Twelve men in the huddle. A Brett Favre interception. A New Orleans field goal in overtime.
That rapid-fire string of events two years ago destroyed the dream of a Super Bowl berth for Minnesota Vikings fans.
Now the Minnesota Legislature could implode the dreams of supporters of a new Vikings stadium.
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican bill sponsors, Sen. Julie Rosen of Fairmont and Rep. Morrie Lanning of Moorhead, have been doing the heavy lifting to build political momentum for a stadium. The trio favored setting a deadline for this week, so everybody could see the pros and cons of the competing stadium proposals.
Many Minnesotans, whether they have a love or hate relationship with the Vikings, are suffering badly from stadium issue fatigue.
It’s one of many reasons why dithering shouldn’t be an option for the 2012 Legislature.
From a liberal perspective, it’s easy for legislators to say they don’t want to subsidize a wealthy team owner.
From a conservative perspective, it’s easy for legislators to say they don’t favor any tax or fee to raise revenue for a stadium.
But Minnesotans didn’t get to write the rules that govern where professional sports teams locate and how their stadiums are financed.
The stadium game
If Minnesotans want to retain the Vikings they have to play by the rules of the U.S. stadium game, whether they find those rules acceptable or abhorrent.
After years of debate, Minnesota’s politicians ultimately built enough support to clear the pathway for Target Field.
That facility has served Minnesota Twins fans in spectacular fashion, but it also has improved Minnesota’s standing in the national consciousness.
American baseball fans who watch a network broadcast of a Twins game can catch a glimpse of downtown Minneapolis because of the outdoor ballpark. Typically, they’ll see a beautiful summer night and tall buildings in a modern city. The scene proves there is civilization between the East and West coasts and that Minnesota does not have snow 12 months of the year.
There are business reasons to build a Minnesota Vikings stadium that go well beyond the needs of the NFL and Vikings owner Zygi Wilf.
In the 21st century, financial and human capital are more mobile than ever.
Minnesota needs a fair tax system and well-educated workers to foster a healthy economy, but it also needs to be a place where business owners and employees want to live and work.
Keeping four major professional sports teams in town is an important element in the quality-of-life index in the Twin Cities.
On the public relations front, three events in recent years have given Minnesota’s national reputation a black eye.
In 2007, the I-35W bridge collapsed in Minneapolis, killing or injuring dozens of people.
In 2010, the Metrodome roof collapsed in a snowstorm and a network TV camera captured it all on video that has been viewed countless times on the Internet.
In 2011, budget talks between the governor and legislative leaders collapsed, resulting in a three-week government shutdown.
The national media covered each of these events extensively. If you are a business owner or rising star living in another state, would you conclude that Minnesota has its act together?
Of course, those three examples don’t capture all of the good aspects of living in the Twin Cities and other regions of Minnesota.
But those three examples make one wonder whether Minnesota’s political and physical infrastructures are crumbling.
Defining a city and state
Major facilities help to define a city or state for good or ill. The investment in a new Guthrie Theater buttressed the Twin Cities reputation as an arts mecca. And a $75 million expansion of the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts will bring added vitality to downtown St. Paul.
Without question, there are more important issues than the Vikings stadium facing the state. A paramount one is creating school systems that will help children get a good education, regardless of their color or family’s income.
One does not have to choose between the Vikings and poor kids. There already is a citizen consensus that income tax dollars should not be used for a Vikings stadium bill.
It’s not enough for legislators to say they want the Vikings to stay in Minnesota, and then oppose any reasonable stadium financing package that is proposed.
The Vikings would be the major tenant of a new stadium, but the facility also would serve as Minnesota’s community center the rest of the time. Just like the current Metrodome, it would host everything from ethnic festivals to high school football playoffs.
The issue of a new Vikings stadium offers Minnesota the opportunity to move forward in a new century or to regress.
The Minneapolis Lakers moved to Los Angeles and the Minnesota North Stars relocated to Dallas. If Minnesota legislators shrug their shoulders and do nothing, we shouldn’t be surprised to one day see Vikings moving vans.
Fedor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org