The Minnesota Vikings stadium plan cleared one major hurdle yesterday, as Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak successfully arm-twisted two city councilmembers into backing the proposal with support letters. This gives the Vikings the seven-member council majority required not just to pass Rybak’s scheme to funnel city money to the project, but to get state legislative action as well.
And what did Rybak do to convince Sandra Colvin Roy and Kevin Reich to switch sides? Offer them hundreds of millions of dollars for their districts, maybe? If so, nobody’s talking — according to Minneapolis City Pages, it’s just that the mayor’s people showed Colvin Roy and Reich figures that made them less worried that the deal will run out of cash:
Last week, new computer models detailing the city’s financial commitment indicated that extending Minneapolis’ hospitality tax through 2045 will generate enough revenue to cover the city’s stadium contribution. With concerns about a funding gap assuaged, Colvin Roy and Reich finally agreed to support the plan along with Diana Hofstede, Don Samuels, John Quincy, Meg Tuthill, and Barbara Johnson.
Though according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, there were other factors as well:
Colvin Roy and Reich were under intense pressure from labor groups over the weekend. McConnell said he spoke with both Colvin Roy and Reich over the weekend — as well as stadium opponents on the City Council — and said Monday that local labor leaders had targeted the two City Council members over the past two days by stressing why the construction industry needed the jobs.
Both councilmembers included caveats that they wouldn’t support any plan that would violate the city charter’s provision prohibiting more than $10 million from being spent on a stadium without a public vote — but simultaneously made clear that they don’t consider the Vikings stadium plan to violate that, because the city would be giving the money to the state to spend. And how does Colvin Roy explain her change of heart on a plan that in January she said would thwart “the will of the people” because “to me that referendum said ‘Don’t do it without our approval'”?
“I made a statement about the referendum,” Colvin Roy said. “I did not have the legal opinion about whether it would be triggered or not, whether it would be required. And now I do. And once I did have that, I disregarded my personal feelings and started looking at facts. And those facts led me to a decision that I am hoping people I represent will take the time to find out how it can actually help our city.”
Getting the council’s backing, however it happened, clears one huge hurdle for the Vikings plan, but by no means the only one: There’s still no deal with charitable gambling organizations to assuage their fears that the state’s expansion of pulltab gambling to fund the stadium would decimate their revenues, and there’s only a little over a month left before the state legislative session ends. Still, the council flip-flop means that the Vikings stadium plan has gone from on life support to very doable, which is remarkable given where things stood just last week. It’s amazing what can happen when you only need to win by one vote.