ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — After 11 hours of debate and some close calls, the Minnesota Vikings stadium legislation won approval late Tuesday from the state Senate to set up a final round of negotiations.
The full Legislature is now on record, with a majority of lawmakers opting for a publicly subsidized stadium. Barring reversals or late surprises, the Vikings are primed to emerge this month with authorization for a new $975 million stadium it has chased for more than a decade.
The Senate's 38-20 vote Tuesday came a day after the House approved its own stadium bill. A conference committee will work out differences, and the Vikings are already on record against the House version for a $105 million hike in the amount they would pay. The Senate's version includes a smaller bump.
If both chambers pass the final product, the measure goes to Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton, who has led the charge for a new stadium for months.
The Vikings say they can't make enough money in the 30-year-old Metrodome to compete.
It was clear from the get-go Tuesday that stadium supporters wanted to turn to offense rather than defense in the Senate. It was Sen. Julie Rosen, the stadium bill sponsor, who promoted user fees on suites, parking and Vikings merchandise. Another backer pushed for the $25 million additional team contribution, and that amendment was approved unanimously.
The user fee amendment — adopted on a 40-26 vote — would levy a 10 percent fee on suites and on parking within a half-mile of the stadium, and impose a 6.875 percent fee on Vikings clothing, trading cards and other memorabilia.
Throughout a debate that stretched from early afternoon past nightfall, senators twice approved amendments they overturned later. One would have imposed a more aggressive slate of user fees that could cut into Vikings profits and a second would have subjected portions of the bill to a potential Minneapolis voter referendum.
Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville, said the deal to date has been negotiated by people too willing to please the team.
"When stadium proponents are putting things on that make the deal less appealing to the Vikings, you wonder if it's been put on just for the purpose of attracting votes and then getting pulled out in conference committee," said Thompson, the leader of the conservative faction within the Senate GOP caucus. "But I guess time will tell."