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Analysis: Beyond funding, other stadium questions remain

ST. PAUL -- Whether to fund a stadium, and how to do that, are the key questions in a Vikings stadium debate, but there are other ones.

For instance, there is a timing issue.

Unless a special legislative session about the stadium is held this month, as appears now to be impossible, lawmakers could face the fact that the state will have a bigger state budget problem. A Dec. 1 report will detail the state's financial picture and if it heads south, funding a stadium will be more difficult.

Sen. Ted Lillie, R-Lake Elmo, suspected the report might have been a factor in the timing of Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton's call for a special session before Thanksgiving. "There was a rush" to get to the stadium issue before the budget report is released, Lillie said.

The report, updated again in February or March, gives lawmakers an early look at the state's financial position. Lillie said predictions are the forecast will reveal a 2012 budget shortfall of between $500 million and $1 billion out of the $30 billion-plus two-year budget.

Funding a stadium could be even tougher if lawmakers wait until the regular session, which begins Jan. 24.

"This will be a complex session again," Lillie said.

House stadium bill author Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, aid chances of a stadium bill passing next year are less than if it comes up in a special session.

"I personally do want to see a special session," added Senate bill author Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, so lawmakers can concentrate on other issues in the regular session.

The budget is bound to be a main issue next year, but as important to stadium politics is that 2012 is an election year, and many Minnesotans do not want public money going to a stadium. That would make it difficult for lawmakers to vote for a stadium.

On top of that, on Feb. 21 legislators first see their new district maps, meaning they mayy want to spend less time in the Capitol and more time back home campaigning to voters who do not know them.

Lots of other complexities cloud the stadium debate, including:

-- On Friday, the Dayton administration said that it appears the Vikings' Metrodome lease actually requires them to use the facility another season, not ending Feb. 1 as thought. The administration said the Metrodome roof's collapse 11 months ago forced the Vikings to play two games elsewhere, and because of that a lease clause requires them to play another season in the downtown Minneapolis facility. The Vikings disagree.

-- Vikings owner Zygi Wilf has said he would not move the team out of Minnesota, but he and the National Football League leave open the option of the team being sold, and then moved. Los Angeles, especially, is hunting for a professional football team. Dayton said there is an urgency to building a stadium because he fears the team could leave.

-- Wilf says the Metrodome cannot be remodeled so that the team can get enough profit from the venue, insisting a new location with a new stadium is needed.

-- The Vikings want a new stadium in Arden Hills, where developer Wilf could build related businesses and homes. But politically powerful Minneapolis leaders are lobbying to keep the Vikings in their downtown.

Mike Longaecker of the Woodbury Bulletin contributed to this story. Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.