Vikings Stadium Passes Senate, MLS Exclusivity Eliminated but Still Alive
The Minnesota State Senate passed a version of a Vikings stadium bill on Tuesday night by a vote of 38-28. The bill was approved just before midnight. The Senate evidently didn’t want to be outdone by the House which passed their version of the bill on Monday night after 8 hours of debate. The Senate debate went on for over 10 hours before being decided.
The bill for a new $975 million Vikings football stadium looks quite different from the House version. In fact during the marathon debate the bill morphed several times. The most radical of those changes was an amendment which was approved and changed the funding mechanism for the stadium away from electronic gambling. But within a short period of time a new amendment was voted on and passed that basically restored the stadium finances to its original sources.
Another change in the bill saw lawmakers increase the Vikings’ share of payment for the stadium by $25 million bringing their portion to $452 million.
Before the vote was held to approve the stadium, over 30 amendments were proposed, debated and voted on. Minnesotans that had been following the Major League Soccer component of the stadium bill may have been disappointed when the Senate struck the wording that allowed the Vikings exclusive rights with the State for an MLS team. The wording in the bill that passed the House on Monday was previously debated in the finance committee. The exclusive rights for the Vikings allowed the Wilfs, or any partial owner of the Vikings, a 5-year window to bring in an MLS team to play at the stadium rent free. That 5 year period of time started the first day that the Vikings football team played at game in the new stadium.
The Finance Committee had debated the very same issue with some saying the state was creating a monopoly by allowing the Vikings exclusive rights to bring in an MLS team. Others argued that the Vikings should have that right since they were paying nearly 50% of the stadium costs and upkeep as well as the franchise fee to purchase an MLS team. Past debate pointed out that a soccer team would bring 20-plus dates a year to the new stadium, bringing in more revenue for the State of Minnesota and the City of Minneapolis.
Senator Warren Limmer (R-Maple Grove) filed the amendment that struck the wording from the bill. Debate included questions on whether anyone knew if there was someone beside the Vikings actually interested in bringing MLS to the Twin Cities. The “semi-pro” team in Blaine was brought up and a question was asked if they would be interested in bringing MLS to Minnesota. The team evidently referred to was the NASL Minnesota Stars who are not semi-pro but a professional D-2 team and who play their games at the National Sport Center Stadium in Blaine, Minnesota.
Stadium bill sponsor Julie Rosen (R-Fairmount) said she thought those in Blaine (National Sports Center) would want an MLS team at the dome because it would promote soccer which would help their cause. After some debate the amendment was voted on and passed, killing the exclusivity for the Wilfs.
While the Senate killed the MLS feature in their bill the House version of the stadium bill includes it. In essence it means the MLS portion of the bill will now be debated in conference committee and is not yet dead.
The $975 million football stadium bills will now go to a committee made up of members of the House and Senate who will attempt to iron out their differences.