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Vikings give Minnesota ultimatum on new stadium
The Minnesota Vikings benefited from one of football's most memorable "Hail Mary" passes in week 15 of the 1980 season, when Tommy Kramer's 48-yard touchdown pass to Ahmad Rashad as time expired gave the Vikings a dramatic 28-23 win over the Cleveland Browns and clinched the NFC Central for the Vikings.
Thirty-two years later, the Vikings might need another miracle last-second touchdown to stay in the state they have called home since joining the National Football League in 1961.
The Minnesota House Government Operations and Elections committee voted Monday, April 16 against funding a $975 million stadium for the Vikings, who have long sought a new home to replace the Metrodome and will be playing this season without a lease agreement at the 30-year-old facility.
Afterward, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that the state needed to "get a stadium next year or the Vikings will leave." But Vikings vice president of public affairs and stadium development Lester Bagley struck a more urgent tone.
"No action this year is a decision," Bagley told the Pioneer Press.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell inferred as much as well when he called Dayton on Wednesday, April 18. The Pioneer Press
That wasn't the only phone call Dayton fielded from an NFL bigwig — on Thursday, April 19, Dayton spoke to Goodell as well as Art Rooney II, the president of the Pittsburg Steelers and the chairman of the NFL's stadium committee.
Not coincidentally, a stadium bill that appeared dead a week ago is at least stirring now. ProFootballTalk.com reported Sunday, April 22 that Minnesota's Senate Local Government Committee revived the bill Friday, April 20 and that two Senate hearings should be held to discuss the proposed stadium this week. If all goes well, the state legislature will vote on the bill during its current session.
But time is running short to generate a proposal. According to Minnesota rules, the legislature can only meet for 120 days in even-numbered years. It began meeting this year on Tuesday, January 24, which makes today, April 23, the 98th day of the session.
The Vikings' this-year-or-else ultimatum regarding a new stadium agreement is more than just a bargaining tactic. According to ProFootballTalk.com, if the Vikings want to move for the 2013 season, they must inform the NFL by February 15, 2013 -- right in the middle of the next legislative session.
"We can't have it both ways," Dayton told the Pioneer Press. "We can't not do a new stadium and have the Vikings remain here for very long."
If the Vikings can't come to a stadium agreement in Minnesota, they will immediately become a prime candidate to move to Los Angeles, which has been without an NFL team since the Rams moved to St. Louis after the 1995 season. Los Angeles has been consistently mentioned as a possible destination for franchise relocation, but the last team to seriously flirt with a move to Los Angeles was the Seattle Seahawks, who nearly moved there in 1996 before Washington state voters agreed a year later to fund what is now known as CenturyLink Field.
Los Angeles is a more serious threat now after the City Council approved a "non-binding" agreement last August to build a football stadium adjacent to Staples Center by the 2016 season. In the meantime, a team could play at the Los Angeles Coliseum, the former home of the Rams and Oakland Raiders.