The Vikings stadium puzzle: Can anyone put the pieces together?

One of a number of Vikings stadium concept designs.
Ellerbe Becket
One of a number of Vikings stadium concept designs.

“You have dreams that you’d like to have something that puts you in the forefront, in a state-of-the-art facility, not in a stadium like ours that’s not up to date … We want to make sure we’re being treated fairly and make sure we’re not the last one in the game.”

— Former Vikings president Roger Headrick, October 12, 1996

“Churn” is the word being tossed around at the Capitol these days when that gnawing problem, a Vikings stadium, comes up in conversation.

Nothing is set in place. Substantial progress, ready-to-introduce bills and votes-in-hand remain distant realities. Amid a $6.2 billion state deficit and a newly configured and inexperienced Legislature, a serious Vikings stadium plan is absent.

The issue — that the team can’t be economically competitive with other NFL franchises in the Metrodome — has been around for three ownership groups, beginning in the Clinton administration with Roger Headrick’s consortium.

Now, almost six years since a frustrated Red McCombs sold the team to the now frustrated Zygi Wilf, fundamental elements of any deal remain murky at best: site, cost, public funding sources, roof or roofless, the amount of Wilf’s private investment, support from that amorphous “business community” … all question marks.

That’s the landscape even as the Vikings’ lease is set to expire after the 2011 season at the damaged Metrodome, assuming there is a 2011 season as NFL labor negotiations trudge on.

It’s all going to play out through May against a backdrop of counties, cities and towns reeling from cuts in state government aids, schools hurting, and a visceral opposition bound to rise because of the optics of a stadium being built while more essential needs are being cut.

The other backdrop: record TV ratings for the Vikings and a cultural asset that is an integral part of Minnesota’s “brand.”

It’s inevitable: A stadium debate in Minnesota becomes a vehicle for arguments dipped in class warfare and competing social priorities, for assertions about civic imagery and national status, about fears of a team leaving or visions of a community being held hostage by an owner or a league.

That’s why a stadium bill, if and when it gets to the Senate and House floors, can be expected to be the final vote of the 2011 session. We have 18 more weeks to watch this form, or fizzle, to try to keep track of all the moving parts.

Gambling issue interrelated
Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, who will lead the effort in the Senate, said in an interview last week that she will seek a “clean bill,” if and when all the key pieces can be put in place. But keeping this matter “clean” — that is, unencumbered by other controversial issues — will be an awesome task.

State Sen. Julie Rosen
State Sen. Julie Rosen

Once a Vikings bill is introduced, it just might resemble one of those last flights out of Saigon, with other, somewhat desperate, special interests grabbing onto the stadium’s girders in hopes of arriving at their own promised land. After all, as Headrick prophesied 15 years ago, this Vikings’ project could be “the last one in the game.”

Various forms of gaming will surely be linked to any stadium bill. Whether they wind up serving as a funding source for the facility, only time will tell.

But this we know: “As soon as [Rosen’s] bill gets to the tax committee or wherever, there will definitely be an amendment for racino,” said former Sen. Dick Day, now the chief lobbyist for an effort to put slot machines at the state’s two race tracks, Canterbury Park and Running Aces.

Using Minnesota Lottery data, Day says putting slots at the tracks in Shakopee and Columbus could generate $125 million a year after taxes to the state coffers. He says he doesn’t care where those proceeds go. He just knows the state needs revenue, and the stadium matter could be one easy recipient. Total debt service on a Vikings stadium will likely reach into the range of $50 million to $70 million a year.

“Is it something they really want to solve?” Day asked of the Legislature and the Vikings. If so, he said, a racino is “a no-brainer.”

Dick Day
Dick Day

But racinos won’t be alone on the gaming front. Bar owners will soon be lobbying for the introduction of electronic pull tabs in enterprises across the state.

They claim an even greater ability to raise money for the state general fund.

While one recent poll has shown support for state-sponsored gambling as a way to raise state revenues, there is, clearly, opposition to gambling, too, from the right and the left. And, of course, from the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association, which represents the state’s largest Indian-owned casinos.

At last count: Canterbury, Running Aces and the Racino Now effort have 10 lobbyists working together for their cause; on the other side, the Mdewakanton Sioux, Prairie Island Dakota Community, Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe and MIGA have a combined 25 registered lobbyists.

Other sports arenas in play, too
There are other sports facilities — already recipients of public funds — that want improvements or debt relief.

The city of Minneapolis, which was on the hook originally for the Metrodome, bailed out Target Center 15 years ago. Believe it or not, the 20-year-old building is now among the oldest in the NBA. The Timberwolves soon will unveil a refurbishing plan that could cost as much as $100 million.

City Council President Barbara Johnson
City Council President Barbara Johnson

Minneapolis city officials are looking for ways to fund that. “We have some capacity” to renovate Target Center, City Council President Barbara Johnson said. But, clearly, wheels are turning about seeking some bonding help from the state for the arena, as was done last session.

Or, perhaps, some relief on paying down the Target Center debt, or even the Minneapolis Convention Center debt.

St. Paul and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild want to be at the table, too.

Wild Chief Financial Officer Jeff Pellegrom said his franchise and its parent company, which manages Xcel Energy Center, are “certainly aware of Minnesota’s financial situation.” But most of the $37 million remaining on the arena’s mortgage is paid by the team, which, Pellegrom said, has the second most expensive rent in the NHL.

“If there’s going to be activity on sports venues, we certainly want to make sure the Legislature … takes [our interests] into consideration,” Pellegrom said of the Wild and Xcel Energy Center. “I don’t think we’re planning on driving legislation, but if there is legislation, we certainly want to be involved in the discussion.”

St. Paul city officials also are backing the concept of a new downtown stadium for the minor league St. Paul Saints. That could be a $25 million bonding proposition for the state.

In the ongoing sibling rivalry that’s dogged sports facilities debates for 60 years, St. Paul officials believe if a Vikings stadium is going to be placed in Minneapolis, then they should get their fair share, too, in the capital city.

Meanwhile, some legislators and the Vikings, for that matter, continue to covet the proceeds from an entertainment tax that helps to pay the debt on the Minneapolis Convention Center. Although it is a regional convention facility, the city’s taxpayers and visitors pay for the entire operation. City officials contend they need those tax proceeds to not only pay off the convention center’s debt by 2020, but to maintain and expand the facility to keep it competitive.

On the other hand, if the state were willing to lift some of the city’s Target Center or Convention Center debt, maybe the city’s entertainment taxes could be examined.

“If some of our obligation was removed, maybe we could talk,” said Council President Johnson, a practical and experienced deal-maker.

Regional benefits — and funding?
But if the value of sports facilities to the state and the benefits of gambling to state coffers are going to be part of the conversation, so, too, expect a conversation about statewide or regional funding.

Why, for instance, should only a Hennepin County sales tax fund the Twins ballpark, or other local taxes pay for Target Center or St. Paul’s RiverCentre? Aren’t these facilities beneficial to the entire metro area, and the state? Shouldn’t everyone pay?

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak spoke speculatively last week on Minnesota Public Radio about a tiny — 0.01 percent — statewide entertainment tax that could fund facilities. As was originally proposed to fund the Metrodome in the late 1970s, could there be a metrowide funding solution?

Ted Mondale
Ted Mondale

Watch new Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission Chairman Ted Mondale. He was, after all, the former chairman of the Metropolitan Council. He said last week he and Gov. Mark Dayton aren’t wedded to any location.

There’s no reason to believe a Vikings stadium can only be located in Minneapolis at the current Metrodome site, or near it, as many assume.

An active lobbying effort last week at the Capitol for a Vikings stadium was being led by Ramsey County Commissioner Tony Bennett. He is promoting a site in Arden Hills that’s part of the massive Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant.

The county board hasn’t taken a position on building a stadium there. An earlier plan to include Anoka and Washington counties in some sort of funding consortium has died. But Bennett said last week, “This site is very viable,” and already has significant access via I-35E and I-35W, Highway 610 and Highway 96, Bennett said.

Whether the Vikings are using this site as leverage to goose Minneapolis and Hennepin County officials into being more active isn’t clear.

This site, though, just like a Blaine proposal a few years back, is the always-intriguing suburban option. It provides lots of room for parking and team revenues and, perhaps, development for owner Zygi Wilf, whose family fortune came from real estate and shopping malls.

Some may call it the “Foxboro model,” because it could be somewhat similar to the New England Patriots’ Gillette Stadium, which is 33 miles from downtown Boston. The Army Ammunition Land is about 15 miles from downtown Minneapolis.

But the Wilf family might be careful what they wish for here. Foxboro’s stadium was built with all private money.

Also, would a suburban car-centric stadium fulfill Gov. Dayton’s notion of a “people’s stadium”? Wouldn’t public transportation — like the LRT running to the Dome and Target Field — be an essential part of a “people’s stadium?”

Which leads to the roof issue. Vikings ownership claims it doesn’t need one, but most lawmakers disagree; if there’s going to be a multi-use, public-friendly facility, it needs a roof, they say.

Business community’s role
Another piece to watch is the state’s amorphous business community. It was once characterized as the “big cigars” who made mega-projects like the Metrodome happen in the Twin Cities. This time ’round, key organizations, such as the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and Minnesota Business Partnership, have been slow to be out front on the stadium effort. There’s activity in the background, but not the sort of cheerleading that such an effort usually requires. Perhaps it’s their aversion to taxes.

State Sen. Tom Bakk
MinnPost/Terry Gydesen
State Sen. Tom Bakk

Sen. Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, who has been a consistent supporter of Vikings stadium efforts, challenged business leaders at the Chamber’s annual banquet earlier this month. Sitting on a stage with Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch and Speaker of the House Kurt Zellers, Bakk said Koch and Zellers “can’t get this done without your help … They have caucuses with a lot of new people who made some kind of commitments on the campaign trail, because, frankly, the issue doesn’t poll very well.

“For them to get this done, they’re gonna need help. I think the best group in this state, if there is one, to provide them the help that they need, — call it cover, if you like — to get this done is the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce. I’m asking you to step up and give them a hand, or this isn’t going to happen.”

The response in the banquet hall filled with 1,500 people? A very lukewarm smattering of applause.

Upon his appointment Friday, Mondale was asked about all these potential pieces of the stadium puzzle.

He acknowledged that “we have not had a really good coordinated approach as to how we do public sports facilities.” But, he added, “Going forward, I don’t know what the public’s appetite, or the Legislature’s appetite, is to throw something in bigger” than just a Vikings stadium.

Appetite is one thing. Loading up the plate and seeing what gets eaten is another. Can such a diverse collection of issues and controversies find happiness in one honking stadium package? Can a Vikings bill be “loved to death” by all the other desires? Can Sen. Rosen succeed with her “clean” Vikings-stadium-only bill?

Or is there an advantage to this diversity of interests that could combine to garner the votes needed for passage?

We will know come May 23. That’s when the Legislature adjourns, and all the parts in this Vikings stadium process will have to stop moving.

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 (35)

  1. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 01/17/2011 - 09:53 am.

    First, the Vikings should build their own stadium with public support for infrastructure only.

    Second, it would make sense to repair the dome and keep it for all the nonVikings activities and then let the Vikings build a football only outdoor stadium. $700 million for 11 games a year for about 30 years (that length being a very optimistic guess). That would be about 2 million per game. That would be about 30 dollars per ticket for the cost not including upkeep, player salaries and all that and also minus all their tv, concession and other income.

    Let the rich and the fanatics that can afford tickets pay for this boondoggle.

  2. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 01/17/2011 - 10:13 am.

    I don’t care about the Vikings. My days of obsessing over NFL games ended 25 years ago, so I don’t really have a dog in this fight. But a taxpayer is a taxpayer.

    The other metro areas I’ve lived in over the years (St. Louis & Denver) both have at least one professional sport facility that was at least partially paid for by taxpayers, whether they were fans of the sport or not, so there are plenty of precedents for that, and I’m glad Jay included the bit about the New England Patriots’ Foxboro Stadium, so there’s precedent for a strictly privately-funded facility, as well.

    Funny how often faith in the “free market” disappears in these situations.

    In any case, the last time I checked, the team’s name was not “The Minneapolis Vikings,” it was “The Minnesota Vikings,” so if an agreement can be worked out regarding revenue sharing, among other things, a good case could be made for “the suburban option,” particularly if it will be served by both public transit and current highways. There’s precedent there, as well. The Arden Hills site seems similar to the Denver Federal Center, which also began as an ammunition plant. After a couple generations, the federal government decided much of the Federal Center site (quite a bit smaller than the Arden Hills expanse) wasn’t being used, and an agreement was reached with the City of Lakewood, which surrounds the Federal Center. The land was declared “surplus,” a necessary legal step, and then annexed into the city. Plans are now under way for development, and some of the site has already been sold for the construction of a hospital, nearly complete now, and a transit hub for both light rail and bus is also under construction.

    For the most part, it doesn’t matter to me whether the team is located in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Arden Hills, or Duluth. I won’t be going to any of the games. Yes, the Vikings are part of the Minnesota “brand,” and while I won’t be heartbroken if they end up in Miami, or Boothbay Harbor, it’s fine with me if they stay here, too. My primary concern has to do with the degree to which team ownership will be trying to reach into my pocket to line their own, and, as a Minneapolis resident, how location of the playing facility affects the revenue situation of my own city.

    According to Hennepin County, my modest home’s value has declined by 25 percent in the 18 months since I bought it, yet my taxes are slated to increase. It’s a trend I don’t want to encourage.

  3. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 01/17/2011 - 11:34 am.

    According to the MinnPost report from 12/9/10

    …62% of Republicans, 61% of Democrats, and 59% of independents are opposed to a publicly funded stadium….


    if the choice was between losing the Vikings or expanding gambling to pay for the stadium, it was 63% to 25% in favor of expanding gambling.

    So the ideal solution, oh wise legislator?

    Reward two sets of parasites at the same time!!

    Professional athletics AND gambling interests!!

    Big bucks, baby, BIG BUCKS!!

  4. Submitted by Destin Nygard on 01/17/2011 - 12:21 pm.

    I’m a bit ambivalent about a Metrodome vs. Suburban location, but one thing to keep in mind is that if we’re envisioning this as a potential host for Superbowls, Final Fours, and other big events, there’s definitely a value to having it downtown, close to restaurants and hotels. Even when the Packers are in town, there are real advantages to having these visitors staying within walking distance of the stadium, bars, and shopping.

  5. Submitted by Paul Linnee on 01/17/2011 - 12:32 pm.

    Would somebody help me understand/remember something?

    I seem to recall that the State of MN entered into CONTRACTS with the Indian tribes that said THEY could do certain types of gaming and the STATE would not compete.

    If I am hearing/reading correctly, some of the “stadium funding from gaming” solutions would seem to require that the STATE and the TRIBES re-negotiate these CONTRACTS.

    If that is a correct understanding on my part, what assurance is there that the TRIBES will be at all willing to renegotiate said CONTRACTS with the STATE, especially since the apparent objective of said renegotiation would be to re-direct some of the money now being raked in by the tribal casinos over to the State’s coffers to pay the debt service on a stadium?

    Am I missing something here?

  6. Submitted by Tony Spadafora on 01/17/2011 - 12:54 pm.

    Jay, Stadium issues are complex, but they don’t need to be confusing.

    There are three important decisions to be made:

    1) Where should the stadium be built?

    2) What kind of stadium should be built?

    3) How should the project be funded?

    I happen to think the Metrodome site is the right site for many good reasons.

    I believe a fixed-roof or retractable-roof stadium should be built. NOT another open-air stadium.

    I believe funding of professional sport ventures should be based on “benefit.”

    Take all the elements of a professional sports venture and fund them with a one third contribution from the Vikings, one third from businesses & season ticket holders, and one third from the general public.

    Problem solved…

  7. Submitted by DeeAnn Christensen on 01/17/2011 - 01:13 pm.

    Public subsidies for stadiums swell the coffers of team owners and millionaire, pre-pubescent professional players. They only elevate owners’ profits, player salaries and increase the re-sale value of the team. … The billionaire team owners and the players profit, but the taxpayer doesn’t see a dime.

    Services for the homeless, affordable housing, child care assistance, quality education, health care and numerous other issues are of a HIGHER LOCAL PRIORITY than a new football stadium.

  8. Submitted by Kevin Reichard on 01/17/2011 - 01:19 pm.

    It’s financially suicidal to put one dollar into a Target Center renovation. There’s not a single metro area in the United States that can support two major sports/concert venues: not Boston, not Manhattan, not Detroit (where the Pistons are poised to move downtown and the Palace downsized), not Chicago, not Newark. (It may work in LA, where Staples Center is so heavily booked MSG is buying the Fabulous Forum solely for use as a concert venue.) Instead of pouring public funds into two arenas, the prudent move is to shut down Target Center and tell the Wild ownership to make it work with the T-Wolves as a tenant. Cleans up the market, gives the Wild a chance to charge market rates to promoters, and introduces a new revenue stream so they can pay down debt.

    The cheapest place to build a new stadium is on the Metrodome site (land and infrastructure already in place), and the cheapest way to build it to hold multiple events is with a fixed roof a la Ford Field. Retractable roof stadiums are horrendously expensive, especially in a snowy clime. Ford Field cost just over $300 million and opened in 2002; since then steel prices have gone up, but you get the general idea, but you could do it for far less than with a retractable roof.

    And regarding the Foxboro solution: Vikings fans would go NUTS paying Foxboro prices, as the cheapest seat is $69 (very limited supply on upper-level corners) and there’s a $40 parking fee, even with MBTA service.

  9. Submitted by Bob Quarrels on 01/17/2011 - 02:29 pm.

    Two considerations and a plan:

    1. The Vikings don’t need to be downtown. Mass transit isn’t the issue here as it is for baseball. Hennepin County is treating for one stadium, Minneapolis for one arena already. And where would the Vikings play while the Metrodome site is under construction? All we heard when they were forced into the U stadium for one game was how unsuitable it was.

    2. If there are slot machines, why should they go into the hallways of the horse track? Why does the horse industry get that consideration? Why shouldn’t, say, libraries have slot machines as a way to stay open? Really, why shouldn’t a casino be built from scratch somewhere else?

    Here, then, is the idea. Build the football stadium on the Arden Hills site. Build a bright shiny new casino next to it.

    Then Ramsey County (and maybe Anoka and Washington) will have even more ability to help funding, thanks to greater development triggered by the year-round casino. The Wilfs gain incentive to up their one-third offer, since they’ll have the parking revenue and the enhanced development opportunity. Then there’s still the take from the casino, which could now spread beyond the Vikes. Maybe, golly, to hospitals and schools.

    The non-central location and lack of mass transit make the casino (and resulting “expansion of gambling”) more palatable than it would be in the urban core. I don’t believe the state ever guaranteed the tribes a monopoly on gambling. Lobbying money has seemed to have that effect, though.

  10. Submitted by frank watson on 01/17/2011 - 02:30 pm.

    I don’t recall the cost of building a new Viking stadium back in 1996 but I would think it would have been in the range 300-400 million. Just think if the Vikings would have been willing to finance most of that on their own instead of wasting the past 15 years, like the Twins, on waiting for a public handout. Now the Vikings are getting pretty close to putting in that 300 million, which ironicly would have payed for most of a new stadium for themselves back then. The Vikings need to stop thinking about today dollars and look at the future. If they finance 80% of their stadium in today dollars with rising revenue that they should expect, 15 years from now 600 million is going to look like a drop in a bucket to them. 15 years from now the Vikings should be able to payback yesterdays dollars at a much less cost.

    Think of all the money the Twins lost by not stepping up 15 years ago and funding a majority of their stadium. I think back then they wanted a 250 million dollar stadium.

    Sport teams need to stop wasting our time.

  11. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 01/17/2011 - 02:49 pm.

    Jay Weiner noted in a November 17, 2009 MinnPost article that the Metropolitan Sports Commission had for NINE years [now 11 years] forgiven the approximately $4 million per annual rent due from the Vikings to help them compete “with other NFL teams with new, revenue-generating stadiums.”

    In addition, I believe the Commission pays the Vikings a share (10%?) of all income from concessions.

    Eleven times 4 million equals $44 million in rent not collected on a huge stadium that is only 28 years old. That’s a lot of revenue forgone by the Commission.

    Is the Dome paid for yet?. Would any other country consider “old” and apparently inadequate a building that cost $68 million in 1982? Is $68 million nothing?

    If the new stadium is built – heaven forbid – in a northern/northwestern suburb how long will it take for the “need” to extend train service to surface?

    Mr. Wilf now offers one-third of the cost of an open-air stadium. Percent chance such a stadium would be built? Five? Ten?

  12. Submitted by Gerald Abrahamson on 01/17/2011 - 03:01 pm.

    Ballpark income per year from ticket and suite sales is solidly $20+million/year for the Vikings (and this guesstimate is probably a bit low–but you get the idea of the size of that SINGLE revenue source). Add in what the NFL distributes to the team(s) plus what is sold/licensed separately by teams–and the income stream is pretty significant. Then add in the revenue for a stadium that can be used year-round. Otherwise, most of the substantial *other* revenue-generators that help fund a stadium project simply “go away” for about half of the year (Oct/Nov-March/April). So why bother in the first place if it CAN’T be used ~8 months of the year?

  13. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 01/17/2011 - 03:11 pm.

    “I seem to recall that the State of MN entered into CONTRACTS with the Indian tribes that said THEY could do certain types of gaming and the STATE would not compete.”

    It’s my recollection, and only that, that the state never made a contractual commitment to the tribes or anyone else that they would not enter the gambling business.

    My thought is that they should put the stadium in Sen. Rosen’s district, let Fairmont residents pay for it, and receive whatever benefit might accrue to that fine community.

  14. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 01/17/2011 - 03:15 pm.

    More seriously, it should be clear from the outset that there should be no “local partner” required for a stadium deal. In particular, Hennepin County residents, already burdened with the cost of the Twins Stadium, should not required to assume the cost of a Vikings Stadium as well. It would in fact be my initial bargaining position that the success of any Vikings Stadium deal should be contingent on the assumption by the state of the unfair tax burden Hennepin Country residents bear for the Twins Stadium.

  15. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 01/17/2011 - 04:41 pm.

    The stadium will prove that the United States is only a democracy when the capitalists say it is. The tea party and the right wing of the Republicans don’t want to go back to the founding fathers unless by founding fathers they mean the leaders of 19th century unfettered capitalism like JP Morgan, Rockefeller and Carnegie and their ilk who treated the American goverment like it was one of their corporations.

    Just like the Twin’s stadium got built after they ignored the Hennepin County referendum requirement, this will get jammed down our throats for our own good and Zigi will become a double billionaire.

  16. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 01/17/2011 - 04:58 pm.

    I don’t get it, it seems to me this question just keep getting asked over and over again but nothing’s changed. We have 6 billion dollar deficit and no plan. The vast majority of Minnesotan’s – taxpayers, still do not want to finance a stadium. The economics have not changed, stadium deals are still huge subsidies for sports franchise owners. This one third deal is the same deal everyone has offered for two decades. Where’s the story here? And you know, no one is actually required to “solve” the puzzle. Sooner or later the pro sports bubble is going to burst and these teams are going to have finance their own stadiums anyways.

  17. Submitted by Tony Spadafora on 01/17/2011 - 07:08 pm.

    Why do we have to wait another month before the Vikings tell us where they want a stadium built, what kind of stadium they want (hopefully with some real drawings of the place) and how they think it should be funded?

    Maybe the Vikings are out looking for some creative private funding sources. LOL…. a made a funny!

  18. Submitted by Chris Shepard on 01/18/2011 - 12:27 am.

    I’d like to see the stadium built outside of the Twin Cities, and linked by commuter rail. I’m in favor of levying a state-wide sales tax to help build a stadium just outside the city limits of St. Cloud. Funds from the tax would go toward extending the Northstar rail line from Big Lake up to St. Cloud, and afixing a station at the new stadium. Sterns Co could pony up some cash for purchasing the land. Zigi can cover the rest…
    I pick St Cloud for several reasons: it’s part of an existing regional transportation plan (currently unfunded), it’s within the fastest growing corridor in the State (that being the corridor between Mpls and St Cloud), and with 70,000 residents it could supply just a large enough market to make it attractive (assuming the large majority of fans make the treck from outside the area).
    It would also be an economic boon for the City, for regional transportation,and for regional planning. It would literally change the entire landscape. New hotels would be built to handle the new capacity, and stores and restaurants would get a huge lift from the surge of vikes fans that would choose to stay for a night. It might also serve as a magnate for new businesses looking to locate in an emerging market, and residential developers looking for growth opportunities.
    There are political benefits too: building in St. Cloud would position a stadium at the center of the State, alowing fans from Grand Rapids, Duluth, etc. easier access, and it would show greater minnesota that the State’s regional economic development platform extends beyond the metro area.
    If the Wilfs would go for it, they would have tons of cheap land to park cars and upon which to build “viking village,” or what ever mixed-use venue they’d like to develop. Furthermore, the intimidation factor of an open-air stadium (I’m picturing something like the rose bowl in Pasadena) literally built out on the MN tundra could have a bone-chilling effect on visiting NFL teams.
    I’d buy a $100 ticket for that game!

  19. Submitted by William Pappas on 01/18/2011 - 06:52 am.

    You just can’t change some very ugly facts about the state entering into a financing plan to build a sports palace for billionaire owners and obscenely rich millionaire players. First, Wilfe is entirely capable of financing, building and profiting from the stadium himself without public fuding. Second, the billionaire owner receives, after taxpayer financing, all of the revenue streams. Third, with so many public priorities that effect almost every area of life is it really a priority that we sink 50 million a year into Viking’s games that fewer and fewer of us can even afford to attend. And finally, 15 years ago Jay wrote a book about stadium financing games. It was an honest look into the dynamics of what happens when the public enters into the game of keeping sports franchises. What happened to Jay’s perspective since then? Did he get paid off or simply make so much money he became a capitalist: supporting subsidies for the rich.

  20. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 01/18/2011 - 07:07 am.

    “Why do we have to wait another month before the Vikings tell us where they want a stadium built, what kind of stadium they want (hopefully with some real drawings of the place) and how they think it should be funded?”

    I have a sense that the Vikings don’t want to get caught up in the debate about how to deal with the 6.2 billion dollar budget deficit. As my Republican friends like to say, it’s a question of priorities, and you can’t really reasonably argue that a Vikings Stadium should take priority over hospitals, for example, which will be taking funding hits. Better, so the thinking goes, is for all that stuff to be settled, and then the Vikings can come in at the end of the session with their deal and the session can end on the upbeat. The Vikings Stadium will be the dessert to be served after we have eaten a particularly unappetizing mess of vegetables.

  21. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 01/18/2011 - 09:06 am.

    I’d also like to see a stadium built outside the Twin Cities. How about Los Angeles?

  22. Submitted by Paul Posel on 01/18/2011 - 09:08 am.

    If there is a new stadium and the Vikings pay a third or whatever, what do they expect for their investment?

    Obviously a free place to play ten games and likely concession and parking revenue on those days.

    But who gets the income from the remainder of the events? What about concessions and parking the rest of the year? Suite revenue for non-Viking events? Naming rights?

    It seems to me that the answers to these questions are critical to public acceptance of whatever deal is made. In other words, will we really get hoodwinked by a New Jersey billionaire, or will the people who pay two-thirds of the price reap the year-round benefits of a new stadium?

  23. Submitted by Tony Spadafora on 01/18/2011 - 10:23 am.

    Hiram… the “HUSH & RUSH” strategy doesn’t work for us who believe stadium legislation must be fully “vetted” before the bill is passed.

  24. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 01/18/2011 - 12:53 pm.

    It doesn’t have to work for everyone, and there is no guarantee that it will work at all. And I am by no means sure that the is in fact the strategy currently being implemented by stadium proponents. The fact that Sen. Rosen is talking about this stuff now tends to suggest otherwise.

    What fully vetting means in a stadium context means is delaying making a decision. And where the Vikings are concerned, deciding to delay a decision is in fact a decision that there will be no stadium and that the Vikings will leave. We have chewed over these issues endlessly for years. It really is time to decide, do we want the Vikings to stay here, and if so, at what price?

  25. Submitted by William Jewell on 01/18/2011 - 02:37 pm.

    Mall of America is the only site that makes economic sense, available for Tourism Use 365 days a year, Vikings 12, and with 40 million people already going there even minor events will sell tickets covering all operating and development costs and it answers the New Jersey Tourism problem, Triple Five Corp., owners of MOA have bought the unopened Xanadu Mall next to the Giants/Jets Stadium and plan on making it the Mall of America New Jersey, only an update at our MOA with a stadium and more will keep us competitive and with that 20,000 Tourism & 8,000 construction jobs and a great new image for MN, and that is the Vikingbuzz.

  26. Submitted by Dave Kopesky on 01/18/2011 - 02:56 pm.

    This is a no-win situation if there ever was one. Even if we use public money to build this billion dollar palace for Mr. Wilf ticket prices (seat licenses included) will be so high as to price out people working these many new $10/hr jobs the GOP wants to see, and without sellouts lead to regular local TV blackouts.

    If we say NO this team leaves town and the many local football fans can spend fall seasons praying that Golden Gopher glory can be rekindled after 50 years.

  27. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 01/19/2011 - 06:25 am.

    When the Metrodome was built, a local company guaranteed sell outs for a term of years. It seems quite reasonable to me to insist as a part of the negotiation that no local games be blacked out. Since it’s very likely that a glitzy new stadium would sell out easily, that shouldn’t be a very difficult or costly promise for the Vikings or one of their partners to make.

    Some weeks ago, the Strib publishes a spectacularly tin-eared editorial quoting local businessmen asking the community to step forward to finance a Vikings Stadium ignoring the indisputable fact that local taxpayers have already paid way more than their fair share for two stadiums, one of which could easily have provided a home for the Vikings while local business has done nothing at all for the teams. Banding together and guaranteeing no blackouts is among the very least local business could do to keep the Vikings here.

  28. Submitted by Tony Spadafora on 01/19/2011 - 09:11 pm.

    Hiram… I don’t see the NFL waiving its “blackout” rules for the Vikings.

    A more important consideration is public access to Vikings games by setting aside a number of seats that cannot be sold as season tickets.

    “Average” families are NOT season ticket holders.

  29. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 01/20/2011 - 06:57 am.

    “I don’t see the NFL waiving its “blackout” rules for the Vikings.”

    Well, at the moment, I don’t see a way to build a Vikings Stadium. Maybe what’s needed is for both sides to start thinking creatively and re-examine some old assumptions. Just as a side note, I think the blackout policy is a relic of 1960s era thinking, totally out of place in this time with it’s vast number of media platforms, a time which NFL football is far and away the most successful product on those media platforms. A huge part of the NFL’s wealth, now and even more in the future is derived from the media, not from fans present in the stadium.

    That said, there are ways to get around it. Pillsbury, I think it was, guaranteed ticket sales. If that’s a sticking point for a deal, some other partner or partners could be found to step up. Those business types quoted in the Strib would be among the first I would call about that.

    There was a time baseball owners refuse to allow radio broadcasts of their games for fear that it would hurt attendance. I think it used to be true that the Dodgers only allowed their away games with the Giants to be televised. Looking back, we think how foolish those policies, that televising games doesn’t hurt attendance, rather that it’s maybe the best form of advertising sports have to persuade fans to go the games. And instead of paying for such advertising, the teams get paid for their broadcast rights. What a deal.

  30. Submitted by Tony Spadafora on 01/20/2011 - 10:25 pm.

    Hiram… the Vikings will receive exactly the same amount of TV revenue as every other NFL team no matter if all their home games are locally televised or not.

    Are you aware NFL teams will receive TV revenues even if the entire 2011 season is canceled according to their current TV contracts?

    The players union is not pleased with this for obvious reasons.

  31. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 01/21/2011 - 07:49 am.

    “the Vikings will receive exactly the same amount of TV revenue as every other NFL team no matter if all their home games are locally televised or not.”

    That’s the way the deal has been structured in the past, but I for one don’t feel I have the knowledge and the foresight to claim that the deal will be structure that way in the future. For one thing, what “TV” is and what “TV revenue” is a far more complicated issue than it has been in the past, and is going to get a whole lot more complicated in the very near future. What constitutes TV revenue is going to get a lot harder to define, and if we can’t define it how do we know it’s equal? The equal division of TV revenue has always existed in contradiction to some basic economic laws, because the teams themselves are not equal. They have different cost structures and bring different valuations to the table. Even now, owners like Jerry Jones are wondering why the Vikings should get the same revenue when his costs are so much higher, and the revenue the Vikings bring to the NFL is so much lower, why in effect he should subsidize our team.

  32. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 01/21/2011 - 07:58 am.

    “Are you aware NFL teams will receive TV revenues even if the entire 2011 season is canceled according to their current TV contracts?”

    I am, and I think that deal is fascinating, and I would like to know a whole lot more about it. Maybe that should be a topic of future investigative reporting. And I would be less than overwhelmingly shocked if the players union didn’t sue some of the folks involved in making that deal.

    That deal raises a number of questions. What exactly happens if they don’t play next year? Are the teams made whole, are they exactly as profitable as they would be if the season had been played? What happens with respect to the various stadium deals teams have around the country? By not playing a season, do they violate those contracts?

    Underlying those considerations is the fact that I know of no more conclusive evidence of the extraordinarily amazing economic power of the NFL that they were able to make a deal with the networks that required that they be paid for a season that isn’t being played. It truly boggles my mind.

  33. Submitted by Ed Felien on 01/22/2011 - 01:36 pm.

    The case for a new Viking Stadium
    By Ed Felien
    By the time we’re through paying interest on the bonds, the people of Hennepin County will have contributed a billion dollars to the Twins’ new stadium through a sales tax that was slipped over on us without our consent (thanks a lot, “No New Taxes” Tim Pawlenty). We don’t need to do that again.
    And the idea of paying a billion dollars for a new football stadium that would be used for six home games a year seems a bit excessive in these hard times.
    But maybe there’s a way for Zygi to have his cake and all of us to get a slice of it at the same time.
    Let Zygi design the stadium and pay rent as the prime tenant for the six regular season and three or four preseason and two or three (hopefully) postseason games. He can have his luxury boxes and whatever else it takes to make it profitable.
    And we get it the rest of the time.
    But who’s going to pay for it? Former State Senator Dick Day, now a Racino lobbyist, claims slot machines at the race tracks could generate $150 million a year, and bar owners want electronic pull tabs that they claim could generate even more money than slot machines for the state and more than enough to pay off the bonds on a new stadium.
    So, it seems the “Tax not me, tax not thee. Tax the man behind the tree” in this case means tax the mathematically challenged who fall prey to the allure of gambling.
    Unfortunately, gambling tends to make the poor even more poor, and there should be a massive education campaign that tells people what the odds are on slot machines, and there should be state-funded treatment programs for compulsive gamblers, but this seems to be the least bad alternative and, compared to the Twins’ sales tax on Hennepin County, the only losers would be the people who wanted to take a chance on winning.
    But beware the White Elephant.
    Neighboring rajahs in India would give a rival a White Elephant. It was regarded as sacred and considered a great blessing, but the upkeep could bankrupt a rajah and make his kingdom ripe for picking by his rival.
    The City of Minneapolis will have to maintain streets and provide public safety for the building. Just paying overtime for police to direct traffic after a big game could bankrupt a smaller municipality. The City deserves to be compensated for that cost out of the rent.
    Zygi can design the stadium he wants for his use, but we get to add to that design and make it a sports palace for the metropolitan area. When it’s not being used for Vikings games, then it should be a sports club open to all. Membership should be pro-rated so that Minneapolis residents and seniors should get lower rates. It would be an Arizona Prevention Program—to help our seniors break the habit of going down to Arizona every winter.
    The sports club should be managed by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. It would be the newest park. It should have exercise and gymnastic equipment, and it should have at least one Olympic size swimming pool.
    There should be one nice restaurant that actually serves healthy food and decent wine.
    The football field should be used by professional and amateur soccer teams when it’s not being used by the Vikings. A soccer field is the same size (O. K., it’s actually six and a half feet wider).
    The N. F. L. won’t allow any other municipality to own their football team like Green Bay owns the Packers, but there’s no law against the City of Minneapolis fielding a semi-professional team of players that didn’t get chosen in the draft and playing them against other cities. Los Angeles, Portland, Milwaukee and Gary, Indiana don’t have football teams. We could have a farm league for the N. F. L. and A. F. C. Maybe Brett Favre would even come out of retirement to be a player-coach for the Minneapolis Lumberjacks.
    And construction of the new stadium has to be a jobs program for minorities and the local unemployed. Hiring for construction work should be supervised by PPL (Project for Pride in Living) because they’ve been trying to train and hire people for 39 years.
    If we can get all of that, and the State of Minnesota does the bonding and borrowing, then let’s build the Vikings a brand new stadium!

  34. Submitted by Tony Spadafora on 01/22/2011 - 09:22 pm.


  35. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 01/23/2011 - 06:57 am.

    “And the idea of paying a billion dollars for a new football stadium that would be used for six home games a year seems a bit excessive in these hard times.”

    Not necessarily when you consider it’s paid over time.

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