikings request is being considered.

"I think it's kind of like a dance card. We want the one we're dancing with to know we're serious but we want the one sitting on the sidelines ready for the next dance," Moe said.

The Senate has scheduled hearings for stadium related bills this week.

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