After a decade of debate, the Minnesota Vikings are a signature away from a new $975 million dollar stadium in downtown Minneapolis after the Minnesota state Senate gave its final approval with a vote of 36-30 Thursday afternoon.
The stadium bill, which relies on $348 million from the state, now awaits the Governor's signature after it passed the House early Thursday morning by a vote of 71-60.
Cheers erupted from a Senate gallery filled with Vikings fans after the last vote was taken. Lawmakers have wrestled with the stadium bill all week long, putting in late night hours to get the deal done. Vikings superfan Larry Spooner of Plymouth was brought to tears by the final vote. Spooner has held vigil outside the Capitol for nearly two weeks, and he said he's been following this issue for 14 years.
"This has been my life, most of my adult life has been on this," said Spooner.
In the end, an additional $50 million dollar contribution from the Vikings helped complete the deal. It means the Vikings will cover nearly half of the stadium's cost with a $477 million investment. Still, many lawmakers on both sides of the aisle struggled with the deal's heavy reliance on public funding, $348 million from the state and $150 million from Minneapolis. Lawmakers also took issue with the expansion of gambling through new electronic pull tabs, which will largely cover the state's portion of the bill.
Republican Senator Benjamin Kruse of Brooklyn Park voted against the stadium saying he's seen first-hand the damage a gambling addiction can do, citing an extended family member who struggles with the problem.
"We are destroying families, we are buying a stadium on the back of the blue collar worker and those who cannot afford it," said Kruse.
Freshman Senator Chris Eaton, a DFL lawmaker from Brooklyn Center, said she took issue with providing a public subsidy to a "billionaire owner" when higher priorities exist.
"I have some concerns about owing the school districts billions of dollars and then giving hundreds of millions to a billionaire to build a stadium, but I also don't want us to lose our football teams," said Eaton.
The stadium bill now heads to Governor Dayton's desk for signature. The new stadium could open by 2016.
Here's a look at how local northwest metro lawmakers voted on the stadium issue:
House Vote YES:
Representatives Hilstrom, Hortman, Nelson, Winkler
House Vote NO:
Representatives S. Anderson, Carlson, Peppin, Zellers
Senate Vote YES: Senators Bonoff, Latz, Olson, Rest
Senate Vote NO: Senators Eaton, Kruse, Limmer
Alexandra Renslo reporting