Tom Horner’s Vikings stadium plan: its strengths, its weaknesses

It’s easy, almost sport in Minnesota, to take whacks at stadium plans.

On the macro level, you’ve got the “hell-no” folks, who don’t want any attempts to figure out the Vikings stadium issue. That attitude comes from the left and right. It is a head-in-the-sand approach to a community dilemma that won’t go away, what with the Vikings’ Metrodome lease expiring after the 2011 season.

Then, you’ve got the “whatever-it-takes” crowd, but they conduct their meetings in the corner booth of a sports bar somewhere. As the state budget sinks deeper into its financial abyss and local government aid is slashed, the rah-rah group that hollers “just-build-the-darn-thing” numbers in the handfuls.

Finally, you’ve got the “let’s-figure-it-out-as-rationally-as-possible” contingent, which must, if we are intellectually honest, stipulate that pro sports financing and the public’s relationship to it, here and nationally, is fundamentally irrational.

Which brings us to the Independence Party’s Tom Horner, who has bravely left himself vulnerable on this topic because he has produced a Vikings stadium plan of sorts.

In so doing, he is the only gubernatorial candidate among the three to offer a relatively detailed framework for a Vikings stadium.

Horner’s is an evolving plan and one that he acknowledged in an interview Tuesday will likely evolve lots more were he to win the November election. (At one point, for instance, a per-drink liquor tax that would flow into stadium debt service was part of it, but it’s not now.)

Tom Horner
MinnPost photo by Bill Kelley
Tom Horner

DFLer Mark Dayton, a former state commissioner of economic development, has said he would examine and approve a deal that’s good for the taxpayers and the state — details to follow. His spokesperson said Tuesday no Dayton stadium plan is imminent.

Republican Tom Emmer has said he supports a Vikings stadium effort — details also to follow, but not any time soon, his spokesperson told us. Emmer continues to like the notion that Minneapolis city taxes helping to pay down the debt of the Minneapolis Convention Center should be redirected for a new stadium. This is an idea whose time came and went in the Legislature last session; for city officials, it is a non-starter.

A stadium, bonds and racino, oh my
Adopting some tried and true funding options — such as ticket taxes — and tweaking some other ideas — such as unusually long 40-year bonds, unheard of at the Minnesota Legislature — Horner tries to thread a needle with a cocktail of revenue streams. On close examination, his factors might not add up to the sums needed to build what he predicts would be an $800 million to $900 million stadium.

Horner’s most provocative and politically treacherous revenue stream: gambling money from casinos at the state’s two racetracks. He wouldn’t use all of the projected revenue of $250 million per biennium for a stadium, just enough to raise the $30 million or so needed to pay down the public’s yearly piece of stadium debt, he said.

But there are finance hurdles attached to using gambling money to back public bonds, experts say. Rating agencies in New York would likely want some standby or backup source to gambling revenues, and that could mean the state’s general fund.

And, then, of course, there’s the politics of getting the “racino” concept through the Legislature.

Even Vikings stadium point man and public affairs vice president Lester Bagley, who wants a new facility far more than Horner, says no one should count those slot machines yet.

“Realistically, the racino proposal is going to be a challenge at the Legislature, unless something changes dramatically over there,” Bagley said. “We don’t really have a dog in that fight. If that’s what our state determines is our best course of action, then we’ll participate. But the politics of it have been difficult for it over the past 10 years.”

Devilish details
Let’s drill down to Horner’s specifics, which he said “probably would be enough” to cover the public’s costs of stadium debt. And let’s raise some concerns.

Upfront: Horner would seek 40 percent of the stadium’s funding from the team. This is slightly more than the Twins’ contribution at Target Field and, generally speaking, a bit more than most other NFL teams have put into public-private shared projects. For the new Dallas Cowboys stadium, owner Jerry Jones has invested far more than 50 percent.

Question: Why only 40 percent? If this is a “public-private partnership,” why not go 50-50?

Because, Horner said, he envisions a stadium in which the Vikings control a limited number of dates, pay one-third of the operating costs “and the public gets all of the rest of the revenue … As a starting point, I think this is fair to the Vikings.”

He’s right that if the team only controls the stadium for a dozen games a year and the public for the other 350 days, then, perhaps, that 40 percent contribution makes sense.

Unfortunately, he has now locked himself in at that 40 percent threshold from an owner who will see the value of his team soar by about 50 percent when a new stadium opens.

40-year bonds: Horner would issue bonds with 40 years of maturity tied to a 40-year-long Vikings lease. (This 40-year horizon is rare for sports facilities, although the new Yankee Stadium is financed with some 40-year bonds.)

Generally speaking, the length of bond life that funds a project is tied to the useful life of the asset the bond is financing. The vast majority of publicly linked bonds are 20 and 30 years. Indeed, the state of Minnesota has some constitutional restrictions on general obligation bonds that require payments beyond 20 years. It’s all very complicated.

“The premise is: Are you matching the useful life of the asset to the length of the debt?” said Jon Commers, principal of Donjek, a St. Paul public finance consulting firm. “And what is the useful life of the typical professional sports facility?”

It’s not 40 years. The Dome is 28 and on its last legs. The debate over the Vikings getting a new stadium started more than a decade ago, when the Dome was a teenager.

A 1991 photo of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.
Photo by Mark Fay/Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society
A 1991 photo of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.

So, if a new stadium is financed over a 40-year period, what happens when a new wave of stadium construction arrives in 20 years after the stadium opens and there’s still 20 years on the mortgage?

This issue was raised in a recent New York Times report that showed how some aging stadiums have already been abandoned by tenants with years of debt to pay off.

Also, “The longer you extend the maturities, the higher the interest rate because of the risk an investor sees in tying up money for that period of time,” said former Minnesota finance commissioner Jay Kiedrowski, now a senior fellow at the Humphrey Institute.

But others say, investors worry more about the sustainability of the taxes or revenue sources pledged for debt service on bonds than the life of the physical asset, that is, the stadium. For sure, any 40-year deal would require a special law, we’re told.

Horner, however, counters with optimism about the useful life of newer-generation stadiums: “To expect that a new stadium — given all of the better architectural understandings and all of the new designs — to expect that a stadium could last 40 years and be functional and profitable for 40 years is not unrealistic.”

That is wishful thinking, I’m afraid.

He acknowledged “challenges” with the 40-year bonds but said it gives the state “predictability and permanence” for the retention of the Vikings.

Lease:
The length of the bond is tied to Horner’s notion that a new lease should last for 40 years. That is, if it’s going to take four decades to pay off this stadium, then the team has to commit to play there for that long.

Do not expect the Vikings to blithely sign on to the longest lease in the NFL.

As Bagley points out: “After year 30 — the traditional lease term — we don’t want to be in a position we’re in now, locked into an untenable, non-competitive revenue situation that we have no way out of until the lease expires.”

Let’s not worry about the year 2040. In the present tense, Horner’s 40-year stadium and bond lifespan notions seem iffy.

Timing: In his plan, Horner states that the stadium decision needs to be made during the 2011 legislative session, but he seems to hedge: “The NFL has to resolve its collective bargaining agreement with the players union before any construction begins.” The union-management deal expires in March and there already is talk of a potential lockout for the 2011 season.

So, is he saying that Gov. Horner wouldn’t go forward until the union deal is settled? More or less, yes.

“There should be a contingency in there that not a shovel of dirt is turned until the Vikings, the NFL have an agreement in place,” Horner said.

Thumbs-up on this concept.

Other revenues
Here we begin to wander into the weeds of modern stadium-management models.

In Horner’s vision, the public would own the stadium and, it seems, manage it, except for the relatively few days that Vikings games are played. With that in mind, he says the public should capture the revenues from non-Vikings events and use that cash to help pay down stadium debt.

But the recent record at the Metrodome suggests there’s little money there to spend. At the Metrodome, about $1 million a year is generated by other events, but that includes such small-potatoes events as as Division III baseball and concourse inline skating.

That may not bode well for the other revenues that Horner wants to capture to pay down stadium debt.

On the other hand, he and others note that the Dome is not a good model for going forward. For one, a new stadium won’t be cluttered with 81 Twins games and would have more dates to sell. A new stadium would also likely be managed by a third-party facilities company/promoter, such as AEG, which operates Target Center, and not by a public agency like the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission.

Horner, like others, mentions the power of NCAA championships and Super Bowls. But NCAA events actually cost arenas; in 2006, for instance, the Sports Facilities Commission lost $386,000 on a regional. Super Bowls and other big events may bring in money for hotels, but not for stadiums. Horner needs to be careful in overselling and relying on the revenues from “other events.”

Ticket tax
Horner does want to capture the ticket taxes from all events. For now, a statutory 10 percent ticket tax raises more than $4 million annually at the Dome. Higher ticket prices could generate more, as would more events. That’s a solid piece of change, assuming the Vikings continue to sell out their games.

Again, the team will oppose this tax. It views that money as theirs, not the public’s. They see it as part of a ticket price that fans are willing to pay. The Vikings want to capture ticket taxes to cover their operating costs. Horner wants to use them to help pay down debt.

Ticket taxes are user fees. Vikings fans should have skin in this game, in addition to the increased ticket prices sure to come — and maybe even upfront seat licenses to assure good seat location.

If the principle circulating around the Capitol is that those who benefit from the stadium should pay for it, then the Viking fans need to kick in to the public coffers, too. Horner should stick by his ticket-tax guns, if and when he needs to negotiate with the team.

Roof
But taxes and operating costs are tied to another major stadium issue: a roof.

Horner wants a roof. But who benefits from a roof? The Vikings don’t. They can play their games outdoors. The value of enclosed luxury suites and club seats is enhanced by an open-air stadium in which the average schmoes freeze their tushes while the well-heeled can sip chablis in a heated stadium condo. We’ve written about this in the past.

If the state wants a roof for “other events” — like high school sports — the Vikings are open to the community controlling them, but the Vikings don’t want to pay to stage them. If it’s an open-air-only facility, the Vikings might want to operate the building and control every dollar that flows in there.

Is a roof worth its $150 million to $200 million cost? Still an open question for Horner, the Legislature and public.

Racino and Canterbury
Horner’s reliance on revenues from a Canterbury Park racino raises issues about how much Canterbury’s private owners could benefit from such gambling and how much bonding could be supported by unpredictable gaming dollars.

If a new stadium is built, everyone will be concerned how much Vikings owner Zygi Wilf will profit. But a racino link will benefit the Canterbury stock holders, too, and the owners of Running Aces harness track in north ex-urban Columbus.

Horner said in an interview he wouldn’t anticipate an upfront fee from the owners of Canterbury for their rights to operate a racino. Canterbury offered $100 million last legislative session to get that license. Horner shouldn’t leave that upfront money on the table.

There’s another racino hurdle. Horner is relying on data from the Minnesota Lottery for what racinos can raise. But he won’t be able to use all $125 million per year, nor does he want to. Rating agencies in New York won’t have any reliable data by which to evaluate the revenues from racinos, so would likely require some other revenue stream for a few years as a standby sort of tax, public finance experts said.

Although racinos in some other states have done well, gambling revenue clearly relies on the health of the economy. Other questions: would you buy a bond to help fund a stadium if your returns were based on Canterbury and Running Aces being alive in the year 2050? Could anyone bet on that, given the downturn in the horse industry over the past decade?

Experts say that State Lottery revenue — with a solid track record — would be a more reliable revenue source for a stadium. But Horner hasn’t proposed that, and lottery proceeds are already spoken for. 

Jobs: Before he spoke in front of the Metrodome Sunday, Horner was introduced by Cory Merrifield, the organizer of a group called SaveTheVikes. Merrifield, a Vikings stadium proponent of the highest order, cited a report commissioned by the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission that said a new stadium could generate more than 13,000 jobs.

When Target Field opened, the Twins touted this figure: 3,500 trades people, and an 800-person peak workforce. For the construction of the University’s TCF Bank stadium, Mortenson Construction has said there were 2,200 trades people and a 750-person peak workforce. In speaking of a potential Vikings stadium, a Mortenson executive projected up to 8,000 jobs.

As this debate goes forward, and the trade unions back a stadium plan, that jobs number needs to be vetted. As a supporter of an “honest” stadium plan, Mr. Horner should be careful with that stat.

Miscellaneous: Unlike Gov. Tim Pawlenty and some others at the Legislature, Horner should be applauded for not seeking “a local partner” for his plan because the team and stadium should be considered a statewide asset. Neither Hennepin County nor the city of Minneapolis can afford to contribute any more to sports facilities.

And Horner also said that he will insist on the availability of “affordable” tickets at a new Vikings stadium. Cheers for that.

One thing he should push: money from the NFL to help fund the stadium.

In conclusion
If he becomes governor, Horner is going to have to look at some other sources to pay for this colossal piece of state cultural infrastructure. He has set up a cocktail of options, and that’s good, but he might need some more ingredients from the shelf … like real public dollars.

There is some inconsistency to anyone who states, as Horner has: “Minnesota cannot afford to lose an asset as important as the Minnesota Vikings. Our state is blessed with an abundance of major league resources — from our lakes and parks to our theaters and museums. The Vikings are such an asset.”

If the team is such an asset, if this state virtually stops on Sunday afternoons to watch the team, and if the team generates, according to some studies, about $26 million in annual taxes to the state coffers, why not use general fund money to preserve the franchise?

Why just sock gamblers and ticket buyers with the bill for such an asset?

“Part of it is the political reality,” Horner said. “First of all, we do have more significant issues to deal with … Look at 2011, starting with the $6 billion shortfall — and that’s just the tip of the iceberg — they all really put a lot of important issues in line in front of the Vikings stadium.”

But he will find that threading a 65,000-seat stadium through a needle without dollars from real taxpayers takes more than political courage. It will be a Herculean task. Of course, he has another big task first: He has to get elected.

MinnPost’s Jay Weiner has covered sports facilities issues in the Twin Cities since 1993 and the demise of Met Center and public buyout of Target Center. He is the author of “Stadium Games: Fifty Years of Big League Greed and Bush League Boondoggles,” University of Minnesota Press, 2000.

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Comments (81)

  1. Submitted by Jude Dornisch on 09/23/2010 - 09:06 am.

    If the professional sports franchises are statewide assets the revenue stream to support them must also be statewide. If gambling is to be used for this support, metro area locations are not sufficient. Let us stop the games that professional sports wants us to play and license sports books at existing gambling locations and derive directly from the sports supporters.

  2. Submitted by Brian Simon on 09/23/2010 - 09:55 am.

    As a voter who is normally inclined to vote for IP candidates, this proposal is one that inspires me to consider other candidates for Governor.

    It is unreasonable, particularly when the state faces an enormous budget shortfall, to spend time, effort and, most of all, MONEY on a sports facility.

    I would prefer, if Mr Horner insists on pursuing creative revenue sources to fund state ventures, that we then prioritize our spending, first fulfilling the state’s service obligations to residents, leaving frivolous entertainment expenses for last. It is unreasonable to argue that we can find $400 to $500 million dollars for a stadium, but will have to cut constituent services elsewhere.

    In short, Mr Horner, I question your priorities, and am disappointed.

  3. Submitted by Tony Spadafora on 09/23/2010 - 10:06 am.

    I’ve been advocating stadium funding based on benefit, but with a new twist since January 2002.

    The following is from the proposal on TwinDomes.com website, page 10.

    FINANCING: RE-THINKING STADIUM FUNDING

    A better way to determine who should be contributing to a new stadium project and how much they should be contributing involves taking into consideration the five major elements of a pro sports business venture – team franchise, stadium, land, infrastructure, and tax relief – and the public and private sector benefits derived from a pro sports team playing in a community or state.

    Basing venture funding on benefits derived is fair, logical, practical, understandable, and politically supportable.

  4. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/23/2010 - 10:19 am.

    //Finally, you’ve got the “let’s-figure-it-out-as-rationally-as-possible” contingent, which must, if we are intellectually honest, stipulate that pro sports financing and the public’s relationship to it, here and nationally, is fundamentally irrational.

    Sorry Jay, nice try, anyone who doesn’t want to build a stadium with public money is irrational? Doesn’t compute. Public subsidies of professional sports and welfare programs for billionaires are irrational. These are not public assets, they are private franchises that generate the least bang for the buck of any conceivable public spending. Stadiums are not public infrastructure, nor are they economic engines. These stadiums generate a tremendous amount of income for a small number of people at public expense. It’s irrational to funnel sooooo much public money into so few hands for so little return. It’s especially irrational given the fact that the pro-sports economy is generating more than enough money to build these stadiums without public subsidies. 30 million dollars a year? The Vikings total payroll for 2009 was 100 million dollars, that’s for 53 players! Remember, these guys play a game for a living, they play what 12 games? And your telling me this industry can’t finance it’s own stadiums at a time when 8 million Americans are out of work, and many of the rest are underpaid, and in debt up to their ears?

    I know some people think that the world somehow revolves around sports, but it doesn’t. It’s not the governor’s job to build stadiums for billionaire sports franchise owners. The fact Horner has a detailed plan to fund 100% of the Vikings stadium but has thus far only figured out to erase 50% of the state deficit doesn’t indicate any kind of bravery, it indicates cronyism. So he’s come up with a plan to raise another 30 million a year- great! What’s he want to do with that money? Give it to Ziggy Wolf. Not so great. I don’t want my governor working on sports stadiums, I want him or her running the government for a change.

    I’m not saying sport has no community value at all, I’m just saying these welfare programs for billionaires are out of control, and unsustainable. Target didn’t get to pay only 40% of its construction costs when it built it’s headquarters downtown, these stadium deals are simply out of sink. For a billion dollars we could build two more light rail lines, comeplete the stalled housing-retail projects downtown, etc. etc. Almost any other project would create two or three times as many jobs and economic stimulus.

    Give Ziggy the same deal anyone else would get, some Tiff financing, infrastructure, etc, nothing more. If owning the stadium was such a great deal Ziggy would want to own it himself and pay for it, so public ownership isn’t going to be any cash cow for anyone, what does that tell you?

    Another deal I’d be willing to consider is bond that is paid back 100% by the team, essentially a state financed loan. With a provision that any remaining balance must be paid off either by the NFL or the owner before in the event that team is moved. The team would have to make up any shortfalls if the bond sales falls short. Why should the state pass special laws? Let the NFL make some special deals for a change, after all they’re the ones who need stadiums. Give the team some Tiff breaks, and some infrastructure, and low interest loan,that’s a good deal.

    Well that’s all this irrational commenter has to say for now.

  5. Submitted by T J Simplot on 09/23/2010 - 10:19 am.

    I know I am putting the cart way before the horse here Jay but I am curious as to your thoughts about where the Vikings would play during construction if a new stadium is built on the grounds of the Metrodome.

    The Gopher Stadium holds 40K and the Metrodome holds 60K. That would be a sigificant loss of revenue during the 2 – 3 years it would take to build the new stadium. Plus, alcohol cannot be sold at TCF stadium.

  6. Submitted by Dean Carlson on 09/23/2010 - 10:45 am.

    So is Lester Bagley saying that after 30 years they will need a new stadium? That’s what it sounds like. Yikes!

    Also although I know the Vikings won’t bad mouth any reasonable stadium plan, it is interesting to note that they have stated publicly that they were will to contribute about 1/3 the stadium cost (sans roof). Horner has pushed that up to 40 percent, plus a ticket tax with barely a whimper from the Vikes. I think if the Vikes are desperate, we could move them up to 50 percent.

  7. Submitted by Steve Rose on 09/23/2010 - 11:08 am.

    If the Vikings ever hope to host another Super Bowl, a roof is a requirement. Will Vikings fans be willing to sit outdoors in November, December, and possibly January? When they are contenders, yes; otherwise possibly not.

    The Metrodome was state-of-the art when it was designed, but less than twenty years later the art changed. Horner is naive to believe that a new stadium will have a 40-year useful life.

    With the building of TCF stadium, the best solution train left the station. For many years the Vikings and Gophers football teams played in the same facility; Gophers on Saturdays and Vikings on Sundays. The Vikings host only ten games per year. A design and location to suit both parties could have been worked out. Instead, we the public are asked to open our wallets to finance a majority of yet another facility.

  8. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 09/23/2010 - 11:29 am.

    I don’t think stadium policy should be driven by the possibility of holding more Super Bowls.

    Horner and Jay have covered a lot of ground here. I do think there are some smoke and mirrors involved in Horner’s proposal but there will be in any proposal. There are also moments of startling realism here. For one, I have never understood the logic of requiring a “local partner” when the whole state benefits. Like Jay, I have a hard time understanding why gamblers should pick up the tab for a stadium that on the whole, probably benefits them less than most. And of course, it’s also probably true that there are better ways to spend whatever money is generated by the various proposals than using it to build stadiums.

    One basic issue that it comes down to, that Horner doesn’t discuss is whether the deal he is proposing or any deal that might be deemed reasonable by our community, is a competitive deal in the open market for NFL teams. In other words, can the Vikings get a better offer elsewhere?

  9. Submitted by Jay Weiner on 09/23/2010 - 11:33 am.

    To answer TJ (#5 above) as best I can . . .

    If a new stadium were built and if it were built on the current Metrodome site, the Vikings would, presumably, play at TCF Bank Stadium. There would be a loss in revenues to the team, but how that gets resolved would likely be a part of any final stadium deal.

    There would be a shortage of seating capacity and suite revenue at the U stadium, but only for, probably, two seasons.

    If you recall, when Soldier Field was being renovated, the Chicago Bears played on the University of Illinois campus; that’s more than two hours away from the Loop.

    Again, assuming a new stadium on the Dome site is in the works, I would expect the Vikings to ask for some sort of compensation for “lost revenue” at TCF Bank Stadium. I would expect the Legislature to examine that — including the alcohol issue — and generally, but politely say, “Sorry, but we’re already helping you with a new stadium, you’ll have to take some lumps for these two interim seasons.”

    But that’s just a guess.

    Of course, if the new facility is not on the Dome site there would no issue of an alternative playing venue.

  10. Submitted by Tony Spadafora on 09/23/2010 - 11:43 am.

    Not building side-by-side stadiums and sharing construction, land, and infrastructure costs was bad enough, but even the “pecking order” of the three stadiums we likely to build is all wrong too.

    The order for stand-alone stadiums should have been… Twins>>Vikings>>>Gophers NOT Gophers>>>Twins>>>Vikings.

    College teams can play in pro-style stadium without a subsidy… The Vikings are quietly asking for a subsidy for lost revenues while playing in the Gophers stadium during the construction of Metrodome Next.

  11. Submitted by Rebecca Hoover on 09/23/2010 - 11:44 am.

    Thanks for the helpful article. It is nice to know some more details about Horner’s plans to turn Minnesota into just another tacky state with state-sponsored gambling. With his plan, we can all look forward to living like those in Detroit. There the gambling brought in a few dollars and a lot of crime. That’s typical. Typically, state sponsored gambling increases law enforcement costs to the point that the gambling does not even generate much in the way of revenues.

    Horner’s plans for the future are not what we need. No wonder he was in advertising! Lies, lies and more lies. How about some plans to get back to the basics — scientific education, hard work, caring about our neighbors? These are the things that will make us prosperous in the future.

    A state built on sports and arts stays or becomes third world in short order.

  12. Submitted by Rebecca Hoover on 09/23/2010 - 11:48 am.

    Brian Simon, I agree with you. These details about Horner’s plans should be enough to convince most that he does not have the right vision for Minnesota’s future. My vision is for a well-educated work force and lots top notch engineering, technical and medical industries and organizations.

  13. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 09/23/2010 - 12:02 pm.

    “Finally, you’ve got the “let’s-figure-it-out-as-rationally-as-possible” contingent, which must, if we are intellectually honest, stipulate that pro sports financing and the public’s relationship to it, here and nationally, is fundamentally irrational.”

    I think I fall in that category, and so feel honor bound to defend my rationality when called into question.

    I like football, and would like to keep it here if the price is right. I don’t think there is anything particularly irrational about that.

  14. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 09/23/2010 - 12:21 pm.

    Taxpayer-funded stadiums have never made sense. If you can’t make money owning a team in the NFL or Major League Baseball or the NBA, with all the income tributaries, you have more problems than a new stadium can solve.

  15. Submitted by Fritz Dahmus on 09/23/2010 - 12:37 pm.

    Does Mr. Horner read the papers or watch the news? There is this “quit spending tax dollars” sentiment in the country right now. The state has a major budget shortfall….and will probably have to make cuts and raise taxes……and this guy is talking about ways to build a stadium for the Vikings! The NFL and the sports industry is not where the economic problems lie! Pick another industry to shower tax dollars with. This guy has NO CHANCE of winning…much less getting 15% of the vote.

  16. Submitted by Brian Simon on 09/23/2010 - 12:45 pm.

    Rebecca Hoover writes
    “These details about Horner’s plans should be enough to convince most that he does not have the right vision for Minnesota’s future. My vision is for a well-educated work force and lots top notch engineering, technical and medical industries and organizations.”

    I’m about ready to write in Art Rolnick for Governor.

    .

  17. Submitted by Tony Spadafora on 09/23/2010 - 01:59 pm.

    Everyone seems to believe the only two Vikings stadium options are a “sweetheart” deal or no deal.

    There is a public benefit to having pro sports in MN and it is possible to negotiate stadium deals that are good for the teams, businesses, sports fans, and the general public.

  18. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 09/23/2010 - 02:04 pm.

    “Taxpayer-funded stadiums have never made sense.”

    Thinks don’t have to make sense for us to like them or want them.

    “These details about Horner’s plans should be enough to convince most that he does not have the right vision for Minnesota’s future. My vision is for a well-educated work force and lots top notch engineering, technical and medical industries and organizations.”

    That’s an politicized argument I might make myself in another context. And I don’t think that Tom Horner in press release has solved all the problems associated with keeping the Vikings here. But there are also some ideas here I haven’t seen about a million times before and that’s saying something in the midst of our endless stadium debates.

  19. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 09/23/2010 - 02:54 pm.

    Why is the 28-year-old Dome considered to be “on its last legs” and need to be replaced by a new stadium that may last only 20 years?

    Not enough luxury suites? Locker rooms not as palatial as I’m told those at Target Field are? Too many cheap seats?

    What other building of any kind would we be willing to demolish after 28 years just to please an owner who thinks we owe him anyting beyond the roads-and-streets-and-transit infrastructure that a stadium requires?

  20. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/23/2010 - 03:09 pm.

    Mr. Spadafora,

    The pecking order should have ended with the Gopher’s stadium, period. Building stadiums for privately owned professional teams has no priority in terms of rational public policy. One can make the case that since the University is a public institution, and the sports program contributes to the quality of campus life, some tax dollars are appropriate. Not so for privately held franchises owned by billionaires.

    Picking up on Hirem’s comment, sure if the price is right let’s hang on to the Vikings. Of course, the rub is what price is right? There’s two things that have to be acknowleged. One, we know for a fact that as far as the public is concerned anything more than 30-50 million total is to high and would be voted down if put to a vote. Two, we have to accept the fact that no publicly funded stadium is a possible outcome, and yes we all realize that may mean losing the team, you have to accept that as a viable outcome. The fallacy of Jay’s equation is that it assumes the only responsible course of action is to build a stadium. It may well be that the responsible thing for a community to do is to NOT build stadiums for billionaires.

  21. Submitted by Tony Spadafora on 09/23/2010 - 03:30 pm.

    Mr. Udstrand:

    We would not be building a new Vikings stadium for just Zygi & Co.. We would also be building it for businesses, sports fans, the City of Mpls., Hennepin Co., and the state of MN. All benefit and all should contribute.

    Those who say there’s no public benefit are just as bad as stadium proponents who exaggerate the public benefit.

  22. Submitted by Steve Rose on 09/23/2010 - 03:40 pm.

    Hiram (#8)

    “I don’t think stadium policy should be driven by the possibility of holding more Super Bowls.”

    In round numbers, a Super Bowl brings 100,000 out-of-towners and $300 million in revenue. If we are looking for ways to pay for a building, we might want to factor it in.

    Selling football tickets is cold weather months and finding other purposes for the facility are both enhanced by a roof. With Target Field and TCF Stadium, we have two nice open air venues.

  23. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 09/23/2010 - 04:16 pm.

    “In round numbers, a Super Bowl brings 100,000 out-of-towners and $300 million in revenue.”

    Sure, it’s a good weekend’s business during a slow time of year. That in itself, does not justify entering into the kind of financial commitment we are talking about here.

    “Why is the 28-year-old Dome considered to be “on its last legs” and need to be replaced by a new stadium that may last only 20 years?”

    Not enough luxury suites and other revenue generating facilities. For a lot of reasons the cost of owning running an NFL football has increased way beyond anything the Metrodome can sustain. Let’s be very clear about this. The Metrodome is not a part of any long term solution for the Vikings. The simple fact is that in a few years, the Vikings will be playing in a new stadium. It just remains to be seen whether that stadium is here in Minnesota or someplace else.

  24. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 09/23/2010 - 04:25 pm.

    “The pecking order should have ended with the Gopher’s stadium, period. Building stadiums for privately owned professional teams has no priority in terms of rational public policy.”

    From some perspectives building the Gopher Stadium before the Vikings statement was simply absurd. The Vikings can leave, the Gophers cannot. The Gophers could play quite comfortably in a pro football stadium, but the new Gopher Stadium cannot generate the revenue the Vikings will need to stay in Minnesota. The Vikings are a lively and successful sports franchise. The Gopher program is moribund, in existence mainly to provide an opponent for far more successful and profitable teams to play, and really because nobody at the University has the guts to close it down.

    The reason why we made the mistaken policy to build the new Gopher Stadium is because we allowed ourselves to be persuaded by irrelevant distinctions such as those between public and private enterprises. The dollars each generates and costs, spend exactly the same.

  25. Submitted by James Hamilton on 09/23/2010 - 07:46 pm.

    Opposing a new, publicly-funded Vikings’ stadium is a long way from a head-in-the-sand approach to the issue, although I must admit it’s not a popular approach with our current crop of candidates.

    Talk about entitlements: “If you want us to live here, you’re got to not only build us a house, but include extra quarters so we get some rental income. Oh, and while you’re at it, give us all of any other revenue it might create. You can use our property taxes to pay for it.”

    Other variations on the theme have been proposed and, no doubt, there are more to come.

    Past governors and legislatures bowed to the Twins and Gophers and built them new homes. Both are beautiful. One should have been built with private funds and the other not built at all, however. That they were built is no reason to build a third. (Or fifth: let’s not forget the hockey and basketball arenas in this.)

    Word is that the Vikes may pay as much as $20 million for Favre this year and were just offering $6-9 million for Vincent Jackson.

    If we have a few hundred million bucks (or as much as half a billion bucks) to throw at ‘economic development’, let’s think about where that investment might best be made, not siply where it will make sports fans happy.

    It’s really quite appalling to read that there are candidates willing to pay for the circuses but refusing to buy bread.

  26. Submitted by Kevin Reichard on 09/23/2010 - 08:38 pm.

    “A new stadium would also likely be managed by a third-party facilities company/promoter, such as AEG, which operates Target Center”

    Why do you say that? There’s not a single NFL stadium run by the likes of an AEG or Global or Comcast-Spectacor. There’s no way for them to make money on a football stadium: too much capacity and not enough music acts with the heft to fill them.

  27. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/23/2010 - 08:47 pm.

    // We would not be building a new Vikings stadium for just Zygi & Co..

    This gets so tedious. The economic impacts of these stadiums have been studied out whaaaazoo and they are minimal compared to the costs. Furthermore, there are inherent fairness issues associated with dumping so much public money into a welfare program for such a small number of number of people, and subsidizing businesses at the expense of others using government. I didn’t say there is no public benefit, I merely point out that the public benefit comes nowhere near matching the public costs once you get beyond 40 million dollars or so.. total, not yearly.

    In short, Mr. Spadafora’s position has always been that any community benefit, now matter how small, justifies hundreds of millions of dollars worth of public subsidies. The team is worth keeping at any price. I think we all know that view is not shared by the majority of Minnesotan’s, this is why referendums have to avoided at all cost. Folks like Spadafora cannot be trusted to make good public policy because simply put, there isn’t a stadium deal they would walk away from if it meant losing the team. For the rest of us, sports is not priceless, there’s a limit as to how much we’ll pay for it, and we reach that limit long before we get to a billion dollars.

  28. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/23/2010 - 08:56 pm.

    //The reason why we made the mistaken policy to build the new Gopher Stadium is because we allowed ourselves to be persuaded by irrelevant distinctions such as those between public and private enterprises. The dollars each generates and costs, spend exactly the same.

    The distinction between public and private enterprise is very real, and not irrelevant. Again, the payroll for the Vikings in 2009 was a 100 million dollars for 53 players. None of the revenue generated by Gophers is concentrated like that anywhere. The difference between public and private enterprise isn’t how the money spends, it’s where it goes when it’s spent. Public subsidies that dump hundreds of millions of dollars into so few pockets are simply irresponsible. You can dance around all you want but at the end of the day the Vikings are owned by a billionaire and the Gophers are not. 98% of all the revenue generated by Vikings games goes into the pockets of Wilf and his players, Gopher revenue does not. And more importantly, the NFL has the money to build stadiums, the University didn’t. Oh, one more thing, the Gopher stadium didn’t cost a billion dollars.

  29. Submitted by Tom Horner on 09/23/2010 - 09:08 pm.

    Good comments from all, and thanks. As I’ve said many times, I believe the Vikings are an asset and we should structure a deal that works for all parties, starting with taxpayers. I also have said many times that our first priorities are honestly resolving the deficit and setting new courses for education, health, older adult services, rural communities and other key areas. But a large agenda doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take on other important issues. If candidates are willing to put specific issues out during the campaign, have them vetted and debated, we can have a productive legislative session next year. Keep in mind, all gubernatorial candidates have endorsed a Vikings stadium, including public funding. The difference among us is that I’m willing to offer specific ideas.

  30. Submitted by John Hakes on 09/23/2010 - 09:16 pm.

    I write to dispel the myth that seems to be building from previous commenters (Ms. Hoover in particular) that somehow Tom Horner’s advancement of a Vikings Stadium proposal means the candidate is all about big-time sports and tacky state-sponsored gambling.

    That notion could not be further from the truth. In fact, Mr. Horner is the staunchest advocate of Early Childhood Education, K-12, Higher Education, and Lifelong learning there is in the governor’s race.

    Overall, Mr. Horner’s vision includes $30 million in research funding & the maintenance of currrent levels of collegiate funding. His platform emphasizes the development of student skills and talents in technical, engineering, biomedical and science-based fields in which MN companies are world leaders– as evidenced by a goal of seeing broadband internet reach the entire state as quickly as feasible.

    One of the reasons I typically appreciate articles at Minnpost has to do with the depth and insight its writers & readers bring to its pages. That is also a good description of the many thoughtful policy proposals Mr. Horner has brought forth in this campaign.

    If you don’t want to take this commenter’s word for it and you’d like more to base conclusions about Mr. Horner’s educational positions on, please feel free to check out a recent Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs Forum in which he participated with Moderator Larry Jacobs:

    http://tinyurl.com/29rztva

  31. Submitted by Allison Sandve on 09/23/2010 - 10:22 pm.

    A couple thoughts: First, Jay Weiner has always struck me as a thoughtful analyst. If he sees upsides and downsides to Tom Horner’s plan, then I think that is productive. Tom Horner’s plan is a start. It also substantially exceeds what the other candidates have offered. Neither has gone beyond an “I’m all for it .. sorry, no details” platform.

    I also observed, with some irony, the poster (Brian) who said he’s going to write in Art Rolnick’s name. I don’t know if that was intended to be serious or tongue in cheek, but it should be noted — with serious contemplation — that Art Rolnick has told both the Strib and MPR that Horner’s overall plan for Minnesota’s recovery is superior to that of his opponents. That’s substantial. That matters.

  32. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 09/23/2010 - 11:32 pm.

    I find my self somewhere between Hiram (fan) and Allison (Horner supporter). In the end it will get built. I have no illusions about that. The best that I could hope for is that the taxpayer have the best possible advocate during the negotiation process.

  33. Submitted by Tony Spadafora on 09/24/2010 - 12:14 am.

    Mr. Udstrand:

    I not going to change the paradigm you have about “sweetheart” stadium deals… but I’m talking about stadium deals that are good for the teams owners, businesses, sports fans, and the general public. I am NOT talking about “sweetheart” stadium deals.

    And what’s your $40 million limit on public contributions about?

    Do you realize the NFL currently sends each team over $150 million/year from national TV contracts and sponsorship revenues? That’s more than three times the Vikings’ $46 million in gate receipts last year.

    Those shared NFL revenues fund player salaries which generate about $12 million in state income tax per year.

    If we lose the Vikings, we also lose the shared NFL revenues coming into the state and we lose the state income taxes those revenues generate.

    Obviously, player salaries will go up over the years, but if they stayed fixed… $12 million times a normal 30 year lease would equals $360 million into the state’s tax coffers during the normal life of a new stadium. That alone my friend is a lot more than your $40 million total not yearly contribution.

    If you knew anything about my thoughts on public funding of pro sports stadiums, you’d know I generally oppose it, but favor it for only this reason… every other profession team our teams compete with received various degrees of public support. Even those stadium you think were privately funded had public contributions of land, or infrastructure, or tax relief.

    If our teams cannot compete financially with other teams they cannot compete with them on the playing field either.

  34. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 09/24/2010 - 06:27 am.

    “Again, the payroll for the Vikings in 2009 was a 100 million dollars for 53 players. None of the revenue generated by Gophers is concentrated like that anywhere. The difference between public and private enterprise isn’t how the money spends, it’s where it goes when it’s spent.”

    That’s really because the Gophers don’t generate anything like the revenue the Vikings do, and although there are twice as many of them as Vikings players, the Gopher players aren’t paid anything at all.

    The Vikings are a thriving, for profit business. They pay high salaries to their players which are taxable, and they generate economic activity which provides taxable income for themselves, and for companies they do business with which they do business to a much greater extent, than the thoroughly tax exempt Gophers.

    “98% of all the revenue generated by Vikings games goes into the pockets of Wilf and his players, Gopher revenue does not.”

    Then where does Gopher revenue go? To pay coaches and administrators whose salaries run into millions of dollars with little to show for it? To pay for scholarships for kids, most of whom don’t graduate? To only partly cover a deficit the athletic department runs as a whole?

  35. Submitted by Tony Spadafora on 09/24/2010 - 08:42 am.

    According to Forbes, the 2009 Vikings player expenses were $140 million including benefits and bonuses.

  36. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/24/2010 - 10:05 am.

    //I am NOT talking about “sweetheart” stadium deals.

    Mr. Spadafora, it’s really very simple, is there any stadium deal you would walk away from if it meant losing the Vikings? If not, then you’re claim that you’re not supporting “sweetheart” deals is a ruse, in fact you’ll support any deal at the end of the day even if it is a sweetheart deal. This is why Jay’s attempt to frame people such as yourself as the only voice of reason is disingenuous.

    //Those shared NFL revenues fund player salaries which generate about $12 million in state income tax per year.

    Again, this gets so tedious. These stadium are economic liabilities when your talking about this kind of money, and before they’re paid off the teams want new ones. You want to spend 30 million a year in order to get 12 million back in taxes? And you call that a deal? This is not an investment, it’s an expense. As for the other claims these are entertainment dollars, they don’t fall in to a hole somewhere if there are no football games, they get spent elsewhere. People won’t just curl up in their living rooms and waste away without pro football, they’ll still go out and spend money. By the time we’re done with this we’ll be putting 50 million a year into pro sports subsidies instead of public infrastructure or services. Stadiums subsidies provide the least bang for the public buck possible.

    Hirem: //That’s really because the Gophers don’t generate anything like the revenue the Vikings do, and although there are twice as many of them as Vikings players, the Gopher players aren’t paid anything at all.

    Yeah, like I said, there’s a difference between privately owned professional teams and public school teams. One can argue that the subsidy for the Gophers is appropriate precisely because they don’t make as much money, are not generating a profit for private owners, and don’t generate as much revenue as pro teams. These are all arguments for putting the Gophers first. By the way, if the Vikings are such a thriving and successful business why do they need such massive public subsidies to operate?

    Mr. Horner, So you want to spend the same amount of money (30 million) on education as you do on a professional football subsidy? That tells me that you value education exactly as much as you value the Vikings. I’m supposed to be impressed by that? I’d more impressed if you wanted to spend the whole 60 million on education or health care. But that’s just me.

    Where do I come up with 40 million dollars? Well after years of fights and negotiations we passed a law in this state requiring a referendum if anyone wants to spend more than 20 million public dollars on a stadium. I’m simply doubling that, I think that’s rather generous don’t you?

    So Ziggy’s getting a 150 million a year from the NFL? Well let him spend 30 of it on a new stadium, that still leaves him with 120 million to kick around with.

  37. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 09/24/2010 - 11:13 am.

    “One can argue that the subsidy for the Gophers is appropriate precisely because they don’t make as much money, are not generating a profit for private owners, and don’t generate as much revenue as pro teams.”

    One might, but why would one want to? If I am going to provide a subsidy, I think it’s better that someone benefit than no one.

    “These are all arguments for putting the Gophers first. By the way, if the Vikings are such a thriving and successful business why do they need such massive public subsidies to operate?”

    They don’t. And is it your impression that the Vikings don’t thrive and aren’t successful? The Gophers, as an example, don’t thrive and aren’t successful, and they do need the subsidies they receive to operate.

  38. Submitted by Kevin Reichard on 09/24/2010 - 12:02 pm.

    As analysts, Jay comes up short and as a politician Tom comes up short as well.

    First, let’s start with the fact that the Vikings would be profitable even if they played all their games at Minnetonka High School before a crowd of 1,000: the team’s revenue sharing, league licensing revenues and local sponsorship deals assure that. (Pepsi alone pays $440 million to the NFL in a sponsorship deal; the Vikings get an equal share of that.)

    Because of this base, Ed Roski Jr. in Los Angeles are looking at building a new stadium with a minimum of public investment, and the Giants and Jets built the New Meadowlands Stadium with the public investing only the cost of land. Otherwise, the NFL and the teams are financing the $1.3 billion stadium on their own, using NFL funds in lieu of visitor gate receipts.

    What Mr. Horner is doing is proposing a HUGE subsidy for a private enterprise that can clearly afford it on their own — or at least more than the paltry 40 percent share he’s proposing. And shame on Jay for not including an analysis — or even a mention — of the Meadowlands and Ed Roski Jr. financing deals. Horner has done a great job in starting the discussion, but there’s a whole lot of information on the topic that has been ignored both by him and MinnPost.

  39. Submitted by Tony Spadafora on 09/24/2010 - 12:02 pm.

    Mr. Udstrand… you remind me of the lyrics from “The Boxer” an old Simon & Garfunkel song…. “a man hears what he wants to hear
    and disregards the rest.”

    You’re ignoring what I’m saying and substituting your simplistic stadium paradigm.

    You said about me… “You want to spend 30 million a year in order to get 12 million back in taxes?” When did I say MN should spend $30 million/year on the Vikings stadium? Do you just make things up on purpose or subconsciously?

    Keeping the Vikings in MN will bring money into the state… and conversely, if we lose the Vikings, money will escape the state when more MN sports fans travel to other states to get their NFL fix.

  40. Submitted by Brian Simon on 09/24/2010 - 01:32 pm.

    Allison Sandve writes
    “I also observed, with some irony, the poster (Brian) who said he’s going to write in Art Rolnick’s name. I don’t know if that was intended to be serious or tongue in cheek, but it should be noted — with serious contemplation — that Art Rolnick has told both the Strib and MPR that Horner’s overall plan for Minnesota’s recovery is superior to that of his opponents. That’s substantial. That matters.”

    Art Rolnick is also the author of a study comparing the ROI we get from investing in early childhood education vs investing in stadiums. The returns we get from the former are enormous, while the latter are a pittance.

    Regarding the Vikings specifically, quite frankly, the NFL needs us more than we need them. We’re currently the 14th largest market in the US & are about to pass Detroit for 13th (see Steve Berg in today’s MN Post). We represent significant revenue to the NFL in terms of eyeballs viewing advertisements, not to mention purchases of jerseys & other branded paraphenalia. It is time for our political leaders to play hardball & start calling some bluffs when pro sports oligopolies try to blackmail us with the threat of leaving. Sure, they can go to LA. But from a business perspective that’s not a significant growth move – they want LA and MSP, not LA or MSP. We’re the ones in a position of strength & its time to start negotiating that way. Instead, they threaten to go & we fold, which is pretty sad.

  41. Submitted by Tony Spadafora on 09/24/2010 - 02:31 pm.

    I’m not an expert or advocate on education issues, but I have structured education issue studies in MN and OH. In fact I have a framed certificate calling me a “SUCKER FOR LOST CAUSES” presented to me before leaving OH for MN in 1997 for trying to help the Cleveland Public Schools.

    Concerning Art Rolnick’s belief about the return on early childhood investments, there are advocates with data that show the benefits wear off within a few years and then those children are less well off than they would have been without it.

    Again… I’m not an expert of advocate for or against early childhood education, but clearly there are other important factors involved.

    I am an advocate of responsible stadium investments. I believe the city, county, and stadium investments should be limited to only the true “but for” public revenues pro teams generate. If only these “use or lose” revenues are used, it’s that better than losing them and the Vikings?

  42. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 09/24/2010 - 03:03 pm.

    “Let’s start with the fact that the Vikings would be profitable even if they played all their games at Minnetonka High School before a crowd of 1,000: the team’s revenue sharing, league licensing revenues and local sponsorship deals assure that. (Pepsi alone pays $440 million to the NFL in a sponsorship deal; the Vikings get an equal share of that.)”

    This is neither true nor relevant. Among other things, if the Vikings don’t get a high revenue producing stadium in the near future, they will almost surely cut off from the league revenue sharing arrangements. The Vikings do ok. By some measures they are profitable, by others less so. But they aren’t profitable enough at the Metrodome to stay here. That just isn’t an option, however much we would like it to be.

  43. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 09/24/2010 - 03:36 pm.

    “Regarding the Vikings specifically, quite frankly, the NFL needs us more than we need them. We’re currently the 14th largest market in the US & are about to pass Detroit for 13th (see Steve Berg in today’s MN Post). We represent significant revenue to the NFL in terms of eyeballs viewing advertisements, not to mention purchases of jerseys & other branded paraphenalia.”

    The NFL is much less dependent on having large markets to support his teams. Two Los Angeles teams left for smaller markets, and the NFL has gotten by quite nicely without LA. Green Bay maintains quite a successful franchise. Stadiums in the last few years has emerged as the dominant source of revenue, and a well run franchise can sell out in lots of places.

  44. Submitted by Tony Spadafora on 09/24/2010 - 05:56 pm.

    Hiram… L.A. lost two NFL teams because there isn’t an NFL stadium there. The teams that left played in MLB or collegiate stadiums. Ed Roski is planning to build a revenue-generating NFL stadium which will eventually be the home of two NFL teams, much like the new Giants & Jets stadium in N.J..

    Within a one hour drive radius of Roski’s site are over 15 million people… more than enough to support two NFL teams.

    Just hope the Vikings aren’t one of the two teams.

  45. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 09/24/2010 - 06:37 pm.

    Sure. The stadium is more important than the market.

  46. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/24/2010 - 06:46 pm.

    First of all, I just want to step back for a moment and point out that I’m trying to make this personal, my comments to Tony and Hiram are meant to refer to general arguments that we’re all referencing, nothing new is being said here.

    I do have one comment for both Tony and Hiram:

    You said about me… “You want to spend 30 million a year in order to get 12 million back in taxes?” When did I say MN should spend $30 million/year on the Vikings stadium? Do you just make things up on purpose or subconsciously?

    You have indicated support for Horner’s plan, and that plan calls for 30 million a year in debt maintenance. Are you saying yo don’t support Horner’s plan? Yes the Vikings bring some money into the state, the question is whether or not that revenue warrants a billion subsidy, all economic studies thus far indicate it does not. Minnesota’s economy could easily thrive without the Vikings.

    Hiram://They don’t. And is it your impression that the Vikings don’t thrive and aren’t successful? The Gophers, as an example, don’t thrive and aren’t successful, and they do need the subsidies they receive to operate.

    As far as I can tell you are agreeing with me at this point. The Vikings are thriving, and do not need a subsidy, the Gophers do need a subsidy although the concept of “thriving” in a university setting is quite different than the pro sports model. The Vikings therefore do not money to build a stadium, and the Gophers did.

  47. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/24/2010 - 06:56 pm.

    //One might, but why would one want to? If I am going to provide a subsidy, I think it’s better that someone benefit than no one.

    According to you sports guys a football program is a huge benefit for the U of M. Unless our talking about “profits” not simply benefits. But then of course you have explain why we should be subsidizing NFL profits with tax payer money.

  48. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/24/2010 - 08:48 pm.

    The thing that caught my attention in this article was Mr. Wiener’s attempt to frame that discussion in terms of rationality. We were given three possible positions. 1) No stadium period. 2) Stadium no matter what. And 3) Let’s build a stadium Responsibly. We’re then told that those who seek a responsible stadium solution are the only truly rational actors. Since this framework is established in an intro to a story about Tom Horner’s stadium plan I think it’s safe to assume that Horner is to be counted amongst the rational ones.

    My problem with this is that it assumes that the Vikings desire or need for a new stadium is problem for the Governor of Minnesota. It establishes massive subsidies for professional sports as rational public policy, and it assumes that Viking’s interests are indistinguishable from the public interest. All of these assumptions are dubious at best. In fact it’s quite difficult to explain why any governor should be devoting his or her energies to stadium construction. The economics of these sports subsidies simply don’t add up. Losing the Vikings for instance would have nowhere near the impact of closing the Ford plant, yet no one has suggested giving Ford a billion dollars. The Vikings are privately held franchise, not a public asset so at some point the public private interest diverge quite severely especially when we’re talking about dumping hundred of millions of public dollars into so few pockets for so little return.

    In short, the problem with Jay’s framework is that is assumes that getting a stadium a built is “our” problem. In fact, I think most people would say that the real problem is that despite our best efforts, and votes, and protests, our elected officials continue to subsidize professional sports. Despite the fact that these subsidies make no economic sense and divert serious public resources away from far more productive and appropriate projects, our politicians insist on creating these welfare programs for billionaires. Jay’s framework creates a bizarre environment where people who want to spend public dollars for public projects instead of pro sports are being irrational.

    Once this framework is established, as you can see from the comments here, the only comprehensible problem is how to keep the team. Anyone who’s willing to let the team go is being irrational. At this point for all practical purposes those want a stadium no matter what and those who are seeking a “responsible” stadium become one in the same since any scenario that involves losing the team is beyond consideration. Rational public policy is actually impossible under these circumstances. As you can see, the rationality of these pro-stadium arguments breaks down very quickly since the most dire consequence of not building a stadium is the loss of a team.

    Most rational people realize that losing a team is not a cultural or economic disaster, even a serious inconvenience. Every poll taken reveals that the public doesn’t support these subsidies. We have an industry that refuses to build its own stadiums despite making billions of dollars of profit every year. The only reason they can demand public funding for stadiums is because our politicians keep handing them the money. THAT’S our problem.

  49. Submitted by Tony Spadafora on 09/24/2010 - 10:50 pm.

    Mr. Udstrand… where did I say I support Tom Horner’s stadium plan? While it has some good things, it simply won’t get a stadium built. It’s bad for the Vikings and the general public… plus a 40-year funding plan and 40-year lease are preposterous… and “Racino” funding is a long shot at best.

    There are good stadium deal and very bad stadium deals… I suspect when people are asked simplistic questions about public stadium funding they’re thinking about “sweetheart” deals not deals that are good for the teams and good for the general public.

    Stadium issues are too complex to be resolved with simple yes/no poll questions.

    Good stadium deals are normally driven by team owners who maximize funding from private sources… not by politicians.

  50. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 09/25/2010 - 08:10 am.

    “The Vikings are thriving, and do not need a subsidy, the Gophers do need a subsidy although the concept of “thriving” in a university setting is quite different than the pro sports model.”

    It’s partly a question of semantics at this point, what we mean when we say “thrive” or “need” and partly a question of where the Vikings are going.

    The Vikings themselves are doing very well. They have an incredible cash flow. In that sense they are thriving. But I suspect the Wilf’s picture isn’t nearly so bright, because so much of that cash flow goes to payment of the debt they incurred when they bought the team at a price that factored in the revenue anticipated from a new stadium. Also, it’s a question of whether the team is thriving enough. I am just speculating here, but the Wilf’s are in the real estate business and that business has been lousy, and so they may need more income from their successful businesses, like the Vikings to compensate.

    The other issue is the future. NFL franchises for various historical reasons have shared revenue equally. The small market Packers get the same TV checks as the large market Giants. This system has worked well historically, but now is under a great deal of pressure, as other owners in the league have leveraged themselves both to buy their teams, and build new stadiums, the one in Dallas being one of the primary examples. It has been made clear to low revenue producing teams like the Vikings, that the rest of the league will no longer subsidize the league’s weak links. So while the team is indeed thriving now, that will no longer be the case in the fairly near future unless they play in a modern high revenue producing stadium.

    The Vikings “need” a subsidy in the sense that they cannot meet and sustain a financially justifiable return on investment without it. And down the road, they will need a subsidy simply in order to survive.

    The Gophers don’t thrive by any standard I am aware of.

  51. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 09/25/2010 - 09:02 am.

    We spend a lot of time around here mulling over whether Zygi needs a new stadium. I think it’s an interesting and illuminating discussion, but a mostly irrelevant one. Zygi, who knows his business and understands it’s needs to a vastly greater extent than any outsider possibly could, has decided that he does need a new stadium, and that is pretty much that. There is no real possibility that any outsider could persuade Zygi otherwise.

    The one issue that is left for us to decide is whether Zygi is bluffing. We have had experience with that phenomenon. Carl Pohlad pursued various bluffing strategies for years, and they eventually succeeded. For myself, I don’t think Zygi is bluffing. I believe that unlike Pohlad, Zygi has viable alternative locations for the team, and what I think I know about NFL and Vikings finances tells me that staying at the Metrodome is simply isn’t possible long term option for the Vikings.

    But hey, I could be wrong.

  52. Submitted by Tony Spadafora on 09/25/2010 - 09:10 am.

    The NFL will impose a relocation fee in the $300 million range for any existing team moving to the lucrative L.A. market. That fee is one of the few things working in favor of keeping the Vikings in MN.

  53. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 09/25/2010 - 09:13 am.

    “In fact, I think most people would say that the real problem is that despite our best efforts, and votes, and protests, our elected officials continue to subsidize professional sports.”

    This goes to a deeper, psychological point, that politicians understand very well. They know that there is a basic desire both to want things and not to pay for them. Every politician knows both that the public doesn’t want to pay for a Viking Stadium but also knows that they will be blamed if the Vikings leave. Needless to say that puts them in a very awkward position.

    We see this phenomenon on a much larger and a far less trivial scale in our national politics. People think federal budget should be cut, but they are adamantly opposed to cuts in what the federal budget pays for. That’s the contradiction every politician faces.

  54. Submitted by Tony Spadafora on 09/25/2010 - 10:21 am.

    Face it… Joel Maturi provided the leadership needed to make TCF Bank Stadium a reality. Red & Zygi have NOT provided the leadership needed to make a new Vikings stadium a reality.

    80% of Red’s $500 million profit “windfall” came from the appreciated value of the franchise. Zygi is going to match Red’s profit “windfall” when he unloads the franchise next year for at least $900 million.

  55. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/25/2010 - 10:37 am.

    //Mr. Udstrand… where did I say I support Tom Horner’s stadium plan?

    Please Mr. Spadafora, now your being disingenuous. I know you want to avoid details because that’s where you lose people, but this is just math. We all know that the Viking’s want 600-900 million and the debt service on that will be at least 30 million dollars a year or more. The debt service on the Twins stadium is 20 million a year for something 330 million and the Vikings at least twice that. In fact, your complaint about Horner’s plan it that it won’t work because Vikings wont’ go for it, it makes them pay too much. If anything, you’re willing to put more than 30 million a year into a stadium deal. Now if your not, you can clear this all up very quickly and easily, just tell us how much exactly you think the public should be putting into a Vikings stadium annually. I notice your picking a high school debate point with me over what you’ve actually said, while not actually saying anything to clarify your position. Unfortunately for you, this is not a high school debate. Anyone who cares to know knows that you’ve spent the last 20-30 years trying to get stadiums built with public money in the Twins Cities. You can keep complaining about my assumptions or you can clarify your position. You’re move.

    Hiram:// The Vikings themselves are doing very well. They have an incredible cash flow. In that sense they are thriving. But I suspect the Wilf’s picture isn’t nearly so bright,…

    All you gotta you do Hiram is explain why you think Ziggy Wilf’s finances are a public problem. Why is Wilf entitled to a tax payer guarantied profit? Does the guy even live in MN? How did the Governor of Minnesota end up being responsible for Ziggy Wilf’s income or lack thereof? When did the people of MN, MPLS, Henn Co. whoever- become the guarantors of Ziggy’s investment? If anyone, shouldn’t the NFL provide such a guaranty? How did the taxpayers end up the hook for this?

    Let’s not pretend this a new argument. You’re going to say: 1) If we don’t accept responsibility for Ziggy’s revenue we may lose the team. 2) The Vikings are an asset worth holding on to.

    Response: We know for a fact that the majority of people in MN are willing to let the team go rather than dump several hundred million dollars into Ziggy’s pocket. There would be life in MN without the Vikings just like there is life LA, Paris, and London without professional football. Assets can be evaluated. Unless your telling me that the MN economy would take a billion dollar hit if the Vikings disappeared, you can’t justify a billion dollar public subsidy. No study or assessment anywhere has even hinted that the loss of the Vikings would cause anything more than temporary blip in the local economy and would have no statewide effect whatsoever.

    At the end of the day you have a industry (the NFL) that’s generating billions of dollars of revenue, paying billions of dollars to it’s players, and demanding billions of dollars in free public money, they’re not even asking for low interest loans, TIFFs, or variances, they just want the cash. Any other industry that gets a public bailout has to make concessions, the UAW had to take pay and benefit cuts, as did management. But the NFL? No, they just want the cash, hundreds of millions of dollars in cash so they can keep paying a bunch of guys millions of dollars to play a game for part of the year, and the owners can keep doing whatever it is that owners do.

    I know you guys would rather not frame it this way, but the inescapable fact is you’re selling massive public subsidies for a professional sports industry that’s swimming in cash. Good luck with that. If history is any indication, you may get the money at the end of the day, but you’ll never win that argument. Unfortunately for the public, you don’t have to win the argument, you just have to figure out a way to take the money.

    Fortunately for the public, the cost of these stadiums has become so insanely ridiculous that politicians have nearly exhausted all the tricks in the book. Public financing is getting more and more difficult to extract from unwilling citizens. This is why these private finance deals are floating around. If the subsidies end, the NFL will have build stadiums the same way any other industry builds stuff and they can afford to that. Player’s will have take a hit in salary, but I’ve always thought just about anyone can get by on a million dollars a year if they have to.

  56. Submitted by James Hamilton on 09/25/2010 - 10:50 am.

    Mr. Foster:

    “The Vikings “need” a subsidy in the sense that they cannot meet and sustain a financially justifiable return on investment without it. And down the road, they will need a subsidy simply in order to survive.”

    If this is true, then perhaps it’s best to let them go now, before holding ourselves hostage with a stadium to pay off.

  57. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/25/2010 - 11:13 am.

    35,000 Minnesotan’s needed a subsidy for health care, they didn’t get it. For want of 50 million dollars we killed someone, probably several someones.

    We have people telling us that the Vikings “need” a billion dollar subsidy, not to keep playing, but keep getting paid what they currently get paid to play. Whose gonna die if the Vikings play somewhere else, or stop playing altogether? Whose even going to be seriously inconvenienced?

    We needed 50 million dollars to preserve health care for 35,000 people and our politician’s just couldn’t figure out how to get it done. But when it comes to finding hundreds of millions of dollars for pro sports subsidies we have all these detailed proposals and somehow they come up with the cash. I think there may be a special place in hell for societies that behave that way.

  58. Submitted by Tony Spadafora on 09/25/2010 - 12:38 pm.

    Mr. Udstrand… go read what I wrote about stadium funding in 2004. It’s in the proposal on the now defunct twindomes.com website and it’s still fairly fresh. In it I say, team owners and the general public aren’t the missing stadium funding sources, businesses and frequent fans are. Don’t email or respond to the website… those contact methods are no longer operable… just keeping the website open as a reminder of a lost opportunity to resolve MN stadium issues in a common sense way.

  59. Submitted by Tony Spadafora on 09/25/2010 - 03:12 pm.

    Mr. Udstrand… here’s my stadium issue philosophy.

    There’s no good time for a bad stadium deal and no bad time for a good stadium deal.

    I define a good deal as one that’s good for the team, businesses, sports fans, and the general public… you can call it a winX4 solution.

    Your overblown public contributions would be a very bad “sweetheart” deal by my definition.

    …and spare us the “how many will die” theatrics. No one is going to die because we build a new Vikings stadium… if anything the opposite is true as more income & tax revenues and jobs are created.

    You’re as bad as those who say the construction of the new Vikings stadium will create 10,000 construction jobs. It will involve 3,400,000 work hours which would be about 700 full time jobs for 2 1/2 years.

  60. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 09/25/2010 - 05:18 pm.

    “All you gotta you do Hiram is explain why you think Ziggy Wilf’s finances are a public problem.”

    I don’t think Wilf’s finances are a public problem. All we need to know about Wilf’s business is that he will move the team if he doesn’t get a new stadium. Wilf is not entitled to a subsidy or any other special treatment from the state. We are not guarantors of Zygi’s investment. It’s up to Zygi to protect his interests and fulfill his obligations to his partner and shareholders. I am confident he will do that.

    “If anyone, shouldn’t the NFL provide such a guaranty?”

    The NFL doesn’t offer guarantees to anyone. As things currently stand, the Vikings are not pulling their weight with respect to the league as a whole. That situation won’t continue indefinitely.

    “You’re going to say: 1) If we don’t accept responsibility for Ziggy’s revenue we may lose the team. 2) The Vikings are an asset worth holding on to.”

    Nope. This is what I am going to say: 1)If Zygi or his successors don’t get an acceptable stadium deal, the Vikings will leave. 2)The Vikings are worth keeping here if the price is right.

    “At the end of the day you have a industry (the NFL) that’s generating billions of dollars of revenue, paying billions of dollars to it’s players, and demanding billions of dollars in free public money, they’re not even asking for low interest loans.”

    I don’t think the NFL’s finances are a public problem or concern. Now it’s your turn, to tell me why they should be.

    “the cost of these stadiums has become so insanely ridiculous that politicians have nearly exhausted all the tricks in the book.”

    We just built new stadiums for the Gophers and Twins, and the sky hasn’t fallen in. With the right deal, I think our way of life could survive a Vikings Stadium as well.

  61. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 09/25/2010 - 05:24 pm.

    “If this is true, then perhaps it’s best to let them go now, before holding ourselves hostage with a stadium to pay off.”

    What is best remains to be determined. But in order to be acceptable, any stadium deal must include an ironclad, long term commitment that the team stays here. And I have a high degree of confidence that the Vikings would be willing to make such a commitment.

  62. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/25/2010 - 07:25 pm.

    OK, so I just need to point out that after days of discussion and debate, Mr. Spadafora, a guy who’s spent the last 20-30 years boosting stadiums for professional teams, steadfastly refuses to actually describe a stadium deal that he supports. Is this because he has no clue? I doubt it.

    The reason we’re not getting any details is because stadium boosters know that when they get into the details of grabbing several hundred million dollars from the public, who and how, that’s when you lose people. There are two key strategies that stadium supporters are rock solid on. One, under no circumstances do you get the public involved. Take their money, but don’t give them a choice of any kind, that means no referendums. Two, DO NOT talk about the actual economics, who you want to take the money from and why. Keep it all warm and fuzzy and extremely vague. It’s all about Sunday afternoons with fathers and sons, and old people listening to games at the nursing homes, and all the great memories. We need reasonable plans that are good for the public blah blah blah, but do not discuss details. Details are best worked out in back rooms between politicians and team owners.

    I’m going to bang away at this one last time because Jay’s article claims that guys like Spadafora are the voice of reason. Note, the whole strategy for getting these stadiums built hinges on avoiding rational discussion at all costs. The point is to avoid the very conversations, facts, and information that we would need to make a rational decision.

    So now the Vikings stadium is going to save lives? I didn’t say anyone would die because of the stadium. I pointed out that people have already died because we put financing stadiums ahead of providing health care. That’s not being hysterical, it’s just history. A history some people want to repeat. Horner thinks he has a way to raise and extra 30 million a year. Does he want to spend that on restoring some health care to those who lost it and save some lives? No, he wants to give it to the Vikings. That’s how you kill people with bad public policy. Could we build stadiums and save lives? Sure we could, but that’s not what we do, we just build stadiums. Did we find a way to preserve health care for 35,000 people and build a stadium for the Twins? No, no we didn’t. Now Horner want’s cut 3 billion dollars worth of public services and give Ziggy a billion for his team. You can pretend we’re not making choices here but your kidding yourself.

  63. Submitted by Howard Miller on 09/25/2010 - 07:34 pm.

    i’m in the hell-no crowd when it comes to public financing of new palaces in which millionaire sportsmen will play their game – if we can meet the price.

    every source of revenue, every dollar that would go to a new physical stadium takes from a school child …. or a driver hoping not to break an axle on a pothole … or someone needing treatment to stay out of prison when he gets out … or some poor person to get needed medical care.

    Those are the highest priority for our public funds. Love watching the Vikings. But I’ll get by if they decide there are greener pastures. Can’t get by with out the best of schools, roads, criminal justice, and health care. Won’t vote for anybody who has the Vikings as a high priority, while we lay off teachers, prison guards, leave potholes unfilled, medical needs unattended

  64. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/25/2010 - 07:36 pm.

    //”You’re going to say: 1) If we don’t accept responsibility for Ziggy’s revenue we may lose the team. 2) The Vikings are an asset worth holding on to.”

    Nope. This is what I am going to say: 1)If Zygi or his successors don’t get an acceptable stadium deal, the Vikings will leave. 2)The Vikings are worth keeping here if the price is right.

    I hate to tell you this Hiram but there’s no difference between what you actually said and what I predicted you would say.

    I think we’re done here, you’re admitting that Ziggy isn’t entitled to a public subsidy, am I missing something?

  65. Submitted by Tony Spadafora on 09/25/2010 - 09:44 pm.

    Mr. Udstrand… I understand stadium issues because I’ve been forced to logically think them thru to design video-assisted research projects which give citizen-taxpayer-voters a meaningful role in the decision-making process.

    I’ve never worked for a professional team on a stadium issue… just a county and an advocate group in Ohio and a company in Texas.

    I actually only have 15 years of stadium issue experience… not 20-30 years.

    …and there’s more than enough info about my thoughts on stadium funding in the proposal on the TwinsDomes.com website I referred you to earlier.

    Tell us your thoughts on stadium funding… or is no public involvement your simple answer?

    You do realize even the stadiums you think were privately funded had public contributions of land or infrastructure or tax relief. All but three NFL stadium are publicly owned with no property tax obligations.

    Gawd… I hope we’re done here now.

  66. Submitted by Scott Chambers on 09/25/2010 - 10:18 pm.

    “On the macro level, you’ve got the “hell-no” folks, who don’t want any attempts to figure out the Vikings stadium issue. That attitude comes from the left and right. It is a head-in-the-sand approach to a community dilemma that won’t go away, what with the Vikings’ Metrodome lease expiring after the 2011 season.”

    Thanks, Jay, for once again minimizing and demeaning the opinions of those of us who do not want public financing involved in a new Vikings stadium. Our heads are not in the sand. To the contrary, our eyes are wide open to the scandalous welfare for the rich. Your bias is clear, over and over again. You’re entitled to it, but at least acknowledge our opinions as valid and thoughtful.

  67. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 09/26/2010 - 06:46 am.

    “you’re admitting that Ziggy isn’t entitled to a public subsidy,”

    Yes, of course. For the moment, I can’t think of anyone who is entitled to a public subsidy. Certainly, the Wilfs aren’t. The question is whether we should provide them one, not whether they are entitled to it.

    The Wilf are business people with a product to offer the community. We can say yes, we can say no, or we can just ignore them. They are not “entitled” to any of those responses. If we don’t say yes, they will simply take what they have to sell, and offer it somewhere else.

    As was pointed out earlier, the Vikings financials are matters internal to the Vikings, and not a matter of public concern.

  68. Submitted by Tony Spadafora on 09/26/2010 - 09:36 am.

    Scott… just saying “NO” to any public involvement in stadium funding and then burying your head in the sand doesn’t work. Exaggerations like saying there’s no public benefit are as bad as overblowing the public benefit. Team owners are NOT the only ones who benefit by having pro sports in MN.

    The very most egregious thing I’ve seen concerning stadium legislation was the referendum “waiver” the Hennepin County Board asked for and received of legislators whose constituents for the most part were not Hennepin County residents, yet all the “four horsemen” on the Board who voted to request that “waiver” were re-elected and two of the three women who voted against the “waiver” request are no longer on the Board (by their own choice).

    How much money, time, or effort did you spend on replacing those county commissioners Scott or Paul?

    Only commenting on articles about stadium issues isn’t going the stop the next “sweetheart” stadium deal.

  69. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/26/2010 - 02:47 pm.

    //…and there’s more than enough info about my thoughts on stadium funding in the proposal on the TwinsDomes.com website I referred you to earlier.

    Again at this point one can only conclude that Mr. Spadafora is deliberately avoided and detailed description of a stadium deal he supports, I ask the reader to wonder a stadium supporter would do that. I’ve given my explanation. For the of clarity I’ll as again: Mr. Spadafora, how much public money per year do think ought to go into a Vikings stadium? We’re putting 20 million a year into the Twins stadium, Horner thinks 30 million works, what’s your take? We know Ziggy wants at least twice the amount the Twins are getting, how much do think he should get? Given the amount of type you have devoted to discussion so far I don’t think it’s too much trouble for you to answer a relatively simple question here instead of referring us to your website (Note, Mr. Spadafora has a website devoted to this issue, yet he has thus far refused describe his stadium proposal, again- why?).

    //Tell us your thoughts on stadium funding… or is no public involvement your simple answer?

    I’ve already stated in #4 and #36 that I’m not apposed to any public involvement at all. I’ll lay out a proposal I’d support, but I’ll do it later, it’s a beautiful day so I’m goin out with my dog. I’ll point out however that when I submit my proposal readers should note that the guy with a stadium website has refused to submit a proposal, and the guy who doesn’t even know who, where, or when the Vikings are playing today will have submitted a proposal for their stadium. Funny that huh?

  70. Submitted by James Hamilton on 09/26/2010 - 02:56 pm.

    The bottom line, based on Mr. Horner’s optimistic projections:

    Tax revenues: “A new Vikings stadium would generate at least $26 million in annual tax revenue”

    Annual bond payments: “Multiple funding options need to be considered to meet the estimated $32-to-$34 million per year state cost on 40-year bonds.”

    What’s proposed here is a $6 to $8 million net annual subsidy, without taking into account the public share of operating costs, increased demand on police, and many, many other indirect costs.

    Looked at one way, it’s a mere dollar or so per capita per year, to provide six months of circuses. Looked at another way, it’s a direct public subsidy of an already profitable private enterprise.

    Of course, as others have pointed out, you aren’t going to get a 40 year useful lifespan or a 40 year lease commitment from the Vikings. Your bond costs will increase as the repayment term is shortened. Even if you did get a 30 or 40 year lease, how long would it be before the Vikes were back trying to renegotiate the terms?

    I know full well that a stadium will be built, using public funds. I don’t like it in the least, but as Mr. Weiner wrote: “pro sports financing and the public’s relationship to it, here and nationally, is fundamentally irrational.” I see no reason for rationality to rule here, when it’s so been among the missing for so long in all other public debates. The only question in my mind is how far over we’ll bend in the process.

  71. Submitted by Tony Spadafora on 09/26/2010 - 05:05 pm.

    Mr. Udstrand…I don’t have a stadium proposal now. Our TwinDomes stadia proposal no longer applies to MN, so just consider it a lost opportunity.

    Also lost is the possibility of a 20% public / 80% private venture funding formula. Most likely the best we’ll do now is a 33% public / 67% private funding breakdown.

    What I do have is a funding logic that places all the cards on the table so a responsible deal can be negotiated.

    So tell me what your proposal is and I’ll tell you if it’s logical or not.

    Remember: a good stadium deal should be good for the Vikings, businesses, sports fans, and the general public. All will benefit and all should contribute.

  72. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/26/2010 - 08:29 pm.

    OK, my stadium proposal. First some context. Target built their headquarters in downtown Minneapolis. Unlike any stadium this headquarters created several hundred permanent jobs in addition to the construction jobs. Unlike the Vikings, all those Target employees come downtown 5 days a week all year round, and the store is open on the weekends. Those employees pay for parking, buy lunch, go shopping, all over downtown, and they even high a photographer once and while. In short, the economic impact of the Target headquarters is far greater than 6 or 8 Vikings games over the course of a year.

    What kind of deal did Target get to build their headquarters downtown? They got $35 million for “site preparation”, tearing down the building already there and making the site ready for new construction. In addition to that they got around $65 million in Tax Increment Financing. They also got a waiver from the living wage ordinance. All and all Target got about $100 million in subsidies, maybe more.

    What kind of deal would I recommend for the Vikings stadium? As far as I know it’s estimated that a Vikings stadium with a roof would cost $1.4 billion. First, the Vikings pay 30%-40% up front (to be negotiated). Well say 30% for the sake of illustration. That leaves us with $930 million. Then they get the same deal Target got, inflation has probably driven costs up so the site preparation may cost up $50 million instead of $35 million, but they’d get whatever it cost. Second, $70 million in TIFF financing. This part of the package comes to $120 million. That gets us down to $810 million. In addition to that, I’d give the Vikings $40 million from the state subject to referendum. That would get us down to $730 million. That will be financed by bonds, sold by the state, but serviced by the Vikings. In other words it would a government financed low interest loan. Whoever owns the Vikings would be responsible for paying off that loan, and in case of bankruptcy the NFL would have to take pay it off.

    Now it gets interesting. According Mr. Spadafora, the Vikings bring in $12 million a year in income tax revenue. I’m guessing if you if add the Twins, the T-Wolves, and the Wild to that, it probably come up to $25 million a year maybe $30 million. The legislature passes a pro-athlete income revenue bill that captures all the athletes MN income tax (and whatever MN income tax non resident owners are paying) and uses it to replenish the the $40 million from the general fund, that takes a couple years. After that, the money can either be diverted into Vikings debt service, and maybe event the Twins debt service at which point the Twins stadium tax could be either be repealed altogether or diverted back into Henn Co.

  73. Submitted by Tony Spadafora on 09/27/2010 - 08:24 am.

    Where should I begin?… First of all the Target v Vikings comparison is “apples & oranges.” There are many retail businesses there’s only one NFL. Should we give every retail business or all businesses public subsidies? Strip joints bring people downtown too. Should they be subsidized?

    There are 10 Vikings home games per season…. 2 pre-season and 8 regular season games…. and hopefully a playoff game or two NOT 6 or 8 games. Not to mention all the other events that will take place in a new Vikings stadium with some sort of roof.

    If $1.4 billion is your estimate of the construction cost of the new Vikings stadium, it’s way too high. The current cost estimate for a fixed-roof stadium is $791 million. Legislation should have the Vikings cover any construction cost overruns.

    Where does your TIF financing come from? Normally, TIF funding is about property taxes being waived…. the Vikings stadium will be publicly owned without a property tax obligation.

    Your $40 million from the state subject to referendum… are you talking about a special statewide vote… the next scheduled statewide vote would be in November 2012. The Vikings will be long gone by then.

    The $25 to $30 million per year in state funding from the player and owner income taxes is way too much.

    NIce try, but your proposal isn’t logical or practical.

  74. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/27/2010 - 09:17 am.

    Well I guess I don’t have much of plan then. However, apparently I have more a plan than Mr. Spadafora, who’s been working on this for 15 years and has a website devoted to it.

    I only have three points, first, there is in fact only one Target Corporation as well, and in any event, the uniqueness of the NFL doesn’t entitle them to hundreds of millions of dollars in public subsidy. Even if the Vikings play ten games instead of eight, that still leaves 355 days out of the year that they don’t play. You want to know what MN looks like without a Vikings team? Look around you, it looks very much like today, and the other 354 days of the year that the Vikings don’t play in Minneapolis. Are Ten days worth a billion dollars? Finally, I think Mr. Spadafora is underestimating the cost of the stadium, and given his extensive knowledge of stadium issues I have a hard time believing it’s because he doesn’t know any better.

    This is from the Wikipedia entry on the Vikings the new Vikings stadium: “The 2007 proposed cost estimate for the downtown Minneapolis stadium was $953,916,000.[14] The total breaks down to $616,564,000 for the stadium, $200,729,000 for a retractable roof, $58,130,000 for parking, $8,892,000 for adjacent land right-of-way, and $69,601,000 to take into account inflation by 2010.[14] …In addition, according to Wilf, taking into account the costs for the surrounding urban developments put forth in the proposal would bring the estimated total to $2 billion.[9] The estimated costs were based on projected 2008 construction and material costs, so it is possible that the stadium costs could hover near $1 billion if the Minnesota State Legislature does not approve the project in the 2008 session.[15]”

    Spadafora is assuming that everyone has abandoned the idea of a retractable roof amongst other things.

    I’m still waiting Mr. Spadafora to tell us how much per year in terms of dollars, a “reasonable” public contribution would be. He’s obviously quite familiar with the subject.

  75. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/27/2010 - 10:58 am.

    //If the team is such an asset, if this state virtually stops on Sunday afternoons to watch the team, and if the team generates, according to some studies, about $26 million in annual taxes to the state coffers, why not use general fund money to preserve the franchise?

    Why just sock gamblers and ticket buyers with the bill for such an asset?

    It’s not just a political reality, it’s also economic. The assumption that all that revenue disappears with the Vikings is bogus assumption. It assumes that everyone just stays home and mourns the loss of the Vikings on Sundays instead of doing something else and spending money somewhere else. Economists tell us these are entertainment dollars that will be spent elsewhere if the Vikings aren’t around. And the fact that those dollars may be spread around rather than concentrated in one location is not a bad thing for the economy. In other words, the thing that rarely gets discussed is the fact that there are actually some benefits to losing the Vikings if it comes to that.

  76. Submitted by Tony Spadafora on 09/27/2010 - 11:13 am.

    I do NOT consider tax revenues generated by Minnesotans spending on Vikings tickets, concessions, parking, etc. “but-for” revenues. I only consider money that comes into the state that otherwise would not and the income and sales taxes that money generates as “but-for” tax revenues.

    Only “use or lose” revenues… or should I say double lose because we would lose the tax revenues and the Vikings if a new stadium isn’t built.

    I don’t agree with the way the $26 million is arrived at… the number could be more or it could be less. That study hasn’t been done yet.

  77. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/27/2010 - 01:10 pm.

    Mr. Spadafora, and your “but for” revenue amount estimate is? And the percentage of that revenue that goes to the Vikings is?

  78. Submitted by Tony Spadafora on 09/27/2010 - 04:26 pm.

    “But-for” tax revenues would need to be studied. Your guess is as good as mine would be.

    If you’re talking tax revenues… none would go to the Vikings.

    If you’re talking money into the state… some would go to the Vikings organization including players and employees… some would go to hotels and restaurants… some would go to car rental and airlines… some would go to retail stores and parking companies, some would go to hospitality industry and retail employees… etc., etc., etc…

  79. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/27/2010 - 06:35 pm.

    //”But-for” tax revenues would need to be studied. Your guess is as good as mine would be.

    So basically you’re telling us that this “but for” data set you keep talking about and want to use evaluate stadium deals doesn’t actually exist.

  80. Submitted by Tony Spadafora on 09/27/2010 - 08:46 pm.

    What’s important is the deal you favor is a “sweetheart” deal and I’m opposed to “sweetheart” deals.

  81. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/28/2010 - 10:15 am.

    Tony, your talk about sweetheart deals would be a lot more convincing if you would provide some actual numbers instead of vague principles. I suppose if wanting a the best deal for the public is wanting a sweetheart deal I’m guilty as charged. However, at this point, your refusal to get into details despite your obvious knowledge regarding stadium deals leads me to suspect that your talk of sweetheart deals is really just part of the usual bait-and-switch strategy that’s typical of stadium proponents. The strategy is pretend to be against sweetheart deals but at the end of the day when the sweetheart deal for the team is produced you’re all for it. The Twins deal was a sweetheart deal for the Polhads, did you oppose it? Let me guess, you don’t think the Twins stadium was a sweetheart deal for the Pohlads.

    Ya know the other thing that this talk of sweetheart deals glosses over is the fact that these stadiums are worth far more to the teams than they are to the public. The reason these franchises need these new stadiums is because they’ve hit revenue walls and can’t grow the value of their investments without them. Several studies have shown that the increased value and revenue of teams are directly linked to these publicly subsidized new stadiums. You’ll notice that these new stadiums are no larger, in may cases actually smaller, than the ones they replace. What’s different about them is the concessions, restaurants, luxury boxes, etc. that allow the franchise to bring more money in. New stadiums also make it easier to raise ticket prices. It’s the only way pro sports can grow revenue, they’ve hit wall with attendance, TV ad sales, etc. And they keep increasing they’re payrolls for players. At the end of the day, these stadiums are simply direct subsidies that increase the value of teams at a time when there’s no other way to grow revenue. Defining any stadium deal that involves more than 20% public funding as anything other than a sweetheart deal for the franchise is disingenuous.

    This is also why stadiums need to be replaced, it explains the life cycle. All new stadium eventually lose their luster and ticket sales drop unless the team is have a great season. Since all teams can’t have a great season every years you have a problem. The Vikings currently fail to fill the dome how may times years? I think at least three or four times last year they were nearly blacked out until some company bought up the remaining seats. A new stadium would fill up for a few years just because it’s new, but eventually attendance would drop off unless the Vikings were consistently winning. Attendance for Twins games was dismal for years as well. You ever wonder why owners sell teams after a few years of getting new stadiums? They sell when the revenue bump from the new stadium starts winding down. That’s also why new owners always want new stadiums.

    When the public puts more than 15%-20% into these new stadiums were simply acting as public guarantors for billionaire sports investors, plain and simple. No matter how you slice that it’s a sweetheart deal for pro sports franchises.

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