Sid Hartman
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A lot of people put their political careers on the line when they voted to finance U.S. Bank Stadium in 2012, none more so than Gov. Mark Dayton, who was at the forefront of the battle to get that legislation passed.

The governor, 71, won re-election in 2014 and has said recently that he plans to serve out his term until 2019, when he will end his long career in public office.

He said Sunday’s Super Bowl will be unlike any sporting event ever held in the state.

“It’s going to put us on the world map,” Dayton said. “It’s going to highlight everything we have in Minnesota in the middle of winter. It gives us tremendous publicity. As many as a million visitors, including people from Minnesota, a tremendous showcase for Minnesota and why it’s such a terrific place for people to raise families and work. It’s a lifetime opportunity. We had it back in 1992 so this is 26 years later. This kind of opportunity only comes around once every couple of decades.”

Dayton, like many people in Minnesota, couldn’t help but bemoan that the Vikings got so close to playing at home in the Super Bowl, but he said he’ll be at the game and that a Philadelphia vs. New England matchup is great theater.

“It would have been a lot more exciting, personally, if the Vikings had made the Super Bowl,” he said. “Having watched the four losing ventures, my wish before I pass on was to see the Vikings win a Super Bowl. It’ll have to be for another year. We never expected it was going to be a Vikings home game, so it’s not disappointing, but it doesn’t change the plan. We have two of the very best teams in the NFL, the No. 1 seeds in Philadelphia and New England. It should be a terrific game.”

Dayton said the Super Bowl showcase has gotten larger than ever.

“It builds every year, and it’s a worldwide audience,” he said. “I expect it will be a tremendous game. Being in U.S. Bank Stadium when it gets revved up, it’s really extraordinary and it will showcase the stadium and everything surrounding it. The stadium inside is just a word-class arena for a world-class community.”

Political legacy

There was no shot of the Super Bowl returning here without Dayton and the Minneapolis City Council working together to get stadium financing.

Dayton recalled that era, during his first term as governor.

“The Vikings’ 25-year lease was ending,” Dayton said. “They said they were going to sign a new lease in the Metrodome. [NFL] Commissioner [Roger] Goodell made it very clear to me and others that we were likely to lose the team, and look — there are now two teams in Los Angeles. We were likely to lose the team if we didn’t provide a new stadium.”

For his part, Dayton said he didn’t view the stadium bill — and the $498 million in public financing — as a political risk.

“It was controversial, but I signed up for a job that is controversial,” he said. “I said all along it was a jobs bill — not just to keep the Vikings, which is important — but [to] provide jobs,” he said. “There were 8,000 jobs with people who built the stadium. Thirty-six percent were minorities. About half of the people now working at the [stadium] are minorities. … I think it has fulfilled what we hoped for, which was to revitalize east Minneapolis and provide a lot of important jobs for people.”

And while Dayton said Goodell didn’t directly tell him the Vikings would move if the stadium wasn’t built, he could see it as a real possibility.

“I know how iconic the Vikings are in Minnesota,” Dayton said. “To lose that franchise … we already lost one in the Lakers. They’re not called the Los Angeles Lakers because of some lake in Los Angeles. They moved from Minneapolis.”

East Side development

While financing for the stadium was a large accomplishment, the next biggest piece of the puzzle was deciding where to put it.

Dayton said, once again, that decision came down to finances.

“The only other site that was really a possibility was up in the north metro [in Arden Hills], and the Ramsey County board decided not to provide any of the funding, so that was out of consideration then,” he said. “That left, really by default, the Minneapolis site, the Metrodome site. Minneapolis stepped in — to its credit, the City Council and Mayor [R.T.] Rybak stepped in — and took on a significant share of public financing, along with the state of Minnesota. That became the one site that was financially feasible.”

Dayton said the decision to build in downtown Minneapolis couldn’t have had better results.

“That has been one of the great success stories of the whole project,” he said. “I’m told [there’s been] over $1.5 billion of new investment. You can see it with the towers there, all of the new building going up around, the new businesses. It has completely revitalized that declining area of Minneapolis. It’s tremendously important and tremendously valuable.”

Sid Hartman can be heard on WCCO AM-830 at 8:40 a.m. on Monday and Friday and at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday. E-mail: shartman@startribune.com