Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Zellers could have been speaking for many of his fellow lawmakers when he struggled to describe his position on a $1 billion Vikings stadium bill before a vote that could be critical to the team’s future.
“I won’t vote for it, but I want to see it pass,” the Republican said late last week on sports talk radio.
With votes scheduled today on a huge public payout, 200 lawmakers are under pressure from plenty of people who oppose the project – but worry they will be blamed if it fails. A defeat this week, while not fatal, would accelerate fears that the state could lose its most beloved team.
“I think it’s within striking distance,” Lester Bagley, the team’s chief stadium lobbyist, said Friday.
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The Vikings haven’t openly threatened to leave and are committed to playing in the 30-year-old Metrodome this season.
But stadium boosters, led by Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton, say punting on the proposal could set up a nightmare three-peat for Minnesota sports fanatics. The state lost the NBA’s Lakers to Los Angeles in 1960 and the NHL’s North Stars to Dallas in 1993.
“Nobody wants the Vikings to leave the state of Minnesota. Nobody wants that to happen,” said Rep. Sarah Anderson, a suburban Minneapolis Republican who is undecided how she’ll vote. “It’s just a matter of figuring out whether this package will work and is a good deal for our taxpayers.”
The Vikings would have to kick in $427 million – which isn’t enough for some lawmakers.
Several hundred people took part in a paddle-out in front of Junior Seau’s Ocean-side, Calif., home to pay tribute to the former NFL linebacker. Participants included former Chargers teammate Drew Brees. Seau, 43, committed suicide Wednesday. Also, Seau’s family is revisiting its decision to donate his brain for research. A Chargers spokesman said Sunday that the family, which is of Samoan descent, is consulting with a group of elders. … The Dolphins have extended linebacker Cameron Wake’s contract through the 2016 season. … Barely a week after the draft, the Redskins have named Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III their No. 1 quarterback.