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Joy and protests mingle at stadium bill signing

Rep. Morrie Lanning summed up a stadium bill signing in three words: "We did it."

That pretty much was the attitude of a couple hundred cheering Minnesotans, many wearing Vikings' purple, in the Capitol rotunda May 14 as Gov. Mark Dayton signed the $975 million stadium construction proposal.

Lanning, R-Moorhead, said hundreds of people worked on the bill and thousands of Minnesotans influenced a majority of legislators to approve it.

"The hard work begins now," Vikings Chairman Zygi Wilf told fans and about a dozen Welfare Rights Committee members protesting the largest-ever state government construction project.

Committee members and regular Capitol protesters chanted "Shame on you, Gov. Dayton," and said he was signing a bill to help "a losing franchise."

In an interview, Lanning said that a job is the best way to bring the poor out of poverty. And, he added, he has worked for years on poverty issues with almost no publicity.

At first, Dayton said he would wait until the protesters tired, but when they continued chanting he decided to proceed with the brief ceremony.

"I want to thank the people of Minnesota," Dayton said in beginning the noon event. "This is what makes Minnesota special."

The governor said that while stadium benefits remain uncertain, "the costs are very real."

Construction could begin next year, with the first Vikings game played in the new downtown Minneapolis stadium in 2016. First, however, the Minneapolis City Council must sign off on the plan.

The stadium is to be built on the site of the 30-year-old Metrodome. Besides about 10 Vikings games a year, it is to host other events about 300 days.