CHICAGO — After both houses of the Minnesota Legislature passed a $975 million funding package for a new Vikings football stadium, negotiations were underway Wednesday to resolve differences between the House and Senate versions.
Sources said members of Gov. Mark Dayton’s administration, including top finance officials, representatives from Minneapolis and Vikings officials, were participating in the talks with conference committee members that began Wednesday.
The move followed House and Senate votes this week approving bills that provide bond-financed contributions from the city and the state to help finance a new venue for the National Football League team.
The votes capped a massive push in recent weeks by the team, Dayton and other stadium supporters to reach agreement on a funding package.
The team has lobbied for a new home for more than a decade and had warned that it would not sign a new lease to continue playing at its home since 1982, the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis.
After more than eight hours of debate that began Monday, the House voted 73 to 58 to advance its bill to the Senate after raising the Vikings’ required contribution.
The Senate, after more than 10 hours of debate, followed in a 38-to-28 vote Tuesday that also raised the Vikings contribution, by a more modest amount, and imposed user fees to help cover the state’s share.
The lengthy debates included dozens of amendments, some of which failed and others that were approved.
The debate underscored the remaining deep division among lawmakers over public subsidies for professional sports teams.
State Sen. Geoff Michel, R-Edina, stressed the urgency of action. “I think this is about the two-minute warning. … Do you want to keep an NFL franchise? This is the bill. This is the day,” he said.
Opponents countered that the deal provided too little public benefit. “Why do they get the naming rights to a stadium we built and then use that revenue as their contribution?” said state Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville.
Under the House plan, the state’s contribution was capped at $293 million, with Minneapolis contributing $150 million and the Vikings covering $532 million.
The Senate version provides a state subsidy of $373 million, city support of $150 million and a Vikings contribution of $452 million. The team have committed only $427 million to the project. It is expected that the conference committee package will settle somewhere between the two.
Under both approved versions, the team would sign a 40-year lease to play at the new roofed stadium, which would seat 65,000 at a site adjacent to the Metrodome in Minneapolis.
The state would repay bonds issued for the project with new revenue from expanded gambling, including electronic pull-tab gambling and bingo.
The Senate version also imposes so-called stadium user fees on memorabilia, parking and luxury suites to help cover the state’s costs. If those fees survive in a final version, it is not yet clear how their use might affect the tax-exemption of any state borrowing.
The Senate version also imposes an Internet sales tax.
The city would repay bonds issued to cover its share with existing hospitality taxes once its convention center debt is retired.
The City Council last month narrowly approved in a 7-to-6 vote a resolution supporting the stadium package.
Minneapolis currently imposes a 0.5% convention sales tax and hospitality taxes that include a 3% downtown restaurant tax, a 3% downtown liquor tax and a 2.625% lodging tax that is directed to repay convention center debt, which is to be retired in 2020.
The House bill diverts some possible naming-rights revenue, while the Senate version does not. The original plan allows for the Vikings solely to benefit from any naming rights deal.
The House bill also gives half of $72 million in new annual gambling revenue to charitable organizations, while the Senate version gives them just $13 million.
The House version establishes a stadium authority to own and operate the facility, while the Senate version creates an agency with an expanded scope that could include overseeing additional venues.
Dayton has promoted the new facility as a “people’s stadium” that would host a range of other public events. The final package adopted by the conference committee members would then go before the full House and Senate for a vote and before it moves to Dayton’s desk.
The deal is far from certain, given that the clock is ticking on the legislative session, with limited days to meet.
The team has long pressed to win public funding for a new home, warning that only with a new, more profitable venue could it remain competitive in its league and remain in Minnesota.
Its efforts failed even as the team in recent years watched its former Metrodome co-tenants, baseball’s Minnesota Twins and the University of Minnesota’s football team, win new financial help for their new homes.
The latest effort began with the Vikings last year announcing a partnership with Ramsey County to build a suburban stadium, but the Legislature rejected the plan because of its reliance on a local sales tax that would not be subject to a public vote.
Attention then shifted to a Minneapolis proposal at the Metrodome site.