The Minnesota Vikings finally appear to have resolved their stadium problems after the state Senate on Thursday approved a plan to develop a new US$975 million venue for the National Football League (NFL) franchise.
After many false dawns, the Senate’s 36-30 vote in favour of the project effectively removed the final barrier to the construction of a new venue that will keep the franchise in Minnesota and end speculation of a possible move to Los Angeles. The House passed the measure on Wednesday meaning that it now only needs to be rubber-stamped by Governor Mark Dayton, who has already stated he will sign the measure.
The presence of a high-powered NFL delegation helped to get the proposal back on track last month, as a public subsidy for the project was narrowly approved. The decision of the Minnesota Senate’s Local Government and Elections Committee to pass the bill on an 8-6 vote breathed new life into the project just days after a separate bill was rejected sparking fears over the future of the franchise in the state. The Vikings are committed to playing in the Metrodome next season, but their lease at the venue has expired leading to speculation over its long-term future in Minnesota. Los Angeles was mooted as a possible destination, with two groups attempting to attract a team to the city to play at a proposed new stadium, but Thursday’s news appears to have erased the prospect of the Vikings leaving town.
The deal is set to commit the Vikings to Minnesota for the next 30 years. The team will pay 49% of construction costs, with the $477 million price tag representing $50 million more than team owners initially committed. “It is a heavy lift, but it is the right thing to do for Minnesota,” said Vikings vice-president Lester Bagley, according to the Associated Press. The public expense for the 65,000-seat development will see $348 million apportioned to the state and $150 million to the city of Minneapolis.
“This stadium is [in] the best interest for the state,” said Senator Julie Rosen, the lead sponsor of the bill. “This investment from three partners is the best for this state.” However, Senator Scott Newman, who opposed the bill, stated the money would be better spent on health care, education and infrastructure. “I know it happens across the nation, but it saddens me to think that our citizens believe that this is a wise expenditure of tax money,” he added.
The Vikings have struggled in the NFL revenue generation stakes in recent years at the Metrodome, which opened in 1982. The franchise has encountered frustration for over a decade in its bid to secure public funding for a new stadium, leading to the speculation over its long-term future in the state. Minnesota’s sports fans know all about losing franchises after the National Basketball Association’s Lakers moved to Los Angeles in the 1950s and the National Hockey League’s North Stars left for Dallas in 1993.