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Why do the Vikings’ needs come before others’?

On Oct. 15, as I came up the off ramp from 35E at the Maryland Avenue exit, I saw standing near the traffic lights an older man with a large beard wearing weathered clothes holding up a cardboard sign begging for work and food. Then, on Oct. 29, I saw a young man and a woman holding up signs about a “family in need” as I got off I-94 at Lexington Parkway.

Whether these people were honest or selling a sob story is not the point. The point is this: With people begging on the streets of Minnesota’s capital, the Minnesota Vikings have a lot of nerve to be pestering Gov. Mark Dayton and the Minnesota Legislature for money when there are people who would not mind a cut from $1.1 billion in this “freeze wages, raise prices higher, make people homeless” day and age.

Why on earth does a professional sports team’s needs matter more than those of the people?  Just what is Dayton thinking?  Is somebody with a vested interest in the Vikings bribing him to pursue this project or something?  Come on.

Don’t try to soft soap me with “This stadium will create jobs!”  Correction: It will create construction jobs. And if the Arden Hills site falls into the Vikings hot little hands, environmental cleanup jobs. Nobody who would get a regular job at a new stadium could live off of those wages alone.

What about the Lake Minnetonka cruise?
The thing that floors me most is how the infamous Oct. 6, 2005, Lake Minnetonka cruise scandal has been forgotten. In my opinion, the team showed their true colors that night as nothing but a bunch of sleazy, womanizing, morally bankrupt spoiled rich people. Sure, the attorney for the company that chartered the boats to the team, Stephen Doyle, claimed not all players acted inappropriately and also claimed no drugs or minors were involved. If you believe that, then there’s a bridge for sale in Brooklyn, too.

What is more, two former Vikings told Sports Illustrated that that cruise was not the first time the team had engaged in public indecency on the lake. One even went so far as to say “That [expletive]’s been going on every year, and every year it has escalated.”

Yeah, I know there hasn’t been another scandal since, and if that is the case, we don’t have to worry about any more wild party problems, right?  Wrong. Nobody has given a guarantee the Vikings won’t get caught at that again. 

All this means this question needs to be asked loud and clear: “And these are the type of people who want us to give them millions of dollars to for a stadium?!”  For all we know, their next scandalous bash will be held there.

And what about North Minneapolis?
I am also horrified by Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak’s seeming utter lack of concern for repairing damage done in the north side of his city by the May 22 tornado as he desperately tries to keep the team in his city. 

Yes, the Minnesota Housing Board has released $750,000 to help pay for house repairs, but the odds are that won’t be enough, especially with Old Man Winter right on us. And yet, it seems to be just “Keep the Vikes!  Keep the Vikes!  Keep the Vikes!” on Rybak’s priority list with not much of anything about his addressing the needs of the storm-torn north side of his city making the news as of late. Why? 

C’mon, Mr. Mayor, make sure those neighborhoods are going to get fixed up by winter before running around trying to convince rich dudes to keep their spoiled rich-kid team in town.

“From day one I have promised that I would keep the team here in Minnesota forever,” owner Zygi Wilf claims. Well Zygi, I don’t care. If you ask me, take your team and get lost come February. We’ve got more pressing needs to address in this state.

Richard Held is a local writer. He blogs for Klat.com under the pen name “richardwrite31.”

Comments (8)

  1. Submitted by Jackson Cage on 11/14/2011 - 10:46 am.

    OK, Mr. Held, I’m going to start off stating that I oppose public money for a stadium. But I have some more broad, general questions for you:

    1. When is it “enough” and we CAN talk about a stadium? When unemployment and homelessness cease to exist? When schools finally announce “we have too much money”?

    2. How much money do you need to solve these problems? Give me a figure so I can deal with it and then be done with this problem and move on to other issues like the stadium. You keep asking for more and I never see improvement or results. When do you become accountable?

    3. And so you know, you lost me as being able to be credible or objective. You somehow “know” that EVERY Viking acted in appropriately and possessed drugs, yet you’re really conflicted whether the panhandlers at the intersection are “honest or selling a sob story”. Really?

    Maybe somebody can publish a compelling argument. You haven’t done it.

  2. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 11/14/2011 - 11:31 am.

    The point remains: there are so many more compelling and constructive uses for public money than a new Vikings stadium.

    The team has a stadium, but wants a new one to make more profits (not make profits; make MORE). News is out (Mondale’s recent report) that the team’s own private contribution will be somewhere under $200 million, way less than the almost-half of the $1.2 billion stadium costs they pretended to be funding. And there is no net long-term benefit, economically, for the community that hosts the team.
    I can’t understand why the Vikings, or the public officials involved, don’t seek a totally-private funding mechanism, as Los Angeles has done.
    Tax dollars from the public must go for public benefits. Not just to the Vikings and their fans.

  3. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 11/14/2011 - 01:27 pm.

    Mr.Cage — the advice from charities and human services organizations is to never give cash to someone who asks you for it on the street because you don’t know if it’s for drugs/booze or actually needed for food. The preferred thing to do is to give them directions to the nearest shelter. I can easily see that Mr. Held, while obeying those instructions, would still wonder if those seeking money really were hungry, not addicted.

    And “how much money would it take to solve” the problems of homelessness and hunger? Hundreds of millions of dollars would surely help more poor people whose jobs have disappeared than a stadium neither they nor most of their friends can ever afford to visit.

    The Wilfs are in the 1%, the poor, middle and working classes are the 99%. The Wilfs can well afford to build their own stadium or buy the Dome for one lousy dollar. Their choice should be: Dome for $1 or begone.

  4. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 11/14/2011 - 01:31 pm.

    The fact that there are better uses for money isn’t a reason to reject any specific expenditure. There are always better uses for money, because the best is always an adversary for the good. The question for any particular expenditure, and maybe any choice we make in life is whether it’s a good thing to do.

    The stadium will create jobs, and those jobs aren’t any the worse because they happen to be construction jobs.

  5. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 11/14/2011 - 03:28 pm.

    Mr. Foster: I think the commenter meant that stadium construction jobs are temporary, when what we really need a decent, permanent jobs with benefits.

    If a stadium is built, or if the Dome is re-used, the jobs available are mostly part-time, game-day only concessions sales or janitorial services with no benefits.

    If we’re investing money for long-term economic health as a state, it should be for the production of green energy products: solar panels, wind towers, plant-based fuel or lubrication products, etc.

    Who cares about being the home of one pro sports team when we can be the home of 20,000 clean lakes, great resorts and fishing and camping, more local theater, dance and musical groups than anyone can count, fine schools and colleges and libraries and parks and zoos and resorts and museums and rec centers, and on and on. In short, our quality of life is much more important that yet another stadium for Mr. Wilf.

  6. Submitted by Jackson Cage on 11/14/2011 - 03:58 pm.

    Ms. Vetsch, while I can respect your arguments, your argument loses steam in your last paragraph. When you try to compare “one sports team” vs. “more local theater, museums, dance and musical groups than anyone can count”, by virtually any measure you lose…and you lose badly!

  7. Submitted by rolf westgard on 11/14/2011 - 04:01 pm.

    “”If we’re investing money for long-term economic health as a state, it should be for the production of green energy products: solar panels, wind towers, plant-based fuel or lubrication products, etc.””

    You don’t invest in these without major government subsidies, because they are all big financial losers without those subsidies. They are the last things you want to put a billion dollars in unless you know the taxpayers are there with more to back you.

  8. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 11/14/2011 - 05:40 pm.

    In this economy all jobs are temporary.

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