Building stadium like winning championship
ST. PAUL -- Minnesota Rep. Morrie Lanning knows how to win elections and football championships, and says getting a new Vikings stadium is much the same.
"I'm a former football player who had an extraordinary team," the 1964 Concordia College of Moorhead center said Monday after Gov. Mark Dayton signed a bill to build a Vikings stadium. "We went to went to work and had good teamwork and won the national championship."
The veteran of 22 years as Moorhead mayor and 10 years in the Minnesota House added: "It means a lot of people working together."
A couple hundred people gathered to celebrate the success of those people Monday in the Minnesota Capitol rotunda, people such as Vikings fans wearing purple, laborers wearing hard hats, politicians wearing suits and team owners wearing broad smiles.
"It's long overdue," said Rep. Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, long a stadium supporter.
When he heard from his southwestern Minnesota constituents, Hamilton said, it often was about building a new stadium.
"You would think this was the only issue ... from people back home," he said. "This is important to people."
The bill Dayton signed leaves the state and Vikings a step away from beginning to plan a stadium that could open in 2016, replacing the 30-year-old Metrodome in downtown Minneapolis.
First, however, the Minneapolis City Council must approve the agreement. A vote tentatively is planned for late next week.
The bill Dayton signed into law approves a $975 million roofed stadium at the current Metrodome site. It is to have 65,000 seats, expandable to 72,000, and host events most days of the year, not just Vikings games.
The state's $348 million contribution will be funded by charitable gaming taxes, which are expected to rise as the state allows charities to introduce electronic pulltab and bingo games.
Minneapolis is to pay $150 million for construction, with the Vikings and other provide sources they arrange adding the remaining $477 million.
Many of the hundreds of people directly involved in the bill attended Monday's ceremony.
"The hard works begins now," Vikings Chairman Zygi Wilf told fans and about a dozen Welfare Rights Committee members protesting the project.
Committee members, regular Capitol protesters, chanted "Shame on you, Gov. Dayton" and one member said he was signing a bill to help "a losing franchise."
In an interview, Lanning said that a job is the best way to bring the poor, like the protesters, out of poverty. A stadium should provide thousands of jobs, he added.
Dayton said that while stadium benefits remain uncertain, "the costs are very real," making it difficult for many lawmakers to support.
He called bill authors Lanning and Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, "super heroes" for pushing the bill through controversy and doubt.
Rosen said the stadium "provides hope for the entire state" and shows legislators can work together.
Lanning and Rosen have been chief backers of the plan a year and half, although Lanning's involvement goes back years.
Amid the thanks that has been passed around since the stadium bill passed last week, Lanning may have been the first to thank the media. He said news stories explained the project across the state, which helped win passage.
While Leaning said he "never lost hope," he also said up to the final vote he remained realistic that the plan could have fallen through.
Construction could begin next year, with the first Vikings game played in the new downtown Minneapolis stadium in 2016.
The stadium is the single largest state government project.
Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.