OK now, does everyone who wants a stadium have one? With the Vikings a pen stroke away from a new nearly billion-dollar palace, reporting on the day’s historic development goes as follows.
From Martiga Lohn at the AP: “ The Senate vote capped an amazing comeback for the Vikings’ stadium dreams, which just a few weeks ago were fizzling before a visit from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell crystallized fears that the Vikings could leave the state without a new home. Gov. Mark Dayton has promised to sign the bill, a $975 million plan to build on the Metrodome site in downtown Minneapolis with just over half the cost paid with public money. … Dayton, who served as a main cheerleader for the deal for months, publicly thanked the Wilfs for agreeing to a $50 million bump in their share in final negotiations this week. ‘Without your willingness to take that last step, we wouldn’t have crossed the goal line,’ Dayton said.”
Mark Peters and Jack Nicas at The Wall Street Journal write: “The deal makes Minnesota, population 5.3 million, the latest small market to shell out big bucks for a major sports stadium, despite evidence that such investments rarely pay off for taxpayers in purely economic terms. The proposed stadium, which would open in 2016, would be the fourth-most expensive NFL stadium ever. The construction bill to taxpayers, $498 million, would be the second biggest public subsidy for an NFL stadium, after the $620 million paid by Indiana taxpayers for the Indianapolis Colts stadium several years ago. However, taxpayers’ share of the construction costs for the planned Vikings facility — slightly more than half the total — is a smaller percentage than for many other publicly subsidized stadiums.”
In the Los Angeles Times, Houston Mitchell writes:, “The Vikings will pay $477 million of the stadium costs, the public $348 million and the city of Minneapolis $150 million. ‘This stadium is the best interest for the state,’ said Sen. Julie Rosen, a Republican from Fairmont who was lead sponsor of the bill. ‘This investment from three partners is the best for this state.’ Sen. Scott Newman, a Republican from Hutchinson who opposed the bill, predicted it would pass. He said the state should be spending its money on things like health care and education. ‘I know it happens across the nation, but it saddens me to think that our citizens believe that this is a wise expenditure of tax money,’ Newman said.”
The NFL’s build-or-we’ll-leave leverage card now swings away from Minnesota. Mark Purdy in the San Jose Mercury News says: “The NFL wants Los Angeles to have an NFL team. Wilf had an NFL team with an old, outdated stadium. But coincidentally, a few weeks after Wilf’s plane made its cameo SoCal appearance, Minnesota came up with acceptable terms. This wasn’t good for Raider fans who choose to be paranoid about the team possibly moving to L.A. That’s probably because the paranoia has a basis in fact — namely, that it already happened once, 30 years ago. And it certainly could happen again if enough dominoes fall. The Minnesota deal was a domino because if L.A. officials hoped the Vikings’ franchise was a prime candidate to make a move, their eyes will now turn to the next potential prime candidates. … If the Vikings had gone to L.A., the eye-gazing at San Diego and Oakland would have been minimal or non-existent. But now they are back in the falling domino path. According to the latest reports, though, the Chargers are in talks about a new stadium plan in downtown San Diego that seems promising.” So will they install electronic pull-tabs on Coronado Beach?
Don Davis and Danielle Nordine of the Forum papers say: “The new stadium will make Minnesota ‘a better place to live,’ [GOP Rep. Morrie] Lanning said shortly after the House approved his stadium bill, 71-60 … The Vikings vote was the last major action lawmakers took before adjourning for the year. They had planned to leave by April 30 but stayed to see certain issues through, such as the stadium and a tax-relief bill that could face a governor’s veto. … The stadium issue was the most publicized of the year. The proposal did not advance until last month, after NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell visited state leaders and left the message that the team could move if there is no new stadium. ‘We were all on the same page after that,’ [GOP Sen. Julie] Rosen said. Owner Zygi Wilf told reporters at today’s news conference-turned-Vikings rally that fans made the difference in passing the controversial plan. ‘I want to really thank the fans, throughout the state and throughout the country,’ he said.”
At MPR, Tim Pugmire’s story says: “Senate stadium opponents appeared resigned to the bill’s ultimate passage, but they weren’t going to make the last vote an easy one. The Senate debate lasted three hours. … Sen. John Howe, R-Red Wing, said he wants to build a stadium, but he thinks the cost is too high under this bill. ‘We’ve got money in the bill for gambling addiction. So, we know we’re going to devastate some families. We know there are going to families who are going to lose their house, probably their marriages, their cars, their livelihoods so we can enjoy football,’ Howe said. Opponents also continued to question the reliability of that projected [charitable gambling] revenue stream. Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen, said she thinks the stadium will end up being a burden on state finances. Ortman urged her colleagues to recognize the true impact of the bill. ‘This is a good deal for the Vikings,’ Ortman said. ‘It’s a great deal for the fans, the NFL. Good deal for the governor, good deal for labor, good deal for big business. But the truth is, it’s not a good deal for the state of Minnesota.’ ”
The Strib editorial board hands out some “atta boys,” saying: “Gov. Mark Dayton’s savvy and indefatigable advocacy for a new Vikings stadium represents the kind of executive leadership Minnesotans should applaud. Unlike his predecessor, Dayton did more than occasionally lead cheers for the Vikings — he delivered on a key campaign promise to the people of Minnesota despite significant political risks. The threat that the Vikings would have left Minnesota without a stadium deal this year was real, although to their credit the team and NFL leadership negotiated in good faith. … Legislative leaders — even House Speaker Kurt Zellers, who voted no — allowed the bill to advance without procedural impediments or partisan hiccups. DFL minority leaders Sen. Tom Bakk and Rep. Paul Thissen functioned as de facto majority leaders as their caucuses provided more votes for the project than the Republican majority caucuses did.” Yes folks, it was modern democracy in all its glory.
Finally, Neil de Mause, still watching from his Field of Schemes blog, says of the denouement, “So the final tally is:
- The state will put in $348 million, either from electronic pulltab gambling proceeds or from stadium user fees if that’s not enough.
- The city of Minneapolis will put in $150 million in cash plus $189 million over 30 years for operating costs, a total that (counting the cost of borrowing the money, since the taxes to pay for it will be tied up paying off the convention center for the next few years) should come to around $375-525 million in present value.
- The Vikings will put in $477 million, plus $327 million over 30 years for operating expenses. The team will get 100% revenue from NFL events, while the city and state will get money from the occasional monster truck rally.
“There are a couple of lessons you could take from all this. On the one hand, it shows that when state legislators make demands, team owners who previously said “not one penny more!” can actually find quite a few pennies in order to protect a nearly billion-dollar windfall. On the other, it shows that if team owners ask for the moon and the stars, they can usually count on being bargained down by only a couple of lesser planets.”