ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Hard hats and footballs mingled at Minnesota's Capitol on Monday as construction workers and Vikings fans urged legislators to approve a proposed $975 million stadium for the team.
With the House scheduled to begin debating the stadium later in the day, Gov. Mark Dayton played the role of head cheerleader, joining in chants of "Build it!" in a raucous Rotunda rally.
"Minnesota's a can-do state," Dayton told the crowd. "We've been successful because we say, `Yes we're going to move ahead. Yes, we're going to create more jobs. Yes, we're going to do the things we want to do to remain vital and strong."'
Long debate was expected to push the vote into late evening, possibly even past midnight. A Senate vote would come next on a separate version of the bill.
The Vikings have pushed for a new stadium for more than a decade, but their efforts went nowhere until their lease at the Metrodome expired. The Vikings will play the upcoming season at the Dome, but are free to leave after that. The team hasn't threatened to move, but fans fear they could relocate to Los Angeles or another city seeking its own football team.
Dayton made the stadium issue his top priority last fall, urging lawmakers to act to avoid losing a valuable asset. Dayton has also touted the thousands of jobs that stadium construction would bring.
The Vikings would cover about $427 million of the construction costs, or about 44 percent. The state would pay $398 million, with the money coming from an expansion of gambling. The city of Minneapolis would kick in $150 million by redirecting an existing hospitality tax.
Supporters weren't ready to predict passage. The legislation appeared all but dead until NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell visited in April, raising pressure on lawmakers to act. After that, the bill limped through several committees on voice votes.
Dayton sought to keep the pressure up over the weekend, appearing at Mall of America for a rally on Saturday and then at a Minneapolis sports bar for another on Sunday.
One Democrat, Rep. Ryan Winkler, announced Sunday he was changing his "no" vote to "yes" because he saw the stadium as the only job-producing project likely to come out of the Legislature this session.