New Vikings stadium: About a zillion questions to be asked, but we only have room for 13

Here's one recent proposal of what a new Vikings stadium might look like.
Ellerbe Becket
Here’s one recent proposal of what a new Vikings stadium might look like.

Another breathless Vikings stadium story screamed from the front page of the Star Tribune this morning and on the KSTP-TV airwaves last night.

The contradiction of lawmakers’ intoxication with stadium deal-making is that it’s the public that winds up with the headache and queasy stomach. The reason it took the Twins 15 years to get Target Field built is because democracy works slowly and openly, not behind closed doors.

The ideas floated in these stories — and apparently in scores of behind-the-scenes meetings over the past few months — demand about a zillion questions. But we only have room and time for an unlucky 13 now:

1. Where’s the state’s skin in this game?

The operating principle at the Legislature is often that those who benefit should help to pay. All we hear about in these stories and floated ideas is money from Hennepin County or the city of Minneapolis or a metro-area tax.

The Vikings generate about $20 million a year in taxes, we’re told. According to data the team has generated — data that needs to be analyzed by independent eyes and calculators — the football company produced about $13 million in income and sales taxes … which all go into the state coffers.

If there’s going to be public money, and if the team is a “statewide asset,” why isn’t there state money in this “deal”?

We hear there’s talk of a statewide sports apparel tax in the discussions. It would tax sports fans who buy pro team jerseys and caps, etc. It could raise somewhere north of $15 million a year. That’s a good start. It would probably even have support in Greater Minnesota  . . . unless “no new taxes” is your mantra.

2. What’s the rush?

Yes, the Vikings lease expires after the 2011 season. But the Twins played in the Dome for a number of years on a year-to-year basis.

And who in state government is performing thoughtful due diligence on the real possibility of the team moving to Los Angeles? Does the NFL really want a franchise to leave Minnesota? Will other owners “give” Los Angeles to the Wilf family? Are the Wilfs willing to help build a privately funded facility in the Los Angeles suburbs?

Waiting to build anything will cost more in the future — that’s a given. But what’s the Wilfs’ real leverage here? Perhaps the governor’s office should perform some investigation here, and even prepare for any legal spats that might ensue.

This “Los Angeles threat” should be vetted.

3. What’s the rush, Part II?

One factor, of course, is the state budget, which may look better this session than it will next session. But next session will be conducted under a new governor, who may show more leadership than this governor.

The two political parties’ political conventions are about to be held, later this month and in early May.

Don’t you think this Vikings issue has now been thrown into the mix?

4. How much is this stadium going to really cost?


The Star Tribune story uses a $698 million figure. We’re hearing the conversations have the price as much as $100 million higher? What is it going to cost? Does that include related infrastructure?

We need a solid price before we agree to pay.

5. Where is the stadium going to be located?

Ideally, the core city of Minneapolis is where such large projects should be located.  But is the current Metrodome site really the best place? Is it the highest and best use of the land for city development?

And let’s say the stadium migrates to the suburbs, such as Brooklyn Park, where another site is being examined? What could that mean for the core city?

An idea also being discussed is an increase in hotel taxes in the metro area. Should hotel taxes in St. Paul or even Minneapolis be raised if the Vikings stadium — with a limited number of sizable events — is out in the ‘burbs?

6. Hennepin County . . . again?

So, why should Hennepin County be on the hook for this? Already, ravenous dealmakers are looking to rob the county’s sales tax increase for the Twins ballpark to help pay for the Vikings stadium.

Haven’t we learned that sports facilities require continual care and capital improvements? (Target Center is a good example.) Haven’t we learned that sports facilities have a tendency to seek help from the Legislature? (Xcel Energy Center keeps asking for debt relief.)

Target Field has been used for exactly two weeks now, and already someone wants to fiddle with its finance plan? Doesn’t sound wise.

Besides, legislators, read our lips: if you want a Vikings stadium funded by the Hennepin County Board, you better whip up four votes. And good luck.

7. Minneapolis . . . again?

Then there’s the idea of dipping into the Minneapolis Convention Center entertainment tax. Talk to folks in the city. That Convention Center will probably need some dough to expand down the road.

And dare we say that Target Center, the aging arena that the city owns, already contributes mightily to that tax downtown. Will the Vikings “deal” include some opportunity for the city to pay down its Target Center debt?

8. What about the $10 million cap on Minneapolis sports facilities funding?

In 1997, the voters of Minneapolis said that any city contributions that exceed $10 million to a sports facility must be approved by a referendum. How does that affect — if at all — any effort to use Convention Center money to fund a Vikings stadium?

9. Where are the “social responsibility” pieces of any deal?


Affordable tickets? Commitment to public transit? (If it’s at the Dome site, LRT is already in place.) Commitment to no TV blackouts? Affirmative action for the work force?

The Twins/Hennepin County deal provides funding for youth sports and libraries. That’s good.

In today’s Pioneer Press, there is a troubling story about cuts in junior high school sports. For the moment, let’s set aside all the other needs in the state. (For a moment.) And just focus on sports. Do we want a community in which we are whipping up a $700 million to $1 billion pro football stadium deal, but in which we can’t afford to cover the costs of junior high sports for boys and girls who really need it?

10. Tell us again: How will this stadium be used year-round?

OK, we have 10 Vikings games. And a Super Bowl once in the life of the facility, maybe. And some NCAA basketball tournaments every few years. Then what? What will this be used for, and who will manage the building? And who will capture revenues from non-football events?

How much might events in the new Vikings stadium cannibalize events at the Minneapolis Convention Center or TCF Bank Stadium or Target Field or the two arenas? And tell us again: how many $200,000 suites can the Vikings sell? And what will the 7,000 or so expensive club seats cost? And can this community afford it?

Maybe we can, but we haven’t seen a market survey report from the team yet. Before any public money is used, we need to know how sustainable this facility will be.

11. What will the Wilfs pay?

We hear “one-third.” But that contribution has long been based on a three-legged stool: one-third team, one-third “local partner,” one-third state.

So far, the state’s leg hasn’t shown up and Gov. Tim Pawlenty has suggested it won’t show up in any state taxes. The natural “local partners” — the cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis and Hennepin County — are already tapped out because of state cuts.

The Twins are in for about 36 percent on Target Field, and paid for cost additions. The Wilfs need to open their checkbooks more.

12. Does the public get a piece of the action?

So, some public entity is going to toss in — what? — $500 million to $600 million? Do we get a piece of the team or, at least, a huge chunk of the Wilfs’ gains when they sell the team?

There’s a clause in capturing the “upside” of any Twins’ sale. Will that be part of any Vikings’ public contract?

13. Are the Vikings worth retaining as a business and cultural asset in Minnesota?


Yes, of course, no doubt about. But it’s a question of how. It’s not a matter of what the Wilfs want. It’s a matter of what makes sense for the citizens of the state.

Any more questions? We would assume so.

Jay Weiner has covered Minnesota’s stadium debates since their earliest days.

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Comments (41)

  1. Submitted by John Reinan on 04/15/2010 - 11:32 am.

    I’m a Minneapolis booster, but in this case it wouldn’t bother me a bit if the Vikings relocated to the suburbs or exurbs.

    The Twins and Wolves facilities make sense because of volume: 40 to 80 games a year, perhaps more if the teams make the playoffs.

    The Vikings: the 10 or so games you mentioned, plus a few one-time events.

    And if they’re not in Mpls or even Hennepin County, it’s less likely that the outstaters will be able to stick us urban residents with the bill for “Minnesota’s” stadium.

  2. Submitted by Brian Simon on 04/15/2010 - 11:53 am.

    “The Vikings generate about $20 million a year in taxes, we’re told.”

    “Are the Vikings worth retaining as a business and cultural asset in Minnesota?

    Yes, of course, no doubt about.”

    I question the validity of such numbers & assumption. As I understand it, people & corporations have limited budgets for entertainmnet expenses. If one entertainment alternative disappears, the dollars go elsewhere – they don’t evaporate. So should that $20 million in tax revenue ‘generated’ by the Vikings really be credited as a good reason to spend money on keeping them?

    Likewise for the final assumption that there is ‘no doubt’ the vikings should be kept as an asset. Just as surely as there is a floor that we’re willing to commit to (something above zero), is there not a ceiling? i.e. would we build a $2 billion stadium with no contribution from the Vikings/Wilfs/other private sources? I think I can safely say no. So where’s the sweet spot? The Wilfs seem to think them kicking in 30%ish is enough. I think we ought to drive a harder bargain.

  3. Submitted by Chris Vogtman on 04/15/2010 - 11:54 am.

    I think you pose some interesting questions Jay. Being a current resident of Southern California (former of Minneapolis), interest in an NFL team seems to be mild but warming as the months pass. The biggest issue here with the failed NFL franchises of past were terribly outdated stadiums and transplant citizens without passion for the LA home team.

    With the City of Industry and Gov. Schwarzenegger approving the Environmental Impact Review, there might need to be a rush to get a stadium deal done in Minnesota if they want to keep the Vikings. Of course, one could roll the dice and entertain the idea that the Rams, Jaguars or even the Bills would bolt for LA.

    Wilf seems committed to Minnesota, and it would be unfortunate to see the Vikings relocate. But, in this economic environment, I wouldn’t be surprised to see an NFL team announce a move to LA in the next two years. For more on the LA stadium … http://www.losangelesfootballstadium.com/stadium

    At the end of the day, I believe it is truly impossible to trust anything the Star Tribune reports regarding the stadium issue when they have such a large stake in the surrounding property. I’ll look toward the MinnPost to get the facts in the future!

  4. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 04/15/2010 - 12:16 pm.

    “The reason it took the Twins 15 years to get Target Field built is because democracy works slowly and openly, not behind closed doors.”

    Arghh. The reason it took 15 years to get the Twins Stadium is that it’s supporters couldn’t get the issue out of the public forums and into a back room where the deals that needed to be made could be cut without public scrutiny. In the Twins case, they found the Hennepin County board, one of the less visible elective bodies, which is comprised of political non-entities and dead enders who had little to lose from giving the Twins want they wanted. In combination with a governor and legislature that wanted a Twins Stadium just as long as they could avoid public responsibility for it, the deal was done.

  5. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/15/2010 - 12:17 pm.

    //13. Are the Vikings worth retaining as a business and cultural asset in Minnesota?

    Yes, of course, no doubt about. But it’s a question of how. It’s not a matter of what the Wilfs want. It’s a matter of what makes sense for the citizens of the state.

    Any more questions? We would assume so.

    Whoa there young, not so fast on the “no doubt”, I got plenty a doubt. When you frame the issue as necessity instead of a choice you distort the discourse, we’ve seen this before. Don’t just breeze by the “if” into the “how”. No ones gonna die if we lose the Vikings, nor would the loss render the state uninhabitable. Are the Vikings a cultural asset, sure. But they’re also a billionaire owned private franchise. Should this privately owned asset be be publicly subsidized to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars? Like I said- doubt. Should we build welfare programs for billionaire sports franchises? Again, doubt. If the pro sports economy is unsustainable without public bailouts isn’t the practice of bailouts itself ultimately unsustainable? Where are we going this?

    Then of course there’s the obvious, why are we even talking about this at a time when basic services to people who really need them are being cut due to lack of funding? I can tell you who’s dying because of those cuts, again, who’s gonna die if the Viking leave? I know, you’re gonna say we can do both, but you never do. When push comes to shove stadiums get built, billionaires get every dime they were promised, athletes get 185 million dollar pay days, and everyone else get told we’re out of money. You want to do both? You had your chance, you built a stadium, now you want to do it again. I had to laugh when I read that they want to take that two million bucks everyone was bragging about away from libraries and give it to Wilf.

    I know your going to act like I’m the Debbi downer minority guy who doesn’t want anyone to have fun, but I remind you I’m actually in the majority here. You have to do end runs around required referendums to get these things built because the fact is the majority people actually feel like do. People like their sports but a lot of people instinctively know there’s something basically wrong with these bailouts, they’re completely out of proportion.

  6. Submitted by Brenden Schaaf on 04/15/2010 - 12:18 pm.

    What is the Brooklyn Park site being considered? I’ve heard Brookdale mentioned but that is in Brooklyn Center.

  7. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 04/15/2010 - 12:25 pm.

    “The operating principle at the Legislature is often that those who benefit should help to pay.”

    Arghh again. The operating principle of this and any other legislature is, don’t tax you, don’t tax me, tax that fella behind the tree. The Twins Stadium financing was a classic example of that. The deal was perfectly acceptable to legislators, just as long as most of their constituents didn’t have to pay for it, and those legislators whose constituents did have to pay for it could appear not to be responsible for the decision.

    “All we hear about in these stories and floated ideas is money from Hennepin County or the city of Minneapolis or a metro-area tax.”

    What must be very clear at the outset is that Hennepin County residents should not have to pay for two stadiums. The state should do what it should have done in the first place, assume the financial burden of the Twins Stadium, by both eliminating the county sales tax, and compensating the county for the loss of property tax revenue, that occurred when the stadium real estate went off the property tax rolls.

  8. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 04/15/2010 - 12:26 pm.

    Brookdale is the obvious site for a new stadium, but everyone I talk to assumes it’s a non-starter. The Vikings want to be downtown.

  9. Submitted by Ralf Wyman on 04/15/2010 - 12:29 pm.

    As a Minneapolis resident/homeowner, I object strenuously to any idea being tossed around that once again shoves the burden of paying for a for-profit sports franchise’s home on the limited tax base of Minneapolis.

    We’ve seen this governor beat up on Minneapolis for almost 8 years now, but he stands up and ‘opposes a statewide tax’ (per Strib) but might OK a Minneapolis tax?

    At a time when HCMC is in crisis, building another palace to private profit a few blocks away rankles big time.

    Now, I’ve been to a Vike’s game, and the Dome was a lame experience. Houston’s new stadium is a whole lot nicer (went to my alma mater’s bowl game there). And I am eager to go to some twins games this year.

    But when I bought a new major appliance recently, I actually considered going to the Falcon Heights Warner’s store to avoid paying stadium tax — I’m still that mad about it.

  10. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 04/15/2010 - 12:31 pm.

    “who in state government is performing thoughtful due diligence on the real possibility of the team moving to Los Angeles?”

    The possibility that the Vikings may move is their main bargaining chip. At this point, we cannot know whether they were bluffing as in retrospect the Twins clearly were when they were engaged in their stadium struggles. From what I hear, a Vikings move to LA is not among the likelier prospects. The NFL has found it convenient to keep Los Angeles open as a way to put pressure on other franchises. Also, the struggling Jacksonville franchise is thought to be at the head of the line to move there. But football doesn’t need the business or population base baseball franchises need to succeed. Green Bay does quite nicely, thank you. And that means that more cities are capable of supporting a football franchise. Oklahoma City is one that comes immediately to mind.

  11. Submitted by Dave Thompson on 04/15/2010 - 12:39 pm.

    An excellent summary, Jay. I especially agree with point # 10. The Metrodome is used year-round by the community, including e.g. spring baseball by the Gophers. It is even rented out to some out-of-state teams when necessary! Any public investment should come with the requirement that the new facility be usable year-around. As an alternative, how about building the Vikings stadium in Anoka county and keeping the Metrodome open for community use?

    I still think the Wilfs blew it when they walked away from the Anoka County deal. Can that deal be resurrected?

  12. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/15/2010 - 02:09 pm.

    I don’t understand why the lucky folks of Henn Co. shouldn’t pay for another stadium? I mean since the Twin stadium is such a boon to the economy, and such a fantastic amenity, and so much fun, aren’t we just doubling all that with a second stadium?

  13. Submitted by George Hayduke on 04/15/2010 - 02:28 pm.

    Would a reporter who’s made a career out of writing about sports think the Vikings are worth retaining as a business and cultural asset in Minnesota?

    Yes, of course, no doubt about.

  14. Submitted by Tara Barenok on 04/15/2010 - 02:51 pm.

    Re #7 Minneapolis Convention Center Taxes

    There are actually 5 taxes that support the Convention Center. All were approved by the State Legislature as the funding mechanism for the Convention Center’s operations and capital needs:

    0.5% Sales and use tax City-wide
    3% Downtown liquor tax
    3% Downtown restaurant tax
    3% City-wide lodging tax

    The 3% City-wide entertainment tax (which dates to 1969) funds primarily the City’s general fund. The general fund is where police, fire, snow removal, street maintainance are funded. The entertainment tax brings in about $10 million per year. $8.5 million goes to the general fund; $1.5 goes to fund the City’s 1995 purchase of the Target Center in 1995.

    All of these taxes are expected to grow fairly slowly in the next few years (2.5% predicted growth for the sales tax, 3% predicted growth for all the others.) The fund is currently paying about $19 million per year in debt service for the 2001 expansion of the building.

    So, to reallocate any of these taxes, new funding would need to be found to replace the current allocations or cuts made to general fund services and to the convention center.

    For more info: http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/city-budget/2010adopted/docs/11-01760-MCC-Financial-Plan-Narrative-2010.pdf

  15. Submitted by Michael Hunt on 04/15/2010 - 04:12 pm.

    I’m soootired of the arguments made by peole like Paul & Brian, I think I’m gonna puke.

    First of all, the Vikinga are a tremendous community asset. Look at the $$ spent, the community interest and the publicity this State receives. I agree it may be hard to quantify, but it’s certainly more than TCF stadium, the Guthrie, the Convention Center and numerous other boondoogles I’m already paying for.

    And, for my money, I know what I’m getting for the next 30 years. If I forego this and yet again contribute that money to YOUR social programs, are you gonna guarantee me that my contribution will end poverty and problems in education? You’re not gonna let anybody have a stadium until we solve problems that have existed since man learned to walk upright? If that’s your proposition, then move somewhere else.

    Look, spread the taxes around. Make everyone in the State contribute some, make the metro area contribute a little more and make the users contribute the most.

  16. Submitted by jim hughes on 04/15/2010 - 04:39 pm.

    “The reason it took the Twins 15 years to get Target Field built is because democracy works slowly and openly, not behind closed doors.”

    Huh? Hennepin county, enabled by the state legislature, simply bypassed the voters.

  17. Submitted by Jim Roth on 04/15/2010 - 06:12 pm.

    I appreciate the thought-provoking article and the thoughtful comments. We share season tickets for the Twins and the Minnesota Orchestra. We were Vikings season ticket holders in the past and we are Vikings fans. But I think it should be looked at as “need” vs. “want”. We have to get past the era of huge public subsidies for sports teams, no matter what the realities. Even though we are impressed with the new Twins ballpark and glad the Twins are still here, most of us have no idea of the real economics of major league sports. The teams are, with the exception of the Packers, privately owned and no one has access to the books. San Francisco has a privately-financed stadium. We need to look at the alternatives before opening up the checkbook. The sports memorabilia tax is a good idea. We should look at other use taxes on football fans who view this as a “need”. We need to look at the saturation of sports and other attractions in our market. These are tough times and questions need to be asked about priorities.

  18. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/15/2010 - 11:37 pm.

    //You’re not gonna let anybody have a stadium until we solve problems that have existed since man learned to walk upright?

    You can have your stadium any time you want Mr. Hunt, but your not entitled to public money to pay for it. Entertainment is not a government service it’s that simple. Fire, police, public health and welfare are public services, if you don’t know the difference between a football and snowplow I can’t help you. By the way, unless you live and work on a self sustaining island somewhere, these aren’t just my services your paying for.

    As for the other “boondoggles”, the the entire cost of building the Guthrie was 125 million dollars, less than the Twins are paying a single player for what five years? And of the 125 million, I think 19 was public money. You can make comparisons but if you do I think I’ll puke.

  19. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 04/16/2010 - 05:51 am.

    Need and want are both elements of the problem, but where the Vikings are concerned, both are present. I do think that if we finance a new Vikings Stadium, that will be the last of the major public subsidies for several decades. We will be setting one last precedent that will never be used.

    We may not have complete access to the Vikings books, but anyone willing to make the effort can figure out where they stand financially. The Vikings are profitable, more profitable than they let on, but not as profitable as the Wilf’s feel they should be, given the price (which factored in a new stadium at some point), should be. The Wilfs are probably also under some pressure financially because of the decline of the real estate market generally, which will tend to force their hand a little bit where Vikings matters are concerned.

    As for the memorabilia tax, it’s hard to imagine that there’s enough money in sales of game used jerseys to finance a stadium. And I don’t really understand why folks who sell those things should be on the hook for a new Vikings Stadium more than anyone else.

  20. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 04/16/2010 - 08:25 am.

    “Entertainment is not a government service it’s that simple.”

    That’s ok because some years, the Vikings aren’t entertaining.

  21. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/16/2010 - 10:14 am.

    //Need and want are both elements of the problem, …

    Arghh, if there were a true consensus that the Vikings, the Twins, whatever are as much of a need as they are a want you wouldn’t have to do end-runs around the public to get funding. I know you stadium people want to just assume that we need a Vikings stadium and move on to the “how”, and that seems to be what always happens, but it’s a bogus assumption. Nobody “needs” professional sports, except maybe the owners and athletes, who don’t pay for the stadiums. No one would die, or get injured, or even be seriously inconvenienced if the Vikings didn’t exist, not even the owners or athletes who are all millionaires and billionaires. There are plenty of other things to do in MN. People had “fun” before football, they’re not gonna shrivel of and die without it. Get a grip.

    By definition precedent is not a one time only deal. The precedent of pro sports public bail-outs has been long since solidified and relied on multiple times in the last couple of decades. The details are slightly different but precedent of treating these teams like public assets that “need” to be retained has long since been established. And it’s bogus. What are you saying Hiram? After this one last stadium all the arguments your using to build it with public funding will for some reason be rendered forever useless? That’s why your in a double bind now, you want to argue that Henn Co. shouldn’t pay for the next stadium but can’t unless you recognize the arguments used to build the last were bogus. You already set the precedent and now your stuck with it… until we end these bailouts.

  22. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/16/2010 - 10:14 am.

    The economics of pro sports have been examined by a bunch of people, and although they haven’t had access to the books one thing is clear, the owners are billionaires, they and their athletes are making a lot of money, and they can afford to build their own stadiums. The basic problem they have is this: They’ve hit something of a wall as far as growth is concerned. They can’t attract more fans because of competition for entertainment dollars. Naming rights, advertising, concession sales, and broadcasting revenue eventually level out. On top of that, they’re all making too much money, payrolls are outrageous. I’ve always said just about anyone can squeeze by on two million dollars a year but they’re paying tens and hundred of millions of dollars to individual athletes. The only way they can grow revenue and add value to the teams is to build new stadiums. New stadiums on average double the value of the team within ten years. You can see this clearly with the new Twins stadium, they’re making all kinds of new money with concessions, naming rights, new luxury boxes, increased ticket prices, etc. Before the new stadium even opened they were able to increase they payroll by what 30%?

    Problem is, if they build their own stadiums it’s a wash unless they adjust their business model and change their fundamentals. If they maintain players salaries and everything else any money they put into their stadiums will simply evaporate as salaries and expenses increase. In other words, pro sports franchising is a failed business model, it cannot grow without public subsidies. Over the last couple of decades almost all of the increased value of the teams has been directly attributable to public subsidies, these stadiums are literally welfare programs for pro sports. Henn Co. is literally putting $20 million a year into Joe Mauer’s salary while at the same time cutting services. Mauer could retire tomorrow comfortably, the people being hit by service cuts are really suffering.

    In terms of the larger economics picture 99.9% of all the added value, growth, and income goes to the teams, not the public, taxpayer, city, or state that finances these stadiums and arenas. You’re not growing the economy, just the team value. You’re moving entertainment dollars around, your not growing them.

    Which brings us full circle; how do you get to the conclusion that it’s governments job to guarantee a return on Ziggy Wolf’s investment? And it only gets worse. Not only are dumping hundreds of millions of public dollars directly into a handful of pockets, your doing so at the expense of other businesses. You’re picking entertainment winners and losers and you doing it with tax dollars. Your using public money to drive consumers towards one venue and away from others. Restaurant owners in St. Louis park and Edina are paying to put money into Ziggy’s investment because you’re not putting money into general infrastructure that benefits all commerce, you’re putting hundreds of millions of dollars into a single private business in a single location.

    You’re kidding yourself if you think the Vikings stadium will be the last one. Let’s make the Twins stadium the last one. We have to stop propping up a failed private business model with public dollars that are desperately needed elsewhere. Even if the funding wasn’t needed elsewhere, this is just simply wrong. We produced a deal, a consensus, if you want more than 20 million public dollars for a stadium or some other entertainment venue fine, make your case to the public and we’ll put it to a vote. Sure you guys may lose a team, but you’ll survive. By what bizarre moral or civic calculation can you possibly arrive at the conclusion that you’re entitled to rock solid publicly funded guarantee that you’ll always be able to go to a football game? We don’t guarantee housing, health care, or higher education, but we have to guarantee football?

  23. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 04/16/2010 - 11:13 am.

    “if there were a true consensus that the Vikings, the Twins, whatever are as much of a need as they are a want you wouldn’t have to do end-runs around the public to get funding.”

    Of course there isn’t a consensus but we don’t govern by consensus.

    “Nobody “needs” professional sports, except maybe the owners and athletes, who don’t pay for the stadiums.”

    Nobody needs libraries either, but there they are. And the fact is, professional athletes pay a whole lot more in taxes than I do.

    “The economics of pro sports have been examined by a bunch of people, and although they haven’t had access to the books one thing is clear, the owners are billionaires, they and their athletes are making a lot of money, and they can afford to build their own stadiums.”

    I think it is generally the case that owners can’t afford to build their own stadiums. The Wilfs for example, are probably under some financial pressure as it is. Red McComb might very well have been broke at various times during his ownership of the Vikings.

    “You’re kidding yourself if you think the Vikings stadium will be the last one.”

    There isn’t another sports team out there in need of a stadium. Target Center needs renovation, they tell me, but if the T-Wolves threatened to leave, they would be allowed to go. The Wilds are happy in St. Paul.

    As for putting things to the public, one thing is very clear, and this goes back to Jay’s original point. The lesson we learned from the Twins Stadium is that as long as the public is involved, there will be no stadium. Only when we take the matter behind closed doors, will anything be accomplished.

  24. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 04/16/2010 - 11:32 am.

    The strangest stadium we ever made in this town was building one for the Gophers. The Metrodome, located only a few blocks away from the University was perfectly adequate for the team. The Gophers themselves have structural problems, quite unrelated to the stadium, which will prevent them from ever becoming anything more than mediocrity. And as a university team, they couldn’t use a threat to leave as a bargaining chip. Still, for reasons that are less than obvious, we have a new Gopher Stadium losing money, on campus. A different set of paradigms were in operation.

  25. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/16/2010 - 12:01 pm.

    //Of course there isn’t a consensus but we don’t govern by consensus.

    Yes but in a democracy if you want to deploy public resources you have seek some kind of public consent. I get it, you like football. At least your not pretending it’s a public asset. And again, it’s not simply a lack of consensus, the majority actually oppose these bailouts, that’s why you have to freeze them out.

    //Nobody needs libraries either, but there they are. And the fact is, professional athletes pay a whole lot more in taxes than I do.

    If someone wanted to build a billion dollar library you might have a point, instead they want to take 2 million away from libraries and give it to Wolf. At any rate, at least your admitting we don’t “need” the Vikings.

    //I think it is generally the case that owners can’t afford to build their own stadiums. ..Red McComb might very well have been broke at various times during his ownership of the Vikings.

    Regardless of any individual owners financial situation, it is not the government or the taxpayers responsibility. What’s your rationale for guaranteeing McComb’s investment? Should any owner ever have the need, they can use the same welfare programs everyone else uses, what’s left of them. Or do you want guarantee wealth now in addition to football?

    //As for putting things to the public, one thing is very clear, and this goes back to Jay’s original point. The lesson we learned from the Twins Stadium is that as long as the public is involved, there will be no stadium. Only when we take the matter behind closed doors, will anything be accomplished.

    Well it’s refreshing to see someone admit that we have to resort to a corrupt process in order to get stadiums built. The only question is whether or not you can pull it off again. I wouldn’t bet against you but we’ll see.

  26. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 04/16/2010 - 12:33 pm.

    ‘Yes but in a democracy if you want to deploy public resources you have seek some kind of public consent.’

    Nonsense. There are lots of ways of getting things done in a democracy without a public consent. The public doesn’t consent on much of anything the legislature does.

    “Regardless of any individual owners financial situation, it is not the government or the taxpayers responsibility.”

    It isn’t a question of responsibility or entitlement, it’s a question of what we decide to do.

    I don’t think a backroom deal is necessarily a corrupt deal. But what is very clear is that there is no public consensus for building a stadium, and a decision to require one is a decision not to have a stadium and a decision to send the Vikings away. In this discussion, I think it’s very important to understand what we are talking about and the direct consequences of deciding to frame the issue in certain ways.

  27. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/16/2010 - 02:18 pm.

    //Nonsense. There are lots of ways of getting things done in a democracy without a public consent. The public doesn’t consent on much of anything the legislature does.

    Yeah, it’s called corruption.

    //It isn’t a question of responsibility or entitlement, it’s a question of what we decide to do.

    You mean it’s all about what you decide to do in your back room. Remember, “we” aren’t invited.

    //I don’t think a backroom deal is necessarily a corrupt deal.

    Ha! Not necessarily.

    //But what is very clear is that there is no public consensus for building a stadium, and a decision to require one is a decision not to have a stadium and a decision to send the Vikings away.

    I think everyone understands the consequences just fine. People like their sports, but when it comes to dumping hundred of millions of dollars on billionaires… not so much. We both know the problem is you really don’t have a convincing argument for public bailouts of pro-sports, that’s why you need a back room.

    //In this discussion, I think it’s very important to understand what we are talking about and the direct consequences of deciding to frame the issue in certain ways.

    Yes, framing is very important, we’ll see how it goes this time. On the other hand, what difference does it make if you’re going to ignore the public anyways?

    One more comment about the owners economics. Again, these guys can afford to build these stadiums themselves,they’ve got the money, they’re billionaires. Regardless what they’re making from the teams, they have to be billionaires just buy a team. The public may not see their books but the leagues do, and you get nowhere near a team unless you can afford it. Maybe one gets into a tight spot once and a while but as a rule they’ve got the money. Think about it, according to Forbes the Pohlad’s are the third wealthiest family in the state. His personal fortune was estimated at 3.6 billion I think but that certainly underestimates the family fortune as well as other wealth tucked away here and there. Now over the years many stadium deals were offered, one of which was simply a low interest public loan. We know the payment on that loan would be $20 million a year, because that’s what we’re paying now. You’re telling me the Pholad’s, and the Twins couldn’t afford $20 million a year? They just dumped almost 7 times that much on one player. The Pohlad’s wouldn’t touch that deal with ten foot pole, why? Because chumps keep throwing hundreds of millions of public dollars at them for free.

  28. Submitted by Jim Roth on 04/16/2010 - 05:09 pm.

    I appreciate the debate but I think it would also be advanced by hearing more viewpoints.

  29. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 04/16/2010 - 05:41 pm.

    Given the decline in the real estate market, I have serious doubts whether the Wilfs who paid a premium price for the Vikings, one that assumed that they would have a new stadium at some point, here or elsewhere, have anything like the money or at least the liquidity to self finance a new stadium. They are probably in hock up to their eyeballs.

    In any event, it isn’t the case, that just because a businessman can pay for something, that he will. I doubt if the Wilfs got rich by making bad business decisions. Where a stadium is concerned, there isn’t much doubt in my mind that it isn’t in their business interest to pay for it themselves, otherwise they would. That being the case, no amount of whining by us will have any impact on the decision they have already made, which looks to me at least, to have been the right one viewed from their perspective.

    So it comes down to a simple set of questions. There is a product on the table, the continued presence of the Vikings in Minnesota. It’s up to us to decide whether we want to buy it, and at what price. If we don’t want it, or the price is too high, than the Wilfs or their successors will take what they have to sell, and see if someone else is interested in buying it. If someone is, then we will lose the Vikings, and you have my personal assurance that replacing them with a new team somewhere down the road, will be far more expensive, and far more humiliating in the long run, then would have been the case had we just made the deal with Zygi now.

    As good or as bad as the deal is we can get now, it is the best deal we will ever get for keeping NFL football in Minnesota.

  30. Submitted by Chris Kolterman on 04/16/2010 - 07:51 pm.

    I just want to sound a warning about what can happen when NFL owners want public funds for a stadium. I have relatives in Minneapolis so I’ve been following what you’re going through. I live in Santa Clara, and we are in the midst of a contentious campaign in which the SF 49ers are trying to get my little city of 115,000 people to pony up for $444 million – a $114 million direct subsidy from property taxes, our electric utilities money, and increased hotel taxes (which will take away the hotels’ competitiveness with surrounding cities), plus another $330 million that a Stadium Authority will have to raise primarily through selling personal seat licenses and naming rights.

    Our 2 local newspapers stand to make money off of the stadium, so they are for it and not publishing the true costs of the stadium. They publish the 49ers campaign press releases though. And our schools superintendent and our mayor and 4 city council members are campaigning for the stadium. They’re pouring millions of $$ into a misleading advertising campaign that tells us ‘no new taxes’ and ‘no risk to the general fund’ and from one of our city council members ‘No cost to Santa Clara Residents. Period’ although city staff’s analysis shows a $67 million loss to the GF as property tax dollars are diverted towards stadium debt. And the terms of the agreement are that the 49ers will only pay ‘reasonable’ operating costs, and they are not responsible for the Stadium Authority’s bond debt.

    City election code does not require financial disclosure on city ballot measures (unlike the state measures, which do). The 49ers paid signature gatherers so they could have a ballot measure with the wording they want (sidestepping our city staff written ballot measure)-then the ballot question and city attorney’s analysis were written from the 49ers ballot measure-with the result that there is very little financial disclosure on any of the parts of the ballot. They are really trying to pretend that this won’t cost us anything.

    So – good luck to you. I sincerely hope you do not end up going through what we’re going through here. Santa Clara has always been a peaceful place to live – and this campaign has really shattered the peace here. They too are threatening to move to LA if we don’t give them a new stadium, and threatening to move their training facility, which has been here since 1988.
    Whichever way this goes, Santa Clara has been socially fractured, with some residents joining with big money to try to take charge of our city’s finances and give hundreds of millions of dollars to extremely wealthy NFL owners.

  31. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/17/2010 - 12:07 am.

    One last time, Wilf’s investment is his problem, not the governments responsibility. These guys built an unsustainable business model and it’s time they stopped getting public bailouts. It’s not just a question of having the money on hand. In any other industry facing this problem they would have to restructure, most industries cut labor costs. These guys are raising salaries and making up the difference with public funding. They’ve got the money, and they could restructure like any other industry if they had to. Why are we subsidizing multi-million dollar athlete salaries while at the same time telling police graduates we don’t have jobs for them because of budget cuts?

    If we lose the team, there’s no law saying we ever have to have another one. This idea that we’ll only have to pay more get a team in the future assumes we can’t live without a team. Sooner or later people are gonna get fed up with these corrupt bailouts and find a way to put a stop to it. Like all bubbles the sports economy bubble will burst some day, this can’t go on indefinitely.

  32. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 04/17/2010 - 10:49 am.

    The notion that California, being in the desperate financial situation it is in, can afford to build new stadiums, is an example of the denialist thinking that’s gotten them in the fix they are in.

    I thought a further comment on “billionaire owners” might be appropriate here. There has been a sea change in the ownership over the last several decades. Old time owners, who had seen the value of their franchises appreciate many times over their initial investment, and who owned their teams clear of debt, are in the minority and no longer control league decisions. Examples of those are the Rooney family, the Halas family in Chicago. The new owners paid premium prices for their franchises and are heavily leveraged. They have to be focused on increasing revenues, and they know that any falling off of revenue momentum could be disastrous for them. There just isn’t the financial cushion that there used to be for most NFL owners.

  33. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/17/2010 - 10:56 am.

    This pay now or pay later argument assumes that we cannot live without whatever pro sport is angling for a stadium at the moment. This simply isn’t true. Not only that but can make very effective argument that a place with more diverse entertainment options is actually a more interesting place to live. Economically it’s better for the region or city to disperse a billion dollars of entertainment spending across different venues than it is to concentrate it in one billion dollar location. Once can actually argue that there may well be benefits to losing the Vikings both culturally and economically. Especially when your talking about such a huge public bailout.

  34. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 04/17/2010 - 05:45 pm.

    If zygi’s finances are his business only why do stadium opponents bring them up?
    As it happens zygi is doing just fine. There is nothing unsustainable about NFL finances. They have an extremely favorable labor contract and steady sources of revenue.

  35. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/17/2010 - 06:15 pm.

    //If zygi’s finances are his business only why do stadium opponents bring them up?

    Maybe stadium opponents are more interested in responsible public spending.

    //As it happens zygi is doing just fine. There is nothing unsustainable about NFL finances. They have an extremely favorable labor contract and steady sources of revenue.

    Yet he can’t increase his revenue or build his new stadium without public subsidies. If the NFL finances are that great why do they need all these welfare programs? You can’t have it both ways.

  36. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 04/18/2010 - 06:49 am.

    “Maybe stadium opponents are more interested in responsible public spending.”

    Possibly, but others are interested in watching the Vikings on Sunday afternoons. Which side should prevail?

    “If the NFL finances are that great why do they need all these welfare programs?”

    It’s not welfare. Zygi has a product to sell. He is willing to sell it to us, possibly at a discount. But if we don’t want to buy it, somebody else will.

    The law doesn’t require a stadium. Nobody is entitled to one. Life would go on if we don’t build the Vikings their palace. Professional sports, like parks and libraries and theaters and multi lane highways are luxuries, not necessities. But we buy luxuries too. We aren’t talking pro hockey here, a minor sport most Minnesotans were grateful to live without after the North Stars left. This is an NFL franchise, which cities across the continent would love to have. I think they can be kept here for what many would regard as a reasonable price. I know if they left they would be virtually impossible to replace. I think that’s the decision, the consequences of which Minnesotans need to understand.

  37. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/18/2010 - 09:34 am.

    /”Maybe stadium opponents…

    //Possibly, but others are interested in watching the Vikings on Sunday afternoons. Which side should prevail?

    Hey if you want to argue for irresponsible public spending on stadiums be my guest.

    //It’s not welfare. Zygi has a product to sell. He is willing to sell it to us,

    //.. like parks and libraries and theaters and multi lane highways are luxuries, not necessities. But we buy luxuries too…

    Nice try at a re-frame. In and of itself spending a public dollar on a stadium may not be welfare, but these stadiums turned into bailout welfare programs decades ago.

    Unlike the libraries and highways you refer to these teams are private companies. The vast majority of the revenue generated by the public spending goes into a small number of pockets. Any comparison of pro-sports stadiums to public infrastructure is incoherent. No one makes a profit form libraries, roads, or fire inspections beyond the general commerce that they facilitate. Libraries don’t charge for admission.

    When we do offer public subsidies to museums and theaters the numbers never approach the scale of stadiums. Fine, compare a hundreds of millions of dollar two thirds of the total stadiums to the $19,000 (one fifth) public stake in a $125 thousand dollar theater. These billionaires aren’t just asking for a little help, they want hundreds of millions of free public money. That’s welfare.

    I think people understand the situation just fine, given the choice they would reluctantly say goodbye to the Vikings and try to spend public dollars more responsibly. We all know this, that’s why stadium supporters are sooooo desperate to keep the public out of the decision. The public is perfectly willing to walk from Ziggy’s product, and they would have walked away from the Twins. At any rate we have a mechanism for this, Ziggy can make his sales pitch and we’ll vote on it. That’s the last thing stadium supporters want though isn’t it?

  38. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/18/2010 - 11:34 am.

    Quick note, I meant to say 19 an 125 million, not thousands in my previous note.

    I’ll shut up now but I wanted say how much I appreciate the chance to engage in these comment exchanges here on Minnpost. As a rule they are more thoughtful and respectful than those found elsewhere. Also, for folks like me, it’s pretty much all we got. The Governor won’t do coffee with me, and my elected officials lie to me. Every one of my politicians promised to vote for a stadium plan that didn’t included a referendum, they they did. Comment sections are much, but it’s nice and you never know who’s reading. It’s also not free, I’ll be making another donation to Minnpost. And I’ll be quiet now.

  39. Submitted by Chris Kolterman on 04/18/2010 - 04:20 pm.

    “I wanted say how much I appreciate the chance to engage in these comment exchanges here on Minnpost. As a rule they are more thoughtful and respectful than those found elsewhere.”

    Wow-that’s true. You should see the stuff that gets posted by the stadium proponents on the San Jose Mercury News comment board.

    Sounds like many Minnesotans care about educating themselves before voting on stadium issues. That’s great.

    If you want to read about how stadium proponents can spend millions to try to mislead voters, go to the website of the opponents of the Santa Clara stadium and read the sections on ‘Dirty Politics’ and the ‘Ballot Measure and Lawsuit’ and ‘SB43&Charter’ to see how they are manipulating the campaign and took away our right to vote by going to state legislators. Also read the section on the $444 million in construction costs from Santa Clara and its agencies, and how the 49ers campaign is hiding the true costs. The money is coming from many different pots, and therefore the pro stadium campaign is playing games with hiding the different pots from voters. And they have unlimited funds and the support of the local media to do so (the SJ Merc just endorsed the stadium, regardless of the cost to tiny Santa Clara): Please visit:
    http://www.santaclaraplaysfair.org

  40. Submitted by Leo Collins on 04/30/2010 - 01:02 pm.

    The 2020 Olympics could be held in Minnesota. We have most of the needed facilities. The key would be to construct a stadium for the Vikings that could be converted to an Olympic Track facility. With this we could attract the NCAA track, the Pan-Am games and the 2020 Olympics as well as NCAA Basketball, Bowl Games, big concerts, etc.
    We need this facility in the Twin Cities–to retain the Vikings but also as a venue for many
    other key events that would benefit this area. It is time for leaders to look ahead and plan for the future !

  41. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/02/2010 - 03:46 pm.

    The Olympics are an economic disaster many times the magnitude of normal stadiums. This idea crosses the line between fantasy and outright insanity. Check out this BBC editorial: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/8512395.stm

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