ST. PAUL (AP) — Minnesota’s latest stadium snag has the NFL publicly questioning the state’s interest in keeping the Vikings and league Commissioner Roger Goodell is concerned enough that he’s coming for another visit.
Goodell and Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney will meet with legislative leaders and Gov. Mark Dayton at the Minnesota Capitol on Friday to urge progress on the struggling effort to build a new home for the Vikings. By a 9-6 vote, a House committee struck down a $975 million stadium bill on Monday, dealing a major blow to the team’s decade-long effort to get taxpayer help for a Metrodome replacement.
“A failure to bring this to the floor is going to be perceived by the ownership and other cities as if it came to the floor and it were voted no,” Eric Grubman, the league’s vice president for operations, said Thursday.
The group will meet in Dayton’s office.
“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 on Thursday.
So what’s the harm in waiting another year, after elections are over this fall? Grubman declined to directly answer that.
“It’s easier to answer why it must happen this year. It’s because the Vikings ownership has waited and waited for years. Because if there’s no action taken this year then there’s no confidence it’s worth waiting any longer,” he said. “If that’s where this gets to then Minnesota loses control of the Vikings’ destiny. That doesn’t mean it’s going to go to one city or another, it just means that you can’t count on it.”
Legislative leaders said they were open to meeting with Dayton and the NFL officials on Friday, but Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem questioned how seriously lawmakers should take the suggestion that failure to pass a bill this year could cost Minnesota the Vikings.
“I think we’ve had this so-called warning around here for five or 10 years, so I’m not sure it’s a threat,” said Senjem, R-Rochester. He later added: “I think the Vikings are probably going to be around another year or so.”
The Vikings have declined to make lead owner Zygi Wilf or team president Mark Wilf available for comment this week.
“In order to buy, there has to be a willing seller. It’s very hard to find owners who are willing to sell,” Grubman said. “The Wilfs, I don’t believe they’ve ever been open-minded to selling. If this fails to get out of committee, then I think they’d be open-minded.”
To becoming the Los Angeles Vikings?
Approval of three-fourths — 24 of 32 — of the league’s owners is required for both the sale and relocation of a franchise. The league’s rules say the NFL doesn’t favor relocation for well-supported clubs, but relocation “may be available, however, if a club’s viability in its home territory is threatened by circumstances that cannot be remedied by diligent efforts” of the team and the league.