NFC North: Margaret Anderson Kelliher
Pawlenty, and later his chief spokesman, made clear he won't approve any new state taxes as part of the bill. That would seem to put into jeopardy one of the bill's main financing tools: "User fees" on jerseys, hotel rooms, rental cars and the like. Pawlenty said: "We're not going to be raising or dealing with state taxes to subsidize that."
According to the Star Tribune, spokesman Brian McClung added: "We remain opposed to any stadium plan that includes tax increases, including the hotel tax, jersey tax, and rental car tax in one of the plans unveiled today. The governor continues to believe the team needs a local partner to be successful in their effort."
And House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher also expressed significant reservations: "I don't think that I'm going to do anything extraordinary here for this bill," she said. "I'm not sure that this bill is ready for prime time."
Some of this is no doubt political posturing. But there isn't much time; the state legislature adjourns May 17.
Continuing around the NFC North:
- Jason Hoppin of the St. Paul Pioneer Press: "The Minnesota Vikings' 2010 pursuit of a new stadium arrived in the form of a bill that is both an option play and a Hail Mary pass."
- Vikings place-kicker Ryan Longwell has designs on playing in golf's U.S. Open, writes Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune.
- Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on rookie Green Bay linebacker John Russell: "The Packers view Russell, who they signed as an undrafted free agent, as a potential pass-rushing linebacker. He doesn't have blinding speed, but his quickness and knowledge of the game sparked their interest. He said that when he was around 260 pounds he ran in the mid-to-low 4.7-second range in the 40-yard dash."
- Scott Venci of the Green Bay Press-Gazette takes a look at rookie offensive lineman Marshall Newhouse.
- Detroit rookie defensive end Chima Ihekwoaba is attempting to make the rare step to the NFL after playing college football in Canada, writes John Niyo of the Detroit News.
- Detroit defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh doesn't plan on having a long learning curve, writes Terry Foster of the Detroit News.
- First-year player Trevor Canfield will get a chance to compete for a Lions guard position, writes Nicholas J. Cotsonika of the Detroit Free Press.
- Michael Wright of ESPNChicago.com ranks the top 65 players on the Bears' roster.
There was a disturbing exchange of rhetoric in Friday's Star Tribune, at least if you have a rooting interest in the future of the Vikings in Minnesota.
Margaret Anderson Kelliher, the speaker of the Minnesota state House of Representatives, told the newspaper "there is no chance" the Vikings will receive any public funding for their new stadium proposal during the 2009 legislative session.
Lester Bagley, the Vikings' stadium point man, responded that Vikings owner Zygi Wilf is growing "frustrated" with the situation and suggested Wilf might "throw in the towel" at some point in the near future. Bagley was careful not to suggest Wilf would move the team; indeed, Wilf has pledged not to relocate. But the clear implication is that he would sell to someone who could do just that.
"It's reality-check time," Bagley said. "If we want an NFL franchise in this state, we have to resolve the stadium issue. Time is running out. If nothing gets done, then maybe the Wilfs throw in the towel."
The Vikings are going to ask for more than $600 million in public funds, and Bagley suggested at least a portion of that could come from Minnesota's share of an economic stimulus package expected to be approved by President-elect Barack Obama. (The argument: Using the money to build infrastructure and create construction jobs).
You could view this exchange as typical in the NFL stadium give-and-take -- were it not for the state of the national and local economy. The Vikings are pitching the stadium as a New Deal-style public works project, but it's going to be hard to find so much money even if state politicians change their attitude toward the project. There has never been less political interest in dealing with this issue in Minnesota.
The Vikings' once-dominant share of the local sports market is already under question as team officials struggle to sell tickets to Sunday's wild card game against Philadelphia. Ultimately, the team's future will come down to two factors:
Will Wilf really sell if he can't get a new stadium?
Is there any locality in the country in better position to spend $600 million-$1 billion on a football stadium in the current economic climate?
The Vikings' lease at the Metrodome expires in 2011. We're not in crisis yet, but it's getting closer.