Originally posted on Fox Sports North  |  Last updated 5/10/12
ST. PAUL, Minn. The Minnesota Vikings are one vote away from realizing their decade-long desire of getting approval for a new stadium after the Minnesota House approved a final bill for a 975 million replacement for the Metrodome.Discussion into early morning Thursday ended when the House voted, 71-60, in favor of the final stadium bill, which was worked out in a conference committee earlier in the day. After going to committee, the bill gained the acceptance of the Vikings, who were asked to increase their contribution from 427 million to 477 million, reducing the state's portion by 50 million.The bill will now go to a vote in the Senate later Thursday morning. If passed, Governor Mark Dayton would need to sign the bill and the Minneapolis City Council would have 30 days to vote and agree on its contribution of 150 million. Dayton's approval and the city council vote are considered nearly formalities at this point. Dayton has fought for the bill, and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, another stadium supporter, has said he has the backing of the council.Passing the House never came with such assurances. But now the state and the Vikings are one Senate vote away from keeping the team in Minnesota for at least 30 more years."It's a good feeling to finally have this over," Rep. Morrie Lanning, one of the bill's authors said after the House vote Thursday morning. "We knew that this was going to be a real challenge and it was."A conference committee reconciled the difference between two bills that had gained approval in the House and Senate in separate votes on Monday and Tuesday. The biggest sticking point appeared to be the Vikings' portion of the up-front costs. In the original deal between the team, key lawmakers and Dayton, the Vikings agreed to a 427 million contribution and an average of 13 million in annual operating costs.But the House bill agreed to Monday said the team would have to increase its share by 105 million. The Senate's version included a 25 million increase. Meanwhile, the Vikings were saying their contribution was "set in stone," and Lester Bagley, the Vikings' vice president of public affairs and stadium management, called the House proposal "unworkable."But once the conference committee settled on the 477 million Vikings' portion and agreed to give the team naming rights, Bagley said the Vikings would increase their offer and agreed to the reworked bill."The finish line is in sight here," Bagley said after the House vote. "It's been a lot of good work, hard work and major compromise to get to this point. This was a heavy lift to get this together in this agreement. And we're not quite there, but we're almost there."In the revised and final bill, the state would be responsible for 348 million. Minneapolis' portion of 150 million would come from an existing hospitality tax. In the bill, the Vikings would agree to sign a 30-year lease at the fixed-roof stadium slated to be built on the current Metrodome site. The bill allows the option for a retractable roof, but the Vikings would be responsible for the cost. Bagley said the team hasn't decided if it would pursue a retractable roof. In the revised bill, the state's portion would come from expanded gambling, including the selling of electronic pull tabs. Through a public authority, the state also would retain the rights to the stadium on nongame days, when it could be used for high school sporting events, concerts and other events.The Vikings plan to apply for up to 200 million through an NFL loan program. Team owners Zygi and Mark Wilf would also get a five-year exclusive rights window to bring in a professional soccer team that would play in the new stadium.The Vikings' lease at the Metrodome ran out after last season, though the team has agreed to play there at least through 2012. Construction could begin while the Metrodome is in use. The Vikings would likely play for at least one season at TCF Bank Stadium on the University of Minnesota campus while construction is finished.The stadium plans call for a 65,000-seat facility built on 1.5 million square feet. The stadium could be expanded to seat 72,000 and meet the NFL standards to host a Super Bowl, an agreement some legislators tried to work into the bill. While the bill doesn't include such a provision, the NFL could look to reward the state with a Super Bowl, though that would come under consideration later. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell came to promote the importance of a new stadium to the Vikings and the NFL. Goodell's appearance was a big push to cutting through the political red tape that had kept a bill from getting to a vote. While in town, Goodell explained to Dayton and legislators the viability of developing plans in Los Angeles. But with a Senate vote, a governor's signature and a city council approval, the Vikings won't be going anywhere anytime soon."I'm kind of numb and going on adrenaline," Bagley said. "It's been not a lot of sleep, but that's the way it is at this time of year over here. We have great people on our team to get this thing to this point. It feels good. We've a little ways to go. This is huge, and our ownership stepped up and made a huge commitment to this state and this agreement that we struck today and it's reflected in the bill." Follow Brian Hall on Twitter.
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