Despite two press conferences over the past years celebrating a deal to build a new Vikings stadium in two separate locations, the building of a new Vikings stadium continues to be no closer to actually happening.
On Monday night, a key committee voted down a proposal based on a deal previously struck between the team, the Governor, legislative leaders, and the Mayor of Minneapolis. By a vote of 9-6, the House Government Operations and Elections Committee blocked the plan, due to the effort to avoid the requirement of a public vote for any expenditure of Minneapolis funds in excess of $10 million for a sports facility.
The proposal isn’t dead for the 2012 legislative session, but it’s close. “Somebody would have to pull a rabbit out of the hat,” Rep. Morrie Lanning, the primary author of the House version of the stadium bill, said, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
The Vikings continue to avoid playing the “or else” card, which may have something to do with the team’s ongoing failure to get a deal done.
“It’s a mistake to think the Vikings and the [National Football League] will continue with the status quo,” Vikings V.P. of stadium wrangling Lester Bagley said.
Though stadium proponents have believed that an end run could be engineered around the Minneapolis charter provision compelling a public referendum (which surely would block the stadium), the chair of the House Government Operations and Elections Committee, Rep. Joyce Peppin, wasn’t persuaded. “To me, the language is pretty clear,” Peppin said. “I think [the city's residents] deserve a vote on this.”
Monday’s hearing didn’t start well, with one of the members asking a team representative, “Why should the state of Minnesota contribute to a stadium for a billionaire owner?”
It’s a good question, and a sufficiently compelling answer has not yet been provided to the citizens of Minnesota or their elected representatives.
In this regard, “elected” is the key word. All members of the Minnesota Legislature will face voters in 2012. And if the voters who are viewed as opposing the stadium won’t get a chance to make their feelings known directly, they’d do it indirectly by booting out of office anyone who supported the stadium.
So, just like the Vikings’ annual efforts to finally win a Super Bowl, the operative phrase when it comes to a new stadium once again will be, “Wait ’til next year.”