Vikings owners and GOP leaders won’t commit support for Metrodome site

Governor Dayton sits down tomorrow with Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, Vikings owners Mark and Zygi Wilf and state lawmakers. The hope is that they craft a financing plan for a new Vikings stadium. Dayton said this week that the only way a stadium plan will pass this session is if the measure rebuilds the stadium on the existing Metrodome site. Vikings owner Mark Wilf, however, wouldn’t commit when asked whether he supports plans to build there.

“There’s a lot of details to work through and a lot of issues to talk about, ” Wilf said. “So rather than to get into any specifics, I’d prefer to just work through and see what the political will of the governor and the Legislature on how this thing moves forward. Our number one objective is to get a stadium solution for our fans and the Vikings that is exciting for not just the Vikings but the community at large.”

Wilf made his comments to reporters at the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Dinner. He and his brother, Zygi, attended the event which featured Gov. Dayton and the four legislative leaders. Dayton, who said earlier in the day that the Legislature should hold an up-or-down vote on the stadium, spoke little about the stadium at the event.

Lawmakers, however, didn’t get off so easily. KSTP’s Tom Hauser, who moderated a legislative panel, directly asked GOP House Speaker Kurt Zellers, GOP Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, DFL House Minority Leader Paul Thissen and DFL Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk whether an up-or-down vote should be held this session. Senjem initially said such a vote should be held but then hedged a bit when asked if it would be held “this session.”

“I got 37 members that this thing has to churn through, so I’m not sure how it’s going to turn out,” Senjem said.

Zellers also didn’t commit to holding a vote. He said he believes a similar demand in the 1990s delayed the Twins stadium for several years.

“I don’t think it’s fair to Mark and Zygi [Wilf] to wait again for nine or ten years,” Zellers said. “I don’t think they have the patience for this. I know their lobbyists don’t but I think it’s really important to make sure it’s a process that is thorough and if you say yes or no now I don’t think that’s fair to them.”

Thissen said he thinks there should be a vote this year.

“There are going to be Democrats for it and Democrats against it,” Thissen said. “Now it’s in the hands of the people who hold the gavels which are the Republicans in the Legislature.”

Bakk said he’d like to see the Vikings stadium bill pass, but he also criticized the 1,600 business leaders in the room for failing to lobby for the plan.

“The State Chamber has not put their shoulder to the wheel on this,” Bakk said. “It’s only going to happen this session if the State Chamber stands up and says ‘This is important to us.'”

One key sticking point will be whether the stadium financing plan will include money to upgrade the Target Center. Mayor Rybak says the plan is essential to win city support. GOP lawmakers say including the upgrade will cost them votes in the Legislature.

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