The Vikings stadium drive looked dead in the water as recently as mid-April, when, after six hours of testimony, a critical House committee voted the project down. With rancor dominating and the election season looming, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle had reason to fear that a pro-stadium vote would alienate the political base. But then, lo and behold, the so-called “do-nothing Legislature” managed to find a solution.
Major credit for the $975 million deal — which calls for a three-way split of construction costs between the Vikings, the state, and the city of Minneapolis — goes to Mark Dayton. Despite uncertain political calculus, the 65-year-old first-term governor was among the stadium’s most forceful boosters. He also showed a willingness to play hardball with his own party, flipping crucial DFL votes to keep the plan alive.
As the principal authors of the stadium bill, state Sen. Julie Rosen and state Rep. Morrie Lanning were key players in their respective chambers and, later, the conference committee that resolved the bills. The two Republicans also bucked caucus leadership in the yearlong battle over the stadium.
Rosen, 54, is in her third term in the Senate. Originally from Colorado, Rosen, who lives in Fairmont, is popular in her district — perhaps one explanation for her willingness to venture into such volatile territory.
Lanning, 67, is a retired dean of students from Concordia College in Moorhead (where he also received his undergraduate degree). First elected to the House in 2002, Lanning also spent a decade on the Moorhead City Council. In May, he announced that he would not seek re-election to a sixth term.
Also not be overlooked is longtime Vikings vice president for public relations and chief lobbyist Lester Bagley. Bagley has been the ubiquitous public face of the Vikings throughout the long, bruising fight for the new stadium. He had to push hard and yet not come off as a beggar at the public trough. Mission accomplished.