Updated: March 27th, 2012 10:51pm
Vikings lobbying owners, meet with chair of NFL finance committee

Vikings lobbying owners, meet with chair of NFL finance committee

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The state Legislature isn't the only place the Minnesota Vikings are lobbying for a new stadium.

Hours before team president Mark Wilf presented an update on the stadium push at the NFL meetings on Tuesday afternoon, Vikings officials had a lunch meeting with Houston Texans owner Bob McNair, the chair of the finance committee that must approve a league-sponsored loan for the team to fund its share of the project.

"There's a lot of work going on here as well as updates and meetings and networking," said Lester Bagley, the Vikings' vice president of public affairs and stadium development. "But it's important for us, because of our unique situation with our stadium effort."

The Vikings have pledged $427 million towards the upfront costs of the $975 million project. That contribution is expected to include a loan of up to $200 million under the NFL's G4 program that would be repaid through revenue from premium seating revenues normally shared among the other 31 teams.

As one of the NFL's lowest-revenue teams for years at the Metrodome, the Vikings have a strong case for assistance.

"There's been a lot of attention to Minnesota and our stadium issue over the years," Bagley said. "This is a priority to the league, so it was an important discussion (Tuesday)."

The stadium push gained new life on Monday, when seven of the 13 members on the Minneapolis City Council filed letters in support of the Vikings' plan for a $975 million stadium project on the existing Metrodome site.

That no doubt changed the tone of the presentation by Wilf, who reported good progress and noted support from Gov. Mark Dayton as well as the city council as the issue moves back to the Legislature.

"We added a little bullet point to recognize (the council's support)," Wilf said. "It is significant and there is progress and we did inform the ownership that that was the case. We'll see how this comes out, but ... the ball's in the court of the Legislature and hopefully, the leadership there will move it to the next step and get this thing done."

Wilf called the timing of the council's support "critical" to the bill's chances for getting through the Legislature this session, but time isn't on the Vikings' side. Bagley said the hope is the Vikings can push the bill through committee hearings in the next three or four weeks and get it to a vote before the Legislature adjourns.

Issues remain, though -- most notable, the portion of pull-tab revenue used to fund the state's $398 million contribution that will be donated to charity, and the backstop if that revenue stream falls short of projections.

"Our perspective is we have the governor of Minnesota, the mayor of Minneapolis, the city council president, now the city council on board," Wilf said. "Now, again, the Legislature is taking a look at this and I think the governor even said (Monday). If there's a will to get this done at the Legislature, we believe that this can get done."

On Monday, Bagley said there were "good conversations, good energy" taking place among members of both political parties in both bodies of the legislature.

Asked on Tuesday about the possibility of the issue being politicized along party lines, Bagley joked the team has a coalition -- those who support the effort and those who just want to get it over with.

"To combine those groups together, there's enough support to get this thing through," Bagley said. "But we've got to get those last questions ironed out about the revenues and the financing, and once those are ironed out, then we think we have a decent shot.

"Let's see -- up or down. Give us a shot, and we think we're in decent shape to get there."

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
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