A final vote on the Minnesota Vikings stadium bill Tuesday had Fridley's state senators on opposite sides of the issue.
The stadium bill passed 38-28 after more than 11 hours of floor debate, with Barb Goodwin (DFL-50) voting in favor and Pam Wolf (R-51) voting against.
Wolf had pledged to vote no, but Goodwin's vote was a mystery until a Y appeared next to her name on the Senate's electronic tally board—one of the last votes to be cast.
Voting on Amendments
The two senators, who represent different areas of Fridley, often voted together in favor of the many amendments offered to the bill, including the idea of making user fees part of the stadium's financing.
They both voted yes on an amendment from Sen. John Marty (DFL-Roseville) that would have allowed a referendum to take place as called for in the Minneapolis City Charter whenever that city is to pay more than $10 million toward a professional sports facility. Their votes made the difference—the amendment, which some other senators said would kill the stadium's chances, passed by one vote. But in a second vote on the same question, Goodwin appeared to have changed her mind, voting to exempt the stadium bill from the Minneapolis charter's referendum requirement. (Wolf voted in accordance with her earlier position.)
Wolf asked questions of bill author Sen. Julie Rosen (R-Fairmount) about a part of the bill that grants the family of Vikings owner Zygi Wilf free rent for five years if they bring a major-league soccer team to the stadium. How would it typically work for someone to bring such a team to Minnesota, Wolf asked, and what if someone other than the Wilf family wanted to do so?
The major moment in the spotlight for a Fridley senator was Goodwin's five-minute speech from the floor of the Senate during the final hour of debate. She called the Vikings stadium bill her toughest vote of the session—but she didn't say how she would vote.
Goodwin began by asking whether youth sports groups would get profits from concession stands during their games there. Goodwin made her remarks (from the 10:30:30 mark to the 10:36:20 mark of the Minnesota Senate's archived video) while she waited for Rosen to research a reply (short answer: things would remain the same as in the Metrodome).
Here is a full transcript of Goodwin's remarks:
"This is I think for all of us one of the toughest votes. Certainly the toughest vote I've had to take this session. And I think it is for most all of us. And I just wanted to let the public know that this isn’t about whose paying us money or who finances our campaigns or any of that. This is about what we really believe and what we believe the people in our district want us to do.
"And I think we all are trying to do the best we can to make sure that the finances of the state are protected. And the taxpayers' money is protected. And that we're not just jumping off a cliff because we've been threatened that if we don't, we're not going to have a sports team here.
Again, I said it early on and I'm saying it again. The reason I said that there is no threat right now at least is that L.A. hasn't offered a thing as far as money for a stadium and neither has California. The only thing that's been offered is the land by a private developer, and certainly they're going to want a piece of the action if they give away land. But outside of that the Vikings would have to pay $200 million to move. And they'd also have to get the OK of three-fifths of the League.
So I don't know that any of that is done, but I really do, seriously, no matter what we do here and how this ends up, I really do resent the threat that’s gone out here, particularly when the NFL came here. I think that was really a big mistake. Wilf promised that he would stay in Minnesota and now if he's thinking he'd back out on that because we're not going to put taxpayers' money into the most expensive stadium in the country, then I think that's a bad statement about how we can be so easily be scared into action around here.
"Another thing is that we are here tonight for so many hours with so many amendments because we are really trying to find a way to do this without leaving the taxpayers on the hook in the general fund, and that is exactly what we are going to do.
"People have written to me since I made the statement earlier and said, well, you're crazy if you think they're not going to move. You know, there were teams that moved but that was in a different economy. That was when states had money. That's when cities had money to locate teams there. They don't have that money now. California's broke. Much more broke even than we are. Los Angeles is broke as well. The other states that supposedly may take our Vikings away from us don't have a billion dollars or a half a billion dollars to give to private owners for a stadium.
So I don't know where this elaborate stadium is going to— and why it has to be this elaborate. I asked the question of the general manager of the Vikings—'Can't you pare this down a little bit?'—in one committee, and he said 'No. Next question?' Now that was pretty arrogant because I don't know that that we need the very best or the second- or the third-best stadium in the nation. I think we should be satisfied with a lot less than that. And they're great businessmen, and they certainly did promise a lot of things here—except the money.
So this is going to be a tough vote for me, one way or the other. And polling my constituents, it's practically 50/50 on their feelings about it. The one thing I have to say about that though is that the nos were adamantly nos. The yeses—probably about 30 percent of them were adamant yeses. But the rest of them said, 'Hold your nose and do it.' Or 'I'm holding my nose when I tell you this' or 'I don't like this one bit that they're taking money away from us, but I'm going to lose money in the process if we don't keep them here.'
So there isn't an adamant yes out there—too many of them anyway, as far as the general public goes. So anyway, I want to tell at least the public that we are going to be doing tonight, each of us—we're going to be taking the vote we think we need to take for our districts and for our own values. Let's keep that in mind and stop the threatening emails and so forth because that's not the way we deal with people.