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Star Tribune CEO: Vikings stadium won’t mean quick land-sale profits

An early Dome re-do that crept toward Star Tribune land

The Star Tribune’s Vikings stadium headlines read bulimic — one day, plans are “on the fast track,” then “losing urgency,” a few days later. Partly, this reflects a split between boosters — whose plans erupt like clowns from a clown car — and legislative leaders who’ve never seemed fired up about a 2012 vote despite the hype.

Anyone who knows lead reporters Mike Kaszuba and Rochelle Olson knows they aren’t management toadies, but it’s impossible to ignore the Strib’s skepticism-inflaming financial interest in the stadium. As I’ve written before, the paper’s absurdly passive conflict-of-interest disclosure needs toughening up — the paper would likely get millions more if the stadium is built in the Metrodome vicinity.

Chatting with Strib CEO Mike Klingensmith last week, he acknowledged the obvious: “The presence of the stadium here, as opposed to going across town, does certainly sustain or enhance the value of the land longer-term.”

But don’t ignore those last two words: longer-term. When we talked, the latest bolting Bozo was a new stadium mostly east of the Metrodome, away from 425 Portland. “That plan is unlikely to result directly in much of a land transaction for us,” Klingensmith noted, again adding a timeline: “in the immediate term.”

In the two years I’ve covered him, Klingensmith has been consistent: The Strib would love to sell the land – which the Vikings once offered $45 million for — but doesn’t have to. That claim has been borne out:  Despite the Dome soap opera, the Strib is cash-flowing nicely, paying down debt, paying profit-sharing, making investments.  While it would be wonderful to turn a bulimic asset into hard cash, Klingensmith, with some justification, calls a land sale “A nice-to-have but not a need-to-have.”

Last week, our own Doug Grow noted Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak’s analysis of the Strib land: Rather than the Vikings owners buying it, “others are showing interest in that property for development, although not in the immediate future.”

Klingensmith is on the same page. Though he’s sanguine that the asset will liquidize nicely, he seems to be gazing at a further-off point these days. There is no purchase agreement, no options, and as he told Finance and Commerce’s Burl Gilyard late last year, no broker retained.

“There are lots of conversations about speculative things this land might be valuable for. But I think this is longer-term rather than a year or two,” Klingensmith says.

“It is a unique parcel of land in downtown Minneapolis, and I’m told even nationwide this is one of this is one of the largest contiguous parcels of land in a major urban market,” he notes.

“People talk about Greater MSP — the new regional economic development entity. They talk about whether this might be something those people have in their corporate portfolio to entice a major corporate presence.

“You hear the 2025 plan, the Downtown Council’s plan, talks about this area as kind of a Back Bay residential development area, coming up from the river in this direction.”

Even with a few downtown condo tower plans popping, and the Central Corridor and Hiawatha light-rail lines joining nearby, it’s hard to envision hipsters or retirees living on the post-Dome landscape a mere 13 years hence. Then again, there’s a chance the stadium debate might not be settled by then.

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Nick Coleman on 02/15/2012 - 01:32 pm.

    Seriously?

    The Strib land — five square blocks, if you count the one where the hulking, asbestos-laden 1940s newspaper factory still sits, mostly empty — has been for sale for YEARS. To take the bland assertions of the owner that, “No, Ma’am, we don”t expect to profit in an unseemly fashion from a new stadium, least not right aways,” seems hopelessly naive. Without a new stadium in the vicinity, the Strib bean patch has no discernible value this century. That’s why it does NOT suffice for the paper’s constant barrage of pro-stadium editorials to allow that the Strib owns property the value of which MIGHT be affected by a stadium. That is hardly full disclosure. What we have here is a conflict of interest so large, and so glaring, that the newspaper ought not to comment at all.

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