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Stadium effort surges, but goal line still not crossed

ST. PAUL -- A Vikings stadium construction effort has fallen short for years, but a Friday meeting among NFL officials and Minnesota leaders produced the most progress so far.

The plan that passed a Senate committee Friday night 8-6 faces tough votes in other committees. And the House version must be resurrected and face further committee debates of its own.

Despite what even supporters predict to be a difficult future, they said Friday could be a turning point.

A stadium "is very close to the goal line," Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney II, head of the NFL stadium committee, said after meeting with state leaders.

House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, told a radio audience that he expects the stadium to receive a full House debate, even though a committee defeated it Monday night.

Neither Zellers nor Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, predicted a stadium package eventually will pass, but the mood inside the Capitol changed in recent days to become more optimistic a stadium is possible.

Credit the new-found momentum to a meeting of National Football League officials with eight key state leaders in the governor's Capitol office.

"Our presence here is a signal of how important it is to the National Football League" that the Vikings remain in Minnesota, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said.

The message coming from the meeting was loud and clear: Approve a stadium during this legislative session or the Vikings may move.

However, Goodell said he did not threaten the state.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.