Metrodome update: Angry Vikings blast stadium commission resolution

So much for harmony.

The Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission’s finance committee thought it was promoting peace and love with its last remaining tenant this morning.

But its action has officially, instantly and angrily backfired.

“The lease extension issue is a non-starter,” Lester Bagley, Vikings vice president for public affairs and stadium development, told me this afternoon after analyzing the five-page resolution. “Our ownership is outraged for the sports commission to advance a proposal that they know is completely unacceptable to the Vikings.”

As I reported earlier today, the Sports Facilities Commission surprised Minnesota Vikings’ management with a resolution seeking a lease extension in exchange for some financial considerations.

Call it extremely dead on arrival. And consider it a step backward in the already icy relationship between the agency and the Vikings ownership group led by Zygi and Mark Wilf.

For sure, a key issue to the Vikings is the post-season revenues the team generates at the Dome. Based on how well the team is doing on the field, at least one post-season game is almost assured again this season. Likely more. It could all add up to several million dollars for the team. The commission captured that revenue from the 2008 post-season.

Said a perturbed Bagley: “We’ve been negotiating in good faith to resolve this issue to get some short-term expense relief. Then, without the simple courtesy of a phone call or a heads-up they drop this radical proposal on us … Our owners are making significant investments in this team and building support and a winning team . . . The commission’s action leaves us even more concerned about our long-term prospects here.”

Bagley went on: “We’re the last remaining tenant. We expect to be treated with some level of respect, and I guess we’ll have to continue to wait. The Wilfs are landlords. You don’t do this to a tenant whose lease is up.”

The Vikings lease expires after the 2011 season.

The full Sports Facilities Commission meets Thursday when this committee resolution will be on the table for a full vote. Chairman Roy Terwilliger hinted at his discomfort at the proposal today, but he’s not a member of the subcommittee, so didn’t vote. It passed 3-0.

Among the members of the committee is Chuck Lutz, who is the deputy director of Community Planning and Economic Development for the city of Minneapolis, which, presumably, is eager to keep the team as happy as possible at the Dome.

Should be an interesting meeting Thursday morning — 9:30 a.m. at the Dome.

Comments (22)

  1. Submitted by Tony Spadafora on 11/17/2009 - 06:14 pm.

    I’m not surprised by the Vikings reaction to today’s 2 year lease extension resolution.

    I think it’s a “sweetheart” deal or “no” deal for the Vikings when clearly a deal that’s good for the Vikings and the state of MN is possible.

    Forbes Magazine on the Vikings… (2008) “…look for Wilf to unload the team.” (2009) “If a (stadium) deal can not be struck look for the Vikes to fill the NFL’s gaping hole in Los Angeles when the team’s lease at the Metrodome expires after the 2011 season.”

    Thanks for covering today’s meeting Jay… There have been too many stadium commission meetings with no reporters present lately.

  2. Submitted by Francis Ferrell on 11/17/2009 - 06:29 pm.

    Something smells fishy[greedy{?}] at the Metrodome! Unless the bullies or nimwits on both sides sit down in a civilized manner? Otherwise, the Vikings will pack up, leave town, with the Metro Sports Facilities Commission [MSFC} being left holding the keys to a very empty venue.

    Whatever happened to the principles of reasonable compromise, sound economics and moral business ethics? The Metrodome can be remodeled and updated without costing the taxpayers the state Treasury. Meanwhile the Vikings can contribute and “invest” their financial share to upgrade the Dome and environs without costing them a glitch to their bottom lines.

    Why can’t simple common sense and the allegorical lessons of “Occam’s Razor” prevail over this sad uncivilized confusing sports disaster about to implode upon this state?

    This avid sports fan would like to know.

    It’s time, with the economic problems that exist for this state and country, that civil and cooler thinking prevails to keep the Vikings in Minnesota. If not, we get what we deserve….

  3. Submitted by frank watson on 11/17/2009 - 06:52 pm.

    “Bagley went on: “We expect to be treated with some level of respect”

    Is he referring to the same respect the Vikings gave to Bobby Wade? Bagley needs to keep this stuff out of the papers, or internet. No public option for a stadium, health care maybe.

  4. Submitted by Howard Miller on 11/17/2009 - 07:12 pm.

    It’d be too bad if the Vikings – who’s sports team is having a marvelous run of it – ruin the experience by being petulent in their corporate greed.

  5. Submitted by Ralf Wyman on 11/17/2009 - 11:07 pm.

    I am just so sick of millionaire team owners acting like the taxpayers of this state owe them anything. Ziggy, you own a business.

    Make the business case for why we should, in effect, bail you out when you are profitable.

    Are you as profitable as your pals? No? Boo hoo – you still make more than most Minnesotan’s with jobs, and a whole lot more than the 8-9% who are unemployed.

  6. Submitted by Richard Parker on 11/18/2009 - 02:00 am.

    Go Vikings!

    And take the Timberwolves with ya!

  7. Submitted by Tony Spadafora on 11/18/2009 - 06:35 am.

    I must be one of the people Commissioner Thatcher thinks has a political I.Q. under 3.

    I happen to think there’s no bad year for a good stadium deal and no good year for a bad stadium deal… but this would be a very good year for a good stadium deal.

    Thatcher’s best idea is about releasing the new stadium drawings (by HKS) and new construction cost estimates (by Mortenson) that have cost our stadium commission $2.5 million.

    Meaningful stadium debate can’t take place without the new drawings and cost estimates.

  8. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 11/18/2009 - 07:18 am.

    On the surface of things, the proposal to extend the lease seems clueless, since such a deal would weaken the Vikings bargaining position without addressing their long term concerns. But I don’t think the feigning of outrage helps much either.

  9. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 11/18/2009 - 07:24 am.

    Here is something all sides should keep in mind. The Minnesota Vikings are an extraordinarily valuable asset. But the only thing that gives the Vikings value is the loyalty and support of Minnesotans. Without that, the Vikings franchise consists of used, sweaty uniforms, and a lot of debt.

    This is always a difficult and frustrating process. But I don’t think it helps when the Vikings treat the other parties in the negotiation with a lack of respect. The stadium deal, whether it’s done here or elsewhere, will make the Vikings owners, whoever they are when the deal is done, vastly wealthy. A little prospective gratitude might not be amiss, especially when it costs nothing.

  10. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 11/18/2009 - 08:21 am.

    I think Frank Watson hit the nail on the head. Which would you rather have, health insurance or Vikings season tickets? Most of us can’t afford pro football tickets and watch the games on TV. No matter what they will still be on TV. If a public option for health care is socialism, what is the public option for building stadiums? At least the health care public option would benefit many people. The stadium public option would benefit one family by doubling (or so) the value of their investment. In spite of all the whining by Wilf about how hard it is on him, the value in his investment in the team is growing way faster than any of the investments that us middle class people can make. How much money is enough, Ziggy?

  11. Submitted by Kevin Wilson on 11/18/2009 - 09:14 am.

    It’s true, Zygi Wilf is a businessman. And as a businessman, he’s going to try to make the best deal he can in the interests of his business. In an ideal world, a business deal benefits both parties. Failing that, if the deal can’t be made, he will move onto another opportunity that will make good business sense. That may mean relocating the business, in this case to Los Angeles. It happens all the time in the business world. Companies close plants, move operations to other states or other countries and so on. Wilf’s not looking for a bailout. He’s looking for increased revenue and profit: A business decision. It’s no different from when Target gets tax concessions and infrastructure development from a community when they build a store. Economically, it makes more sense to work with the owner. If the Vikings leave, the city will be left with an empty white-elephant with no tenants and with one less attraction to draw people and revenue to the city: no players with high salaries paying taxes, no fans spending hundreds of dollars on a game including transportation and meals and lodging, no sponsors and advertisers, and no network TV coverage. And as has played out so many times in other markets, after the Vikings are gone the city will realize what it’s lost and then the stadium deal will get done in an effort to bring in another team, and it will cost a whooooole lot more.

  12. Submitted by Tony Spadafora on 11/18/2009 - 09:44 am.

    Don’t forget the NFL will charge an existing franchise a “relocation feel” to move into the lucrative L.A. market.

    I’ve been told that fee will be in the $300 million range.

  13. Submitted by Ken Kadet on 11/18/2009 - 10:11 am.

    Could the finance committee chair be playing good-cop, bad-cop with the Vikings…without Mr. Terwilliger’s knowledge? Regardless, seems logical that the only extension the Vikings will sign will be tied to the new stadium’s completion date.

    My take, for what it’s worth: in this public opinion and economic environment, the public-private stadium partnership will have to go radically private. Someone has to blink on the “third-third-third” financing equation. The state will have to commit to *something*. And with that commitment, the Vikings and other private interests are going to have to take on far more of financial burden than what they’ve indicated so far.

  14. Submitted by Tony Spadafora on 11/18/2009 - 11:09 am.

    Commissioner Thatcher has gone “ROGUE” along with 2 other members of his finance committee.

    What doesn’t make sense is the fact that he doesn’t think our legislature will address the stadium issue until 2011, but he asking for the immediate release of the new stadium drawings and construction cost estimate… This goes against the commission’s and the Vikings’ normal “HUSH & RUSH” legislative strategy…. that’s to wait until the last few weeks of a session to shorten the debate time and then rush a bill thru the committee process before House & Senate votes.

  15. Submitted by myles spicer on 11/18/2009 - 11:34 am.

    Boy, my hearing must be going bad. I thought I heard Wilf say emphatically when he bought the team: “The Vikings will be in Minnesota forever, as long he is the owner” — or something to that effect.

    Well, if it wasn’t my hearing that was bad, could it have been that he…lied?

  16. Submitted by Michael Hunt on 11/18/2009 - 11:38 am.

    I need to point out a few eroors on the part of other posters.

    First, from Hiram: “But the only thing that gives the Vikings value is the loyalty and support of Minnesotans.” No Hiram, what gives a “sports franchise” value is the loyalty and support of its “fans”. If you think that’s a commodity only found in Minnesota, you’re sadly mistaken. It seems to me the Dallas Stars didn’t go out of business after leaving Minnesota.

    And I’m tired of the public subsidy for rich owners argument. I’ve heard it for years. I’m willing to pay a .75% sales tax to keep them here. I’m already paying for a worthless TCF stadium and a Guthrie that mean nothing to me. I understand it may not be apples to apples but it is in the respect that you’re taking my tax $$.

  17. Submitted by Tony Spadafora on 11/18/2009 - 11:47 am.

    myles… Zygi did say he won’t move the team, but according to Lester Bagley, Zygi could sell the team to someone who will relocate the franchise.

  18. Submitted by Richard Faust on 11/18/2009 - 12:49 pm.

    A couple of points to consider:
    #1: Pay very close to the labor negotiations between the Owners and the NFLPA. . .The 2010 season will be played without a “salary cap”, and many people believe that a “lockout” is not out of the question for the 2011 season. . .Players have been advised to put away a significant portion of their wages for this season and next to prepare for the worst. . .The new NFLPA Executive Director is not an owner’s “yesman” like the late Gene Upshaw, and the players are tired of having the worst deal in major professional sports (e.g. no guaranteed contracts). . .Can you imagine the Minnesota State Legislature seriously considering a stadium deal with a work stoppage looming on the horizon? . .
    #2: A personal anecdote. . .Two springs ago while making a down payment on season tickets at the Vikings ticket office at the ‘Dome, I overheard a conversation between what appeared to be a representative of the Vikings (not Bagley) and two representatives of the stadium commission. . .After one of the two commission reps stated that this site (the Metrodome site) is the best site for a stadium in Minnesota, the Vikings rep replied: “It’s the best site in “this” state.” The implication was as clear as the skies today: there are better sites in other states!
    Bye bye Vikes, if nothing is done posthaste!

  19. Submitted by Howard Miller on 11/18/2009 - 01:02 pm.

    When an entertainer wants more money than i can afford, i wish him the best of luck as he finds new audiences elsewhere.

    The Vikings insist they need the added revenue a new stadium would provide, and I should kick in for that. If the Vikings could guarantee me my employer won’t lay me off soon, I’d still hesitate. But the Vikings can’t and there’s no way I’m kicking in simply so they make more money. That’s the real deal here on stadium construction.

    That’s where I am with the Vikings. I can’t afford to experience their show live, ven in the HHH dome. If it wasn’t on tv, I’d never see them. To be forced to help buy them a new building so they can get more money for the same product …. that doesn’t sound like a good deal to me.

    So … if they can do better in LA, it’s a free country – i hope they make all the money they want from our friends and fellow citizens in California.

    Not one dime of public money – put it to a vote

  20. Submitted by Francis Ferrell on 11/18/2009 - 01:24 pm.

    I hope I am going to be wrong when I say, “Good Bye”, to this MN football team, and, “Good Riddance!”

    Before you go to LaLa Land in Los Angeles, Mr. Wilf, makes sure the Dome lights are off, the keys left at City Hall, with The Minnesota Vikings team name and logos left at the MN Historical Society. The team may be yours, for the taking, but the name etcetera belongs to us Minnesotans.

    (Remember, Art Modell, try to leave Cleveland with the “Cleveland Browns” name etc. but the people went to court and won their name back. The same will hold true here.)

    So, Mr. Wilf, if you are a man of your word and character I sincerely hope you work things out here in Minnesota. We love our team, we want our team, and we need our team. We need you in light of the nation’s and state’s situation to help us with the Vikings.

    If MN nice, MN culture, ethics, history, and a way of life mean anything you will work things out. Otherwise, nice forgetting you and the rude ignoble legacy you will leave behind.

  21. Submitted by John Reinan on 11/18/2009 - 02:02 pm.

    I’m not ready to jump into a debate about the merits of a new stadium.

    However, after reading many, many items over the years about the economics of stadiums — here and elsewhere — I believe it’s been pretty well established that the amount of money spent on entertainment holds pretty steady, team or no team.

    So, if the Vikings did leave, all that money spent on hotels, meals, team gear, etc., would still be spent elsewhere in the entertainment economy.

    People might go bowling instead of watching the game. Or they might extend their deer hunting trip an extra day instead of traveling to a game.

    A guy who’s accustomed to spending Sunday on the couch watching the Vikings might take his wife out for dinner and a movie instead.

    I’ve been a Vikings fan for 40 years and watched them lose all four Super Bowls. I don’t want to see them leave, particularly when we seem to have an owner who’s really motivated to see the team win and do well.

    But life will go on. Maybe Minnesota football fans will focus on the Gophers the way they did before the Vikings existed.

  22. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 11/18/2009 - 02:57 pm.

    “No Hiram, what gives a “sports franchise” value is the loyalty and support of its “fans”.”

    I honestly don’t think the loyalty and support of Vikings fans in New Jersey, for example, adds value to the franchise. Support from people out of state of the home region might add some value to an America’s team franchise, like the Dallas Cowboys are or maybe used to be, but not to the Vikings.

    “If you think that’s a commodity only found in Minnesota, you’re sadly mistaken.”

    I don’t, but wherever that commodity is found, that’s what will give value to the franchise.

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