ST. PAUL, Minn. -- After a plan to build the Minnesota Vikings a new home cleared its final hurdle Thursday in the state Senate, the team executive who spent much of the past decade lobbying for the nearly $1 billion stadium could hardly contain himself.
"Let's build it!" vice president Lester Bagley shouted, hugging Vikings communications director Jeff Anderson.
In the gallery above the Senate chamber, Vikings fans broke out in a rendition of the "Skol Vikings!" fight song, earning a reprimand from the Senate secretary.
The Senate vote capped an amazing comeback for the Vikings' stadium dreams, which just a few weeks ago were fizzling before a visit from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell crystallized fears that the Vikings could leave the state without a new home.
Gov. Mark Dayton has promised to sign the bill, a $975 million plan to build on the Metrodome site in downtown Minneapolis with just over half the cost paid with public money.
At a celebratory news conference, owner Zygi Wilf recalled when he and his brother, Mark, first took ownership of the team nearly seven years ago and being asked whether they would move the team.
"We kept on fighting that this day would come, and it's here today," Wilf said.
Dayton, long a cheerleader for the deal, publicly thanked the Wilfs for agreeing to a $50 million bump in their share in final negotiations.
"Without your willingness to take that last step, we wouldn't have crossed the goal line," Dayton said.
The team had pursued a stadium for years but gained leverage only when its lease on the Metrodome expired this past year.
The team argued that the 30-year-old Metrodome did not generate enough revenue for it to compete. Dayton, a Democrat, argued that without a new building the state could lose its most-beloved franchise.
The deal guarantees the Vikings' future in Minnesota for three decades with the team paying 49 percent of construction costs ($477 million, which is $50 million more than owners initially committed). The total public expense is slightly higher, too, winding up at $348 million for the state and $150 million for Minneapolis.
"We've scored a touchdown, and it's a touchdown for the state of Minnesota and it's a touchdown for the Vikings fans," said Sen. David Tomassoni, a Democrat, before voting in favor the bill.
Even before the final Senate vote, the bill took on an air of inevitability after the House approved it right before it adjourned for the year a few hours earlier.
"Everybody wants a yes vote, everybody wants a stadium, but at what cost?" said Sen. John Howe, a Republican who voted against the final deal.
Sen. Scott Newman, a Republican who voted no, said the state should be spending its money instead on things like health care, education and infrastructure.
"I know it happens across the nation, but it saddens me to think that our citizens believe that this is a wise expenditure of tax money," Newman said.