MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 18: (L-R) Minnesota Vikings owners Zygi Wilf and Mark Wilf take a walk on the field during the pregame against the New Orleans Saints at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on December 18, 2011 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Adam Bettcher /Getty Images)
After a decade of trying, the Minnesota Vikings will finally have a stadium bill reach the floor of the Minnesota legislature on Monday. One way or another, it will be a historical day.
The Minnesota Vikings have played in 819 meaningful games in their existence (774 regular season, 45 post-season). During that time, the team has gone to four Super Bowls and five other Conference Championship Games. Despite all that history and all of those accomplishments, I can make the following statement without feeling as though I'm engaging in the slightest bit of hyperbole:
Monday, May 7, 2012 might be the single biggest day in Minnesota Vikings history.
On Monday, the Minnesota House of Representatives will finally bring to the floor the bill that, if passed, will fund a new Minnesota Vikings stadium adjacent to the current Metrodome site. The entire process to this point has been filled with drama and partisan politics of every possible stripe, but for the first time in the Vikings' decade-long quest for a new home, they will have legislation presented to the entire state legislature.
While the tide seems to be shifting in favor of the pro-stadium crowd, the debate and vote in both chambers is likely to be contentious and acrimonious. Those that are behind the plan, to include Minnesota governor Mark Dayton, are cautiously optimistic, feeling that they have the votes to squeak the legislation through both houses. If the Senate and the House both pass the bill, they will then go into a committee to iron out any kinks and differences between the two versions of the bill. After that occurs, the final bill will be brought back to both houses for a final vote.
Hopefully, that's the way things will play out. If they don't, then the Vikings' future in Minnesota will be very much in doubt.
The Vikings have made it clear that, as far as a stadium bill is concerned, this is it. They have declared that they will not be back for another try in 2013, and that means that the team will likely be bound for another destination. The frustration that the team is exhibiting is understandable. In the decade that the Minnesota Vikings have been attempting to get a new stadium, there have been governors of all political stripes in the big chair in St. Paul. There is current governor Mark Dayton, who is a Democrat. There was Republican governor Tim Pawlenty. And there was. . .well, whatever the heck Jesse Ventura was.
The state of Minnesota has had budget deficits and budget surpluses, and there have been numerous other variables throughout the process. The team has been asked to play second fiddle to a new Minnesota Twins stadium. They've been asked to play second fiddle to a new Minnesota Golden Gophers football stadium. They've been asked to find a local partner, which they did with Ramsey County and the former Twin Cities Army Ammunition Depot. After that site was turned down for various reasons, they were asked to increase their contribution for a stadium on a site they weren't completely enamored with, and they did that as well. This past week, after the bill had been vetted by numerous committees and was ready to head to this floor vote, one of the state's political parties floated a completely new, unrelated plan for reasons that this writer really isn't quite sure of.
All of that comes to a head on Monday when the bill hits the floor.
If the vote goes Minnesota's way, then Viking fans from coast to coast and border to border will breathe a sigh of relief and know that their team dodged a pretty significant bullet. If it doesn't go Minnesota's way, there's a very good chance that this will be the last season of NFL football in Minnesota. The Vikings have made it clear that they are not playing any longer in the Metrodome without a new stadium agreement in place. If this bill gets shot down, owner Zygi Wilf will likely either declare his intention to move the team, or he'll put the team on the market and sell them to someone that will.
In my perspective. . .and it pains me to say this. . .but if the Vikings leave Minnesota, the chances of the NFL coming back to Minnesota are somewhere between slim and none. No team that's a candidate for relocation will move to Minnesota to play in the Metrodome, so there will have to be a new stadium built, likely at a significantly higher cost than the current plan calls for. In addition, with all of the acrimony that has marked the current set of stadium hearings, the NFL likely would not be in any hurry to attempt to negotiate anything with Minnesota again. Why would they be?
Monday could be a new beginning for NFL football in the state of Minnesota. It could also be the beginning of the end. One way or another, Minnesota Vikings history will be made in St. Paul on Monday.