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Vikings' new stadium a formality

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings moved to within a governor's signature of getting a new $975 million stadium on Thursday after the state Senate approved a plan that relies heavily on public financing.

Gov. Mark Dayton has said he'll sign the measure, meaning the Senate's 36-30 vote was effectively the final barrier for the stadium. The House passed it overnight.

After the Senate vote, jubilant Vikings vice president Lester Bagley hugged another team official and shouted, "Let's build it!" Vikings fans broke out singing the "Skol Vikings" fight song and the Senate president admonished them to take it outside the chamber.

The team chased a new stadium for more than a decade but had little leverage until its lease expired this past year on the 30-year-old Metrodome. Dayton led a newly urgent charge for the team, arguing that without a new building the state could lose its most beloved franchise.

The deal guarantees the Vikings' future in Minnesota for three decades.

The team would pay 49 percent of construction costs: $477 million, which is $50 million more than owners initially committed. But the public expense is still high: $348 million for the state and $150 million for the city of Minneapolis.

Even before the final Senate vote, it had taken on an air of inevitability after the House approved it and adjourned for the year early Thursday. Opponents conceded during the Senate debate that the bill would become law, even as they sharply criticized the state's share backed by expanded gambling.

Supporters countered by reminding their colleagues of the pain of losing the Lakers and the North Stars to other states in past decades, and said they were inundated with messages from Vikings fans urging them to keep the team here.

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Florence hooks on with Broncos

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos have agreed to terms with veteran free agent cornerback Drayton Florence, who was released by the Buffalo Bills last week.

Florence is a 10th-year pro whose release from the Bills was regarded as a mild surprise. He had 45 starts in 46 games during his three-year stint with Buffalo. But he was slated to make $4 million in base salary this season and the Bills took South Carolina cornerback Stephon Gilmore and LSU cornerback Ron Brooks in the draft.

He spent his first five NFL seasons with San Diego, followed by a year in Jacksonville before signing with the Bills in 2009.

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USFL making a comeback

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The USFL is back in business, with Hall of Fame receiver Fred Biletnikoff among its advisers.

Biletnikoff will consult on football operations for the league, which went out of business in 1987 after losing millions of dollars and, despite winning a lawsuit against the NFL, being awarded just $3 in indemnities. The USFL plans to kick off next March in eight cities and play a 14-game season.

The USFL will use players not drafted by the NFL or released by NFL teams, with player and coach contracts owned by the league.

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