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How to solve the Vikings stadium issue: a timeout and a public huddle

Democracy works slowly. It’s designed that way so there’s some comfort level with decisions made and consequences intended.

That should apply to the wacky world of stadiums, too.

That’s why the Vikings stadium process, so unsettled and filled with so many question marks, needs a public huddle and a timeout.

It needs a way out, with a guaranteed way forward.

Such a path exists.

A suggestion
Anyone who’s been at the Capitol the past three days can feel the political and ideological meltdown oozing through the hallways, media briefings and floor sessions.

Even if a new and somewhat improved Vikings bill were to be introduced today, that would leave barely five days to have a full set of hearings on a $1.2 billion project in Arden Hills that would include, it appears, at least $781 million in public subsidies: $300 million from the state, $350 million from a Ramsey County sales tax and another $131 million in road costs still to be resolved.

And that would have to happen in the maelstrom that is the state budget and social values crisis.

The Star Tribune’s Mike Kaszuba presents a compelling case this morning for the sweetheart nature of the Vikings-Ramsey County marriage.

Meanwhile, as much as the Vikings dislike it, a workable Minneapolis plan for a new stadium at the Metrodome site remains about $300 million cheaper than the Arden Hills proposal.

Finally, Gov. Mark Dayton kicked off this stadium go-round four months ago vowing to construct a “People’s Stadium.” In the intoxicating frenzy that always surrounds stadium deals, principles that could help to build a facility that’s best for the state’s public tend to fade away.

The way out is buried in the Vikings bill that was introduced April 11. (Go to line 14.20)

It’s a provision for a new Minnesota Stadium Authority to establish a site selection process.

The section reads: “The authority shall solicit and evaluate proposals for locating a new stadium. The authority shall also make the final selection of a new stadium site.”

It goes on to say, “This authority shall issue a request for proposals for political subdivisions to be selected to finance and construct a stadium for the team.”
 
The requirements:  location, funding details, “a list of amenities, infrastructure, and other improvements that will be offered.” The authority “shall select a winning proposal.”

The amendment
So, sometime in the next four days, in some committee or on the floors of the two chambers, someone should move a “delete all” amendment to HF 1441 and SF 1164.

Or offer a resolution that’s backed by Gov. Dayton.

It should say that the members of the Legislature support the retention of the Minnesota Vikings and that the team and its ancillary business are important to the state of Minnesota. Yada yada.

And that, because of those factors, a thorough public vetting of any site for a new stadium and any financial arrangement is necessary.

It should provide for the governor, within five days of a settlement of a state budget, to appoint a five-member stadium site selection committee.

It should convene two weeks afterward.

Only one person of those five should be an elected official. (Let’s pick Sen. Julie Rosen because she’s been the leader of this effort. She’s a Republican. She’s from Greater Minnesota. She’s an expert on the matter.)

The other four must have architectural, public finance, sports business and/or development experience or knowledge. Ideally, they are local, but, perhaps a national expert from the Urban Land Institute or a dean of a nationally recognized school of architecture should be considered.  

How about a state Supreme Court justice? How about former Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission executive director and former Twins President Jerry Bell? How about Duane Benson, former Minnesota Business Partnership executive director and retired NFL star?

The language in the current bill has the Sports Facilities Commission staffing a site selection board. That would be a mistake, because that agency is aligned with the city of Minneapolis and the Metrodome site.

There needs to be independence. Perhaps the Metropolitan Council is the proper agency to work on this, what with all the transportation and transit issues and the real possibility of a necessary Metropolitan Significance Review. Maybe the Minnesota Management and Budget office should staff the panel.

Within two weeks after the site selection panel is formed, any community or private entity that wants to make a full presentation — site, stadium design, finance plan, local partner — to the committee must do so.

In public. At a hearing that is televised and streamed by legislative media services. As stated in the bill, a website must be established. All documents, plans, graphics, videos must be posted there.

To be clear: The purpose of the hearings is to establish a site and a viable finance plan, not to debate the over-arching merits of a pro football stadium. That debate will rage organically outside the hearings. That debate will ensue at the Legislature when a final bill is written.

Within one month after the presentations are made, the site selection committee must make a recommendation to the governor.

It’s a two-month-and-five-day-long process. It allows for a cooling off. It allows for a certain comfort level for the public. It also allows the NFL’s labor situation to stabilize.

Sports Facilities Commission Chairman Ted Mondale, who is Dayton’s stadium point person, said recently that he didn’t believe the Legislature would approve a “site-neutral” bill. That’s not what my proposed amendment is seeking.

Rather, it is taking the selection out of the hands of the self-interested team and some motivated Ramsey County politicians. It allows for a full discussion of where a stadium would best be located and how much it will cost.

A lot of work to do
Fact is, much needs to shake out for this site selection/deal selection process to work.

The Twin Cities business community needs to step forward and clearly declare its preferred site. The big hitters in town are going to buy the suites and naming rights and sponsorships. They should speak up now, or forever regret their timidity.

The construction unions win wherever the stadium goes. But let’s hear their preference, if any.

As for development at Arden Hills, what do the Wilfs really have in mind? When he was asked about that at the news conference unveiling the Ramsey County plan, Zygi Wilf said: “We primarily focused on the stadium, the parking. Whatever ancillary development will take place will take place down the road.”

But, a day later, when the term sheet was released, we learned the team retains the right to develop the surrounding TCAAP land for eight years.

The team also released a “site development plan” (PDF). Among the dreams on the sketches released by the team and Ramsey County earlier this month: a movie theater, restaurants, shops and a place for “overnight tailgating.” (Imagine that.)

But earlier this week, Burl Gilyard at Finance & Commerce quoted local real estate experts who questioned whether the site is truly ripe for development. And they wondered about the environmental issues on a former ammunitions manufacturing site.

What is the NFL willing to do? Commissioner Roger Goodell said earlier this week the league would contribute, but, in the end, it appears it might only be through a waiver of some luxury suite revenues that the team could retain. That’s nothing new.

Has anyone fully explored or attempted to mediate the intriguing possibility raised in the proposal brought forth by the city of Minneapolis?

In that clause, multiple governmental units could impose local taxes. If governments besides Minneapolis get involved, they would “retain 80% of the revenue that the new taxes generate for publicly-owned facilities of regional or statewide significance.”

Could St. Paul and Minneapolis work together? Fund a Vikings stadium, a Saints baseball park and reduce debt on the cities’ arenas, Target Center and Xcel Energy Center.

(A St. Paul-Minneapolis partnership — just like those Twins mascots “Minnie” and “Paul” shaking hands across the river — is the most intriguing to me. It would be an urban coalition to fend off suburban stadium sprawl, but that’s just one man’s opinion.)

Could St. Paul and Ramsey County work together? Fund a Vikings stadium in the ‘burbs and deal with the city’s needs?

Could Minneapolis (namely, Mayor R.T. Rybak) and Hennepin (namely, Board Chairman Mike Opat) work together? That could bring back the prospect of placing a Vikings stadium at the Farmers Market site, one that has much support and potential, but oodles of land acquisition hurdles.

DFL Senate leader Tom Bakk said Wednesday that passage of a stadium bill this session “seems unlikely.”  But, he added, “This issue is important enough to Minnesota that I think we would want the dialogue to keep going.”

The Vikings have waited a decade for this. They can wait three more months. Do the Wilfs and their lobbyists, do the Ramsey County boosters, does the governor, really want to be affiliated with a process that feels to the public as if it’s been jammed down their throats and incompletely vetted?

Maybe Arden Hills is the right place. If it’s the right place now, it will be the right place once the state budget is resolved and an unbiased panel of experts weighs all the options.

It’s one sure way out to keep the Vikings stadium issue alive and transparent while everything else around it crumbles.

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 (41)

  1. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 05/19/2011 - 09:38 am.

    “Do the Wilfs and their lobbyists, do the Ramsey County boosters, does the governor, really want to be affiliated with a process that feels to the public as if it’s been jammed down their throats and incompletely vetted?”

    Those are things that never seem to have mattered to politicians before.

  2. Submitted by jody rooney on 05/19/2011 - 10:00 am.

    I think your last line is perhaps the best of the story.

    “It’s one sure way out to keep the Vikings stadium issue alive and transparent while everything else around it crumbles.”

    I think we can agree the legislature lacks focus.

  3. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 05/19/2011 - 10:07 am.

    Jay goes a long way to grovel at the feet of the NFL. As I understand it, the Vikings and the NFL want a public subsidy for their stadium because they can’t afford to build their own facility, so they say. BUT they refuse to open their books and offer proof of that need. So people like Jay and Dayton and all the rest bend over backwards trying to make it happen twisting themselves into logical knots to avoid offending their consciences at the fact that they want to spend close to a billion dollars on something when the need can’t be justified or verified.

    So Jay, do you own a house? When you bought it did you just take the seller’s word for what it was worth? Did you comparison shop? When you were signing papers at the closer’s did you read them or ask questions? Ziggy wants to “flip” the Metrodome and turn it into the Taj Mahal and everyone on the public side is so concerned with shaking our their wallets and counting their change that they can’t bother to ask if Ziggy could do it himself.

    THIS IS A BILLION DOLLAR TOY IN A STATE THAT IS THROWING THE POOR UNDER THE BUS TO SAVE A BUCK. The only people who will be able to afford tickets are that upper 2% that the Republicans are protecting from a tax hike.

  4. Submitted by William Souder on 05/19/2011 - 10:08 am.

    You had me at “delete all.” I mean, couldn’t we just call this whole thing off? Given the public sentiment against a publicly funded stadium–by an overwhelming majority–ANY stadium deal, even a “vetted” one, is going to feel like it was jammed down our throats.

    I might also mention the several public laws that have to be nullified in any stadium deal to prevent the public from having any actual input on its own…but why quibble? Any thought that we’d abide by the intent of those laws is long gone.

    But I gotta hand it to Zigi Wilf. His enthusiasm for a stadium in Arden Hills at a wildly inflated price–and with fine-print details stunningly favorable to the Vikings–has suddenly made a new stadium on the Metrodome site look like a bargain!

    Wow. It’s almost like he planned it that way.

    I think I have a better idea. Rather than wait for a commission to pick a stadium site and cut a deal, how about if we wait until the Vikings win a Super Bowl and then we’ll talk. I’ve got time–though admittedly decades of futility are no guarantee of future performance, so to speak.

  5. Submitted by David Greene on 05/19/2011 - 10:12 am.

    The Met Council is the regional planning body for the Twin Cities. It should make any final decision on where the stadium goes. Anyone else has too much of an interest in one choice or another. This needs to be a decision done with a regional perspective, not a parochial one.

    Let the Met Council do a site comparison study so we know what the true impacts are. The road costs for Arden Hills are well above $131 million. We have to maintain those roads forever.

  6. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 05/19/2011 - 10:21 am.

    Regardless of how “right” the site might or might not be, I’m pretty sure that in a climate where the legislature believes that all state aid to major MN cities should be completely removed, we shouldn’t be buying a billion dollar stadium with 70% public money, and then subsidizing its operation to the the tune of $1.5 million a year, only to get a teeny tiny bit paid back should the Vikes be sold, anyway. This deal is looking VERY one-sided, and the public isn’t on the right side.

  7. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 05/19/2011 - 10:33 am.

    “As I understand it, the Vikings and the NFL want a public subsidy for their stadium because they can’t afford to build their own facility, so they say. BUT they refuse to open their books and offer proof of that need.”

    I sort of think the Vikings avoid saying that they can’t afford to build a stadium, one reason for that being, they don’t want to put their finances at issue. But for myself at least, I have never doubted that the Vikings could not survive in current form without a new stadium. It’s not a matter of past financial performance, rather that the NFL will won’t carry and effectively subsidize an under performing franchise indefinitely.

  8. Submitted by Eric Ferguson on 05/19/2011 - 10:44 am.

    It would help if the Vikings would announce that they understand it’s not reasonable to resolve their situation when the state faces such fiscal problems in the budgeting session. Next year’s session is the one that deals with bonding, and given the size of the stadium project, they can reasonably expect to be a high priority.

    It would also help if the governor and Ted Mondale would explain what they mean by “People’s stadium”. I know what I think it means and how I think the stadium could be built for public use, but as a stadium supporter, I’m not comfortable arguing that aspect since I don’t know that they’re thinking what I’m thinking. I’m thinking of how the Target Field plaza gets used a bit like a public park, and usually has people present on non-game days. More could be done, and the new Vikings stadium could be used that way too. It has to be able to handle the hundreds of baseball games the dome handled last year (yes, last year) and other events.

  9. Submitted by Brian Simon on 05/19/2011 - 10:58 am.

    As is typical, Weiner writes from the perspective that the only option is to build a publicly funded stadium for the Vikings. Yet each time the public is asked if they want to pay, the answer is: no. Both proposals, as I understand them, would, like the sweetheart Twins deal, actually skip the ‘public huddle’ of asking whether the public actually wants to pay for a stadium, instead sticking us with the bill for a building we have specifically, repeatedly stated that we don’t want.

  10. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 05/19/2011 - 11:23 am.

    Much mischief is made in the final hours of any session, especially with a plum pudding made of stadium and gambling.

    Face it, this all could have been done and presented months ago, and it still can wait until next session when the bits and pieces become known.

    It should be obvious to all that the days of back-room and sweetheart deals have gone. If the private market is OK for the unhealthy poor it should be OK for the healthy rich.

  11. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 05/19/2011 - 11:26 am.

    Hiram, of course they don’t want their finances to be an issue because they could probable finance this stadium just on what they get every year from their cut of the tv revenue and still have millions left over for inflated player salaries. It is all about taking 1 billion from the state and putting it in Zigi’s pockets as “profit” although “gift” would probably be the more accurate term.

  12. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 05/19/2011 - 11:48 am.

    A thoughtful piece, Jay.

    I’m inclined to agree with 3, 4 and 6, but David Greene has a good point in 5. As the purported regional planning authority, it seems… um… odd… not to include the Met Council in the initial planning. Failure to do so suggests, to me and others who’ve written here previously, that the current Arden Hills proposal not only would survive inspection from a regional perspective, but is deficient in numerous other ways.

    That said, Hiram – perhaps inadvertently – raises an interesting issue / possibility. The NFL is nothing more than an entertainment conglomerate, yet we’re all having these very serious discussions about taxpayer subsidies, infrastructure, and so on. Over and above and beyond the issue of whether I should subsidize Mr. Wilf’s enterprise with my tax dollars, I’m wondering why we (meaning, collectively, Minnesotans) are letting a local entertainment franchise dictate to local and state government the parameters under which it might operate. Why should the Vikings be able to set tax rates and public policy? They’re not accountable to voters, and, as has been noted, won’t even open their books to public scrutiny.

    The NFL, as an entertainment conglomerate, has many, many millions in income collectively, and is able to not only survive, but prosper while paying quite a few athletes millions of dollars for, in a good year, 20 actual games per season. Instead of the team dictating to local government entities the terms under which it might stay in Minnesota, some of the “leaders” in the Republican legislature, those “free-market” types who abhor public subsidies, ought to be buttonholing Mr. Wilf and saying “If you want to run an NFL franchise in Minnesota, here are the rules you have to play by.” In other words, the economic and policy parameters should be coming from government to the Vikings, not the other way ‘round.

  13. Submitted by will lynott on 05/19/2011 - 01:00 pm.

    Jay, I gotta ask this–how exactly do you personally deal with the plain facts that the public overwhelmingly opposes spending tax money on stadiums, and that they have memorialized their opposition, in part, in a number of laws that require a public vote on the issue?

    Waiting…

  14. Submitted by Dimitri Drekonja on 05/19/2011 - 01:36 pm.

    1,564 words, and yet you give less than 30 to the view that there is no merit to public support for a private team. And, even those few words are in essence- let’s first figure out a financing plan, and let the overall debate go on “organically”.

    Perhaps you, or someone at the Minnpost, needs to ponder the question as to who should be writing stadium articles. You consistently gloss over, or don’t mention, the fact that a majority want no public financing. Sure, some may be the same people who want lower taxes but all the services. But, there are some of us who understand that if we don’t pay, we might lose the team- and we’re fine with it. We don’t care about this service, or don’t care enough to spend public dollars when schools are full and falling apart, roads are minefields, and we’re cutting the poor off of healthcare. Could our viewpoint get a paragraph now and then?

    Let the vikings leave- if I find myself missing them (doubtful) I’ll subscribe to the NFL channel and watch them. Picture is the same whether they’re 8 miles or 800 miles away.

  15. Submitted by Tony Spadafora on 05/19/2011 - 02:52 pm.

    Jay, God himself could chair that site selection committee and the site chosen would be meaningless if Zygi doesn’t like it or the deal being offered by the community where that site is.

    Like with the Twins stadium bill, there is one and only one all important linch pin needed to make the Ramsey County or the Minneapolis plans workable. That is the referendum” waiver for the local taxed needed to fund the stadium.

    I don’t see legislators passing any stadium bill with a referendum “waiver.” There will be at least one possibly two referendums for stadium funding this year… probably in September during “special election/s.

  16. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 05/19/2011 - 04:09 pm.

    “Hiram, of course they don’t want their finances to be an issue because they could probable finance this stadium just on what they get every year from their cut of the tv revenue and still have millions left over for inflated player salaries.”

    What will happen is that if they don’t get a stadium, is that the League will stop sharing tv revenues with them.

    “The NFL is nothing more than an entertainment conglomerate, yet we’re all having these very serious discussions about taxpayer subsidies, infrastructure, and so on.”

    What I would say is that for a long time, the NFL has acted like a conglomerate, one that shares revenues equally, but it doesn’t have to continue that way indefinitely. At some point, the League will demand the Vikings pull their weight.

  17. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/19/2011 - 05:06 pm.

    The “solution” is for Ziggy to build himself a new stadium with minimal public dollars. This is simply not the governments problem, nor is a public problem. If the NFL business model is broken then the NFL needs to fix it, the government doesn’t need to subsidize it. This is a game, no one will die or even be seriously inconvenienced if the Vikings move away or don’t get a new stadium.

  18. Submitted by Gary Clements on 05/19/2011 - 08:00 pm.

    Nice comments, all, but it seems to me that the selection committee, or the Met Council as selector of site is a little naive. Ziggy must be drooling at the prospect of all the OTHER development to be had at the Arden Hills site. Did any of you see the drawing of the potential new stadium in the newspaper? Surrounded by shops and restaurants and all kinds of business development? Just who do you think will end up making the big $$$ from all that? No, it’s about more than a stadium for the team. In fact, it’s about more than the issue of us (taxpayers) providing a venue for a billionaire businessman. It’s about instant growth in the value of an asset that the owner could then sell, and it’s about a HUGE development opportunity for the same guy….No way, Jose.

  19. Submitted by Kevin Judd on 05/19/2011 - 11:48 pm.

    No public money for a new stadium. We just reroofed the dome. Vikes, Mpls, State put heads together and come up with $100M to gussy up the Metrodome. No new taxes. The legislature has to close a 5 Billions dollar budget gap.

    Zygi doesn’t get to build new hotels in Arden Hills; let him buy a hotel in downtown.

  20. Submitted by ALAN BELISLE on 05/20/2011 - 02:14 am.

    There are ways to make the stadium deal work, if somebody only had the guts to drive a hard bargain. Take parking, for instance. Why do a handful of landowners get to gouge sports fans $20 or more for parking nearby the existing stadiums? What if the new stadium owned the parking and they collected the parking fees? How about concessions? Large out-of-state corporations currently contract the food and beer sales within Target Field, making huge profits as they use local minimum wage workers to sell $7.25 Miller Lights and $9 brats. Really!? Couldn’t the new stadium owner lease space to local restaurants and skip the middlemen? And if the stadium owns the suites, shouldn’t the revenue from those go to the stadium?
    There are lots of revenue streams involved in big stadiums. Give a few to the team, but keep the rest for the owner of the stadium, to pay off the debt.

  21. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/20/2011 - 09:24 am.

    The fact is stadium supporters are hung up on the horns of a dilemma here. If we take Hiram and Jay’s financial observations regarding the team at face value, it looks like Ziggy actually needs public money to build a stadium. If that’s the case this isn’t simply a subsidy, it’s a actually government bailout. Unlike any other government it would come without any condition or concessions from the labor force or management (compare this bailout to the bailout of the auto companies or even the banks for example). In truth the notion of a government bailout for a pro-sports franchise that employs less than 200 people is obviously indefensible.

    If it’s not a bailout, then someone needs to explain why the government needs to build a stadium for the team. I’ve noticed that no one is seriously trying to explain that anymore… they just kind of skip over it with cliche’s about the team being some kind of asset. As these subsidies/bailouts reach into the hundred of millions it’s becoming increasingly clear to more an more people that these teams and their stadiums and arenas are actually liabilities.

    What I don’t understand Tony, Jay, and Hiram, is why none of you are championing a privately funded stadium? Such stadiums have been built elsewhere. Why are you guys all fighting for a 50/50 public/private plan instead of a 10/90 or even a 20/80 plan? The less government involvement there is the less complicated the plan has to be. The only reason Ziggy hasn’t broken ground on a new stadium is he’s waiting for the government to pay for it with some convoluted and complex multi-government legislation. I suspect you’ll say it’s unrealistic but have you looked at the legislature? We’ve got a 5 billion dollar deficit and these guys just a budget bill to the governor. How realistic is it to expect this legislator will produce a viable stadium plan?

  22. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 05/20/2011 - 09:46 am.

    Mr. Wilf seems to prefer the Arden Hills site, NOT because it is best location for citizens from a wide area to reach but because he wants to build himself a neighborhood that includes the stadium, expensive housing and retail.

    For which the taxpayer would be expected to provide not just the roads now being talked about but all the other elements of a suburban development: streets and sidewalks, water and sewer services, electricity.

    The Vikings have no right to ask for our money without demonstrating why. And Mr. Wilf definitely has no right to ask us for ever more money to put into his pocket by using tax dollars to benefit his commercial ventures. Aren’t his tax returns public documents? Might be interesting to check those out.

  23. Submitted by William Jewell on 05/20/2011 - 12:06 pm.

    a Mall of America Stadium will bring in 15 Million new tourists a year for 12,000 jobs, $100 Billion in economic impact and $300 Million a yr. in new state tax revenue and its got free & easy parking so why can’t government share those numbers with the people? What’s going on… do I have to tell you?

  24. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/20/2011 - 02:23 pm.

    //Mall of America Stadium ?

    I’ve decided that pro-sports are bad for people and probably bad for puppies and kittens as well. I’ve written a blog about it:

    http://pudstrand.fatcow.com/blog/?p=140

  25. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 05/20/2011 - 03:54 pm.

    “If it’s not a bailout, then someone needs to explain why the government needs to build a stadium for the team.”

    So the people of Minnesota can have a local football team to watch and root for.”

    “is why none of you are championing a privately funded stadium?”

    Because that’s an option the Vikings would not accept.

    “The Vikings have no right to ask for our money without demonstrating why.”

    Sure they do. The Vikings have the right to ask for anything they like on whatever terms they want. And we have the right to criticize them for making such requests, and the right to say no. Or yes.

  26. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/20/2011 - 10:36 pm.

    //So the people of Minnesota can have a local football team to watch and root for.

    Is it really the government’s responsibility to provide this?

    How do you know the Vikings won’t build a privately financed stadium Hiram?

  27. Submitted by chuck turchick on 05/20/2011 - 11:14 pm.

    So a legislature-passed resolution, leading to a governor-appointed site selection committee that will establish a viable finance plan, and THEN we’ll have the debate about whether to put state money into a pro football stadium?! Mr. Weiner can’t seriously believe a real debate can occur at that late stage. This isn’t just putting the cart before the horse; this is using the cart to run over and kill the horse.

  28. Submitted by Tony Spadafora on 05/21/2011 - 06:06 am.

    MOA casino… maybe. MOA Vikings stadium… no way.

  29. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 05/21/2011 - 10:23 am.

    “Is it really the government’s responsibility to provide this?”

    That’s what we have elections and legislative sessions to decide.

    “How do you know the Vikings won’t build a privately financed stadium Hiram?”

    Because they have said so, and they don’t have to. They can take their team elsewhere. I am no number cruncher, and there aren’t that many numbers to crunch, but I am pretty confident that if the Vikings assumed the cost of the stadium, they just wouldn’t have an adequate return on their investment. Those things are just way too expensive.

    “Mr. Weiner can’t seriously believe a real debate can occur at that late stage.”

    I have every confidence in Mr. Weiner’s ability to solve all the problems of the world, but I think it’s beyond even his powers to do it in one column.

  30. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/21/2011 - 11:27 am.

    I think stadium supporters are obviously banking on a special session bill at this point. I gotta say though that we have finally hit the perfect storm here. For one thing, the Republican majority is so disfunctional at this point that their actually going to close out the session without accomplishing ANYTHING. Only a fool would expect their performance in a special session will be dramatically improved, and they’ll be working during a government shut down. As far as I can tell, there still is no actually bill to consider, and for some reason Wilf isn’t providing the info and material he was supposed to by now.

    Maybe Ziggy doesn’t really want a stadium deal here in MN. Maybe this is his plan for moving or selling the team and blaming it on the government. At any rate, I say again, if there’s no bill by the end of the summer lock em out of the dome unless they sign another 20 year lease and agree to either build their own stadium or rehab the dome.

  31. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 05/22/2011 - 08:58 am.

    I just don’t think there is any reason at all to vilify Zygi. We have had some mediocre to bad owners of sports teams in this town, and Zygi is not among them. In terms of the performance of the team and unlike his predecessor, he has put good money into the team, with some good results, and not so good results for which he doesn’t deserve the blame. He has made a personal commitment to keep the team here which he has been steadfast in keeping. He has been open to, if not all, at least a variety of different options for keeping the team here. When you build a stadium for a sports team, in effect, you are going into partnership with the owner of that team. When considering that, a basic question that must be asked and answered, is “Do I want to be in business with that guy?”. Zygi’s not perfect, and as a businessman at the end of the day, his interest is to protect his bottom line, not ours, but on the whole, I think where he is concerned, the answer to my questions is yes.

  32. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/22/2011 - 08:59 am.

    //”Is it really the government’s responsibility to provide this?”

    That’s what we have elections and legislative sessions to decide.

    No Hiram, I’m asking your for your rational, your argument that it’s governments responsibility to provide professional sports. You guys always dodge the question by pretending it’s answered whenever a corrupted political system produces a stadium deal. I want to see your actual argument.

  33. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 05/22/2011 - 01:49 pm.

    My rationale is that I want the government to provide things like health care, and parks and libraries, and schools, and roads and yes, even football teams when the price is right because I and just as importantly my vote is ruled by my id, something I communicate to politicians at every opportunity.

    The way democracy works is when my guys win, I get the stuff I want. When the other guys wins, his supporters get the stuff he wants, in this case, a couple of hundred bucks which they can use to make a down payment on season tickets to the Packers. A hundred years from now when their names reach the top of the waiting list.

  34. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/23/2011 - 09:37 am.

    //My rationale is that …

    Thank you Hiram, I really appreciate you’re taking the time to answer my question.

    Now I’m not trying to insult Hiram but I need to point out that what we have here is a sociopathic infiltration of sports mentality into the political realm.

    Democracy isn’t about “winners” getting what they want while “losers” get screwed. Governance isn’t a game, it’s not about winning and losing, it’s about addressing common issues, community issues. Governance is supposed to be about identifying and addressing community issues, and working on behalf of the public good. Hiram’s telling us it’s about getting what you want at the expense of others. This is a game mentality being applied where there is not game. It’s one reason I argue that sports has actually become a toxic influence on our culture.

    Sports encourages egoism and pretends that selfishness is a community value. Hiram says his reward for winning is acceptable when the price is right, but the price will always be right because it will primarily be paid by someone else. This is anathema to notion of democratic society. Governments are not supposed to assault “losers” on behalf of “winners”, they supposed to work for everyone.

  35. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 05/23/2011 - 11:12 am.

    “Democracy isn’t about “winners” getting what they want while “losers” get screwed.”

    When you win, you get to tell the elected officials you voted for not to favor the things you support. But sociopath though I may be, I won’t be telling my guys that. I will be telling them that I voted for them and worked hard to get them elected to office, not because of their pleasing personalities, or because of how cute they looked on the campaign lit, I did those things because I expect them to pursue the policies I support.

  36. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/23/2011 - 03:17 pm.

    //I did those things because I expect them to pursue the policies I support.

    Yes, but sports isn’t a “policy” is it? Football isn’t a public service, it’s just something you enjoy watching. Is football really the equivalent of schools, roads, etc? You’re not pursing policy, your demanding customer satisfaction, and you’re demanding public dollars that compete not with other people’s equivalent customers demands,like Netflix, but actual government services. It’s no different than demanding a government subsidy for you’re cable TV and believing your entitled to do so because you “won”. That’s not Democracy, it’s decadence. That’s brand loyalty pretending to be civic discourse.

    I know, you’ll say it has be “the right price” as if you recognize limits… but you don’t. You’ll take whatever deal you can get because any deal will be paid for by other people… the losers. So the people get a government shut down while you get watch the Vikings for a billion dollars.

    When I say “you” by the way I’m speaking generally about sports fans who demand public subsidies, this isn’t meant to be a profile of Hiram. As near as I can tell Hiram is decent guy. I’m just saying this sports mentality isn’t limited to games, and when it seeps into public policy it’s effects are toxic. I think conversation illustrates that really well.

  37. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/23/2011 - 03:22 pm.

    //When you win, you get to tell the elected officials you voted for not to favor the things you support.

    By the way, you get tell elected officials what you want, and they are required to listen, regardless of who “won”. Elected officials represent everyone in their districts, not just the people who voted for them. In democracies governments are supposed to act on behalf of the greater good, not hand out favors to selected supporters after the election.

  38. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 05/24/2011 - 06:02 am.

    “Yes, but sports isn’t a “policy” is it?”

    No but whether or not to build stadiums for them is a policy issue, one with multiple sides that can be debated.

    “You’re not pursing policy, your demanding customer satisfaction, and you’re demanding public dollars that compete not with other people’s equivalent customers demands,like Netflix, but actual government services.”

    Why can’t I pursue both? It’s a bad policy that doesn’t satisfy someone, and it’s hard to imagine any specific policy that satisfies everyone. There is a movement afoot in this country that seems to want us to govern by consensus instead of majority or plurality. To my mind, that’s a recipe for paralysis and ultimately disaster.

    “It’s no different than demanding a government subsidy for you’re cable TV and believing your entitled to do so because you “won”. That’s not Democracy, it’s decadence.”

    If it’s the same thing, why are we talking about the one and not the other? One of the nice things about pro football in this context is that it’s one of a kind. Nobody else out there is going to demand similar facilities, and deciding to build a stadium doesn’t set much of a precedent for anything else.

    “You’ll take whatever deal you can get because any deal will be paid for by other people.”

    Not necessarily. I am certainly paying for the Twins Stadium. But as it happens, the taxpayers of Ramsey County seem willing to step up and pay the bill for the Vikings and while as a matter of general policy, I don’t think that’s a good idea, if they want to do it, I say go for it.

    “Elected officials represent everyone in their districts, not just the people who voted for them.”

    They do indeed, but if they want to stay elected officials, it’s a real good idea that while listening to everyone, that they just a bit more attention to people who vote for them as opposed to those who didn’t or won’t.

  39. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/24/2011 - 11:02 am.

    //If it’s the same thing, why are we talking about the one and not the other?

    This brings us back to the corrupt nature of the government. I suspect the reason we’re talking pro-sports instead of cable TV is because when Ziggy calls the governor, he gets an answer. When I call the governor, I get an answering machine.

  40. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/24/2011 - 11:12 am.

    By way, Mr. Jewel,

    How you gonna get 15 million people into 8-10 football games? The stadium’s only gonna have something like 65,000 seats.

  41. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/26/2011 - 03:05 pm.

    Hiram and others,

    I’ve written a related blog you may be interested in, drawing on some material from the exchange here:

    How’d We Get So Polarized? Observations From An Anti-Sport

    http://pudstrand.fatcow.com/blog/?p=162

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