The latest phase of the Vikings’ search for a new stadium began Tuesday as the team waits for the State Legislature for the final piece of the funding puzzle. Lester Bagley, Vikings vice president of public affairs/stadium development, was interviewed on the team website Tuesday, explaining where the Vikings go from here after the regular legislative session ended without a budget bill or stadium bill passed.
Bagley said that, similar to the Vikings having to get in line following the Twins and University of Minnesota Golden Gophers stadium proposals over the years, the team will have to get in line to get its stadium bill heard after the State Legislature agrees on a budget bill. When that happens, Bagley said, the Vikings should be at the front of that line.
“The good news is that we’re still standing,” Bagley said. “Our issue is very much in play. The governor, legislative leaders, business leaders and labor leaders all realize that we need to resolve this issue. As the regular session closed out and moved into a special session, so did the Vikings issue.”
Given the flurry of vetoes signed by Gov. Mark Dayton, a special session will be called after legislative leaders hammer out a budget deal. Bagley was optimistic the stadium discussion will get incorporated into that discussion and be addressed as part of a special session when it comes in June.
“Once an agreement comes into shape and into focus, then they’ll call a special session, bring the legislators back for three or four days and we believe we’re part of those discussions,” Bagley said. “When they bring legislators back and when the budget comes into focus, the stadium will come into focus.”
Bagley said the team remains confident that a stadium deal will get done because the Vikings have accomplished all of the hurdles placed in front of them and successfully cleared them.
“We’ve done what they’ve asked us to do,” he said. “For the last several months and years, the direction to the Vikings has been, ‘Go get a site, go get a local partner, go get a finance plan, put significant private money into the deal and get a local contribution.’ We’ve done all that. We’ve delivered. We’ve brought forward two-thirds of the equation. What’s left to resolve is the state piece. How do we pay for the roof and address the road issue?”
Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty turned the tables on political talking head Rush Limbaugh. On Monday, Pawlenty officially announced he is running for president (however, like so many others before him, he released a YouTube video prior to making a live announcement). Limbaugh interviewed Pawlenty and, for Vikings fans, it seemed a bit ironic. Limbaugh was initially part of the cartel of the rich and famous from California trying to lure a team to Los Angeles. The Vikings have been a franchise in the line of fire ever since. While Limbaugh was once a limited partner in the consortium, he was eventually eased out of the group. Still, he has at least passing interest in the Vikings bailing on Minnesota, in no small part due to Pawlenty’s insistence that no state money go to a Vikings stadium.
Limbaugh couldn’t help himself but to prod Pawlenty about this issue, saying, “The usual threats are being made. If the public doesn’t chip in and build a new stadium, the Vikings are gone. They’ll move to L.A. or someplace.”
Pawlenty deflected the question by saying the rumor is that Limbaugh is going to buy them and move the team. Limbaugh was caught off-guard and changed the subject. Maybe T-Paw does have a political future if he can disarm the great media pontificators so quickly and deftly.
Antoine Winfield had ringside seats for the Ray Edwards fight and Viking Update approached him at his seat to get his take on the lockout. Surprisingly, Winfield said he has almost no interaction with the union leaders – both league-wide and within the team – but, like several other significant veteran players, Winfield believes a deal will get done but there may not be a huge rush to see a final conclusion reached. At his age – he turns 34 in a month – he said he wouldn’t object to a deal being struck before Sept. 11, the scheduled opening weekend of the 2011 season, but wouldn’t have any qualms about missing training camp. Winfield is working out during the down time and has spent almost the entire offseason in the Twin Cities area. In the end, he believes a deal will get completed before the 2011 season gets in serious jeopardy.
“I think they’ll get something done,” Winfield said. “We still have some time left. We haven’t missed any games. I would like to get it done after training camp, but we’ll see what happens.”
Rookie quarterback Christian Ponder appeared on the NFL Network Tuesday and said he is looking forward to getting a chance to get his pro career started. The name of Donovan McNabb was thrown out and, to his credit, Ponder said that, if the veteran was signed, he would be a great player to learn from. However, word from the McNabb camp is that he still wants to play two or three more seasons, which wouldn’t make him an ideal fit for a Vikings team preparing to get the Ponder Era started sooner than later.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.