House committee rejects football stadium proposal

Mike Zacharias

The first strike against an effort to get the Vikings – and possibly the Gophers – out of the Metrodome came Monday morning at the Capitol.

A House committee voted against a bill providing for a $500 million football stadium to house both teams. Under the legislation, Vikings owner Red McCombs and the NFL would finance $150 million of the project.

Despite the committee’s 15-5 vote, stadium proponents remain hopeful.

Rep. Kevin Goodno, R-Moorhead, the bill’s author, said the defeat is “just one bump in the road.”

University officials said most of the bill was agreeable but some concerns still lingered.

Instead of the bill’s proposed fixed roof for the stadium, University officials said, a retractable roof is preferable for Big Ten football. They also said the proposal did not give the University enough of a governing role over the stadium.

The University would also have to build a parking ramp that officials worry might not get enough use on non-game days.

Despite his support for the bill, Rep. Mike Osskopp, R-Lake City, said some committee members do not feel a new stadium is an important issue, considering the 10 years still remaining on the Vikings’ Metrodome lease.

But Osskopp said in light of the Minnesota Twins’ stadium fiasco, a new football stadium warrants some sort of discussion.

“I think we need to start talking about the problem,” Osskopp said. “The ‘U’ certainly wants a new football stadium, and the Vikings claim they need one, so let’s start talking about it.”

The Vikings and Gophers will also lose a significant portion of private funding for the project if plans do not go forward soon, said Mike Kelly, Vikings executive vice president.

The NFL has promised $50 million for the stadium project but only if it’s implemented by March 2003.

Kelly said the University’s involvement in the project is less than the Vikings’, but the school has been working to ensure an agreement is reached.

“(The University) made it very, very clear to us that this is not a priority for them, that they’ve got much more important academic issues to address than football stadiums,” Kelly said.

The house proposal does not recommend a stadium location, although the University has said it wants the project built on University property.

“The University has told us that the only way they could support any sort of stadium proposal is if it’s on the University campus,” said Kelly.

The state Stadium Task Force, which has made recommendations on possible Twins and Vikings/ Gophers stadiums, will present its findings before the Senate on Wednesday.

– The Associated Press
contributed to this story

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