ST. PAUL, Minn. — A Minnesota Senate committee narrowly approved a public subsidy on Friday to help the Vikings build a new stadium, reviving the team's struggling effort just hours after NFL commissioner Roger Goodell visited the state Capitol to jumpstart what had been a stalled stadium debate.
The Local Government and Elections Committee passed the bill 8-6 after a hearing of nearly four hours. While the stadium bill still faces a long haul in the waning days of Minnesota's legislative session, the vote gave the $975 million stadium proposal new life four days after a companion bill's defeat in a House committee sparked near panic among supporters.
"We're very pleased with the progress and that the bill moved forward," said Lester Bagley, the Vikings' vice president for stadium development. "It's been an up and down week, touch and go."
The setback in the House prompted Friday's visit by Goodell. He and Steelers owner Art Rooney II met in the morning with Gov. Mark Dayton and legislative leaders to stress the urgency of resolving the Vikings' decadelong pursuit of a replacement for the Metrodome.
Though the Vikings will play next season in the dome, their lease has expired. That has raised fears the franchise could get snatched by Los Angeles or another city seeking a team — a prospect Goodell did not exactly squelch.
"They were here basically to say, 'This is it folks,' " Dayton said. Vikings officials, including owners Zygi and Mark Wilf, were not present at the meeting.
SAINTS: The league believes the union is more intent on protecting the players involved in the team's bounty scandal than supporting its members who could have been hurt by the pay-for-pain plan.
Speaking to a group of Associated Press Sports Editors, league counsel Jeff Pash said the NFL Players Association's approach is "unfortunate."
Pash said he expects Goodell to punish players soon.
OBITUARY: Former Falcons safety Ray Easterling, who helped lead the "Gritz Blitz" defense in the 1970s and later filed a high-profile lawsuit targeting the league's handling of concussion-related injuries, died Thursday in Richmond, Va. He was 62. His wife, Mary Ann, declined to release the cause of his death, but she said he suffered from depression and insomnia, and as his dementia progressed he lost the ability to focus.