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Friday, July 15, 2011
Vikings stadium -- Not now, maybe later

By Kevin Seifert

In essence, that headline was the answer the Minnesota Vikings received Friday evening. State leaders have decided against introducing their bill for a new stadium during next week's special session of the state legislature. The Star Tribune has the story.

State Sen. Julie Rosen, one of the co-sponsors of the bill, remains committed to the issue but said she would be "strung up" if she introduced it immediately after months of political haggling over a state budget. Rosen said the bill could be addressed at a second special session in the fall. Gov. Mark Dayton said through a spokesperson that he would consider calling the second session but wouldn't commit to it.

I can understand state leaders being unwilling to dish out some $650 million in public money days after delaying $700 million in funding to K-12 education in order to balance the budget. But none of them should be proud of the way they have handled state business, including the stadium issue. Most of their budget decisions merely pushed difficult choices into the future, and now the same thing has happened with the Vikings.

Earlier Friday, owner Zygi Wilf told Dayton "the time is now" to approve the stadium. The team has made no public comment since that I'm aware of. Given how far the Vikings came on the Arden Hills proposal, I'm guessing they won't totally abandon it as long as a second special session remains on the table. It's also possible they will listen to those who prefer the stadium to be built in downtown Minneapolis. Regardless, what's a few more months at the end of a decade-long fight?

On the other hand, it's worth repeating that the Vikings have only 10 games remaining on their Metrodome lease. They would be well within their rights to listen to alternatives should Minnesota's political dysfunction continue to cloud their future.

I've never felt stronger about my two primary tenets of this fight:
  1. Long ago, a wise person suggested the stadium issue would not be resolved until it fell into a full-blown crisis. In political terms, it's not yet a crisis when a team has six months remaining on its lease. A crisis, politically speaking, is arriving at the late-January start of the 2012 session and finding the mayor of Los Angeles camped outside the Vikings' facility. Until we get to that level of dramatics, no one will be willing to risk political capital on an NFL stadium.
  2. There is no right or wrong answer. It's merely a choice. The state is not obligated to provide a cent of funding for a new stadium. But if that's the decision, the state must recognize that eventually the Vikings will leave. The time for foot-stomping and asking why Wilf won't build a privately-funded stadium is over. It's time for everyone to make an informed choice and then live with the consequences, one way or the other.

Stay tuned.