Lawmakers looking at ways to change Vikings stadium proposal

Published 4:19 pm Tuesday, May 1, 2012

ST. PAUL – Legislators are looking at ways to change the Vikings stadium proposal, including discussions about an open-air stadium and the possibility of repaying construction loans with general tax money.

The plan that awaits House and Senate votes calls for a roofed stadium that would not be funded with general tax money. Many legislators have pledged not to vote for a stadium that uses general fund dollars.

Chief stadium bill author Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, said a plan agreed upon weeks ago remains the chief proposal, but “there are new ideas every day.”

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“At this point, anything could happen,” Lanning added.

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and his party’s legislative leaders, joined by Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, told reporters that they learned Republican leaders have been meeting in secret with Vikings officials to negotiate a new stadium plan. There was no immediate comment from GOP leaders or the Vikings.

It is “still a deep secret,” Dayton said, adding that he learned of the talks third-hand this morning.

With an open-air stadium, it would be used mostly by the Vikings for their 10 home games, the governor said. A roofed stadium that was negotiated in talks among the governor, some lawmakers, Minneapolis and the Vikings could be used for events most days of the year, he said.

“We have been working in this bill eight months,” Dayton said, adding this is late in the legislative session to change things and not talking to all involved.

The Legislature planned to adjourn Monday, but missed that self-imposed deadline because work remains on the stadium, taxes and public works projects. It is not known how much longer the Legislature will meet, but they can hold floor sessions only about a half-dozen more days.

Many Republican legislators said they had heard discussion of the new concept, but generally were not specific about the details.

Sen. Joe Gimse, R-Willmar, said he supports the Senate companion bill to the one Lanning promotes, but knows other plans are being discussed.

Lanning would not say if he and House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, have discussed a major change in his stadium bill.

The chief Democratic stadium bill supporter in the House, Rep. Terry Morrow of St. Peter, did not appear happy when asked about the development: “I’m not saying a word.”