ST. PAUL, Minn. – Gov. Mark Dayton said Thursday that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers will come to Minnesota to meet with state lawmakers and urge progress on the struggling effort to build a new stadium for the Vikings.
Dayton said he'd convene a Friday meeting in his office with Goodell, Art Rooney and the Legislature's four caucus leaders. Rooney leads the NFL's stadium committee.
"If it isn't passed this session, the league itself — beyond the Vikings — the league itself has serious concerns about the viability of the franchise here and the future of it here," Dayton said after a 20-minute phone conversation with Goodell and Rooney.
Stadium supporters have been scrambling since a House committee voted down the latest proposal Monday night, a $975 million plan to tear down and rebuild on the Metrodome site in downtown Minneapolis. The team is committed to play its upcoming season in the Metrodome, but Dayton says failure to approve a stadium plan this session increases the chances of Minnesota losing the franchise.
Dayton said the league officials share the Vikings' assessment that the 30-year-old Metrodome is "antiquated" and needs to be replaced to keep the franchise profitable.
The morning after the House committee vote, Dayton said the stadium issue might have to wait until next year. But he changed his tune Thursday, saying he had been convinced by new notes of urgency expressed by both Vikings executives and NFL officials. The day after the vote, Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley said that "there is no next year" for a stadium bill but would not elaborate what that meant.
Dayton said he hadn't spoken to Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf since the bill's setback in the House. He said they have been careful not to issue threats about what would happen if the stadium issue is unresolved this year.
But Dayton made clear that at least from his perspective, they don't have to. As he has frequently done, the Democratic governor mentioned other NFL franchises that relocated to other cities including the Los Angeles Rams and the St. Louis Cardinals.
"I don't know that anybody knows precisely what would happen starting the day after the legislative session if there's no stadium bill, and I'm not going to ask (the Wilfs) that," Dayton said. "It's clear that nothing has been predetermined, but that anything is possible after the session if there's no stadium."