Vikings stadium on hold for another year


Minnesota's state legislature will adjourn Monday after a marathon budget session that predictably ended with no further attention on the Vikings' stadium proposal. So unless Gov. Tim Pawlenty calls a special session for the specific purpose of voting on a stadium bill -- a highly unlikely scenario -- the issue won't be picked up again in a substantive way until February 2011 at the earliest.

As you know, the team's Metrodome lease expires in February 2012.

When we last discussed the stadium bill, it had been torn apart and left unrecognizable less than 24 hours after its introduction. An optimist would suggest the Vikings pushed the conversation forward by getting a formal bill in writing; a pessimist would note the bill provided few, if any, building points for future efforts.

Barring an unexpected development, we can close the door on this issue for 2010. This moment offers an opportunity to catch up on where we are and where we're going -- or not, as the case may be. In no particular order:

  • Don't allow anyone to tell you this bill's advancement was scuttled by a Minnesota State Supreme Court ruling that essentially invalidated the state's 2009 budget, throwing the 2010 legislative session into chaos. That ruling came only after one committee rejected the stadium proposal and two others stripped it of its financing mechanisms. In the end, there were no breakthroughs on how to come up with some $525 million in public money -- and that was clear before the court ruling. Until someone hatches a financing idea that works for everyone, no stadium will be built.

  • Only a small group of state leaders considered this so much as a mildly urgent issue. For now, the rest of them -- including Pawlenty -- seem convinced the Vikings have no other options but to continue playing in the Metrodome beyond the expiration of their lease. As of today, that's probably a safe bet. Los Angeles is nowhere close to luring a team, and the NFL's primary focus is on solving its labor dispute. Los Angeles might enter the picture some day, but to this point it has not.

  • The November gubernatorial election could be a game-changing event prior to the presumed 2011 debate. Throughout his two terms, Pawlenty made clear he wouldn't approve general state taxes for a new stadium. Will the next governor follow the same pattern or take a different approach?

  • The Vikings have hoped that a significant elected official would emerge as a state-wide leader on this issue. That hasn't been the case, leaving the effort without the political clout or public profile it needs to succeed. I understand why it would be better for a governor or prominent mayor to be the point person rather than a team official, but in the end I think owner Zygi Wilf -- or his brother, Mark -- will have to take a much more public role in order to get something done. After all, their bottom line is the central issue in building a new stadium. There's no sense running from that reality.