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Is U.S. Bank Stadium worth it? A look at the numbers behind the Vikings' $1.1 billion home

U.S. Bank Stadium
MinnPost photo by Peter Callaghan
Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority chair Michele Kelm-Helgen: “We’ve been most focused on economic development in the area and we’ve already proven a stadium can spin it off.”

Scott Lipets and family have held Vikings season tickets since 1964. The Minneapolis accountant used to sit in row 27, midfield at the Metrodome. Wanting to secure similar seats in U.S. Bank Stadium, Lipets was prepared for a price increase. Lipets was also prepared to pay the one-time fee for a seat license.

When it came time for Lipets to transition to U.S. Bank Stadium, he learned that his seat is now a “club” seat, with all-inclusive food and beverage, and an array of other amenities, and that the Vikings would be relocating ex-Metrodome season-ticket holders by zone, not seniority. By sitting on the less-desirable visitor side, Lipets was in Zone 2.

“I had assumed that 52 years of seniority would put me among the first,” to choose new seats, Lipets recalls. But when his turn came, he was surprised to see little availability in seats comparable to those he had held at the Metrodome. “I assume that because the seat license was $6,000 more on the home side that a lot of those [Zone 1] fans shifted to visitor side.” (The team says there was no widespread downgrading.)

He could only find seats in the second deck, row 7. Feeling unappreciated and frustrated, facing a $600 annual price increase per season ticket, inferior seating, and a one-time license payment of $3,500 per ticket, Lipets did what any self-respecting NFL fan would do.

He wrote the check.

When Gov. Mark Dayton said in 2013 that “as far as I’m concerned, $1 for a personal seat license is $1 too much . . . but we had to make a deal and we had to get the owners of the team to agree to a deal,” he was expressing America’s paradoxical frustration with professional sports economics.

But he was also articulating the perceived economic importance of pro sports when he concluded, “I think this is a good deal.” And so, apparently, did most ticket-buying Viking fans.

When the final chapters are written on the development of U.S. Bank Stadium (USBS)— sold out for the upcoming season as of this week — the moral of the story will be that no one liked the price increases or the seat license fees, and skepticism remains about the capabilities of Teddy Bridgewater. But Vikings fans wrote the checks because such is the appeal of the NFL and a shiny, amenity-rich stadium after 30-plus years in the Metrodome.

Selling it out

When the Minnesota Vikings set out to price and market what would become U.S. Bank Stadium, they had a specific mandate. “The NFL is a made-for-TV sport,” says Lester Bagley, Vikings executive vice president for stadium development. “We need to compete with the couch and make Vikings games an immersive experience.”

It was not uncommon for skeptical legislators, Minneapolis City Councilmembers and other social justice pundits to describe the stadium finance plan and the costs to fans and taxpayers as beyond the pale, a rip-off, unsustainable. Though the team obviously didn’t concur, it, too, had a certain wariness.

“This was all new for us. We had concerns about what the market would bear,” says Vikings CMO Steve LaCroix, given that ticket prices were increasing substantially across the board (Lipets’ roughly 40 percent, for example). The team studied the experiences in other NFL markets, and the new stadia locally. He says the concerns “were erased very quickly” by demand.

LaCroix is unable to offer an average increase at USBS, but anecdotal reports indicate 25 to 50 percent is not uncommon. (Many of those increases are for seats that are newly packaged with club access and food and beverage, unlike stand-alone Metrodome seat pricing.)

Michele Kelm-Helgen
MinnPost file photo by Terry Gydesen
Michele Kelm-Helgen

At press time, six weeks before the first Vikings home game, LaCroix says premium seats marketed to affluent individuals and to businesses sold robustly, as did the relative bargain inventory: “Club seats sold quickly, top and bottom pricing tiers.” The seats that remain are midpriced, mostly in the end zones.

Diehard fans still on the sidelines, fuming over it all, can take solace in the knowledge that football fans are not alone. “Sure, it’s all tilting to high-income people. Yes, the new stadia are pricing people out,” says University of Michigan sports management professor Mark Rosentraub, “but remember, the producers of Hamilton are getting $350 a ticket, too, and they are not wringing their hands.”

From the inside, stadium backers are gleeful. “Looking at our calendar of events, we will meet or exceed our [revenue] projections,” says Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority chair Michele Kelm-Helgen. (MSFA owns the facility and oversees all non-football operations at USBS.)

Looking beyond the stadium’s massive glass doors, her view is even rosier: “We’ve been most focused on economic development in the area and we’ve already proven a stadium can spin it off.” Kelm-Helgen tallies a billion in development underway in Downtown East attributed to the stadium and its amenities, double the public investment in the football field.

A financial statement with holes

Even though the MSFA has a regularly updated public budget for U.S. Bank Stadium, the Vikings’ contribution is regarded with some skepticism, as much of it relies on revenue streams only available to the Vikings because of the public investment. The Star Tribune’s Lee Schafer reported last year that of the NFL loan programs providing some of a $200 million estimated contribution to the team, one requires the Vikings to sell personal seat licenses (PSLs; also known locally as “stadium builder licenses,” or SBLs) to the fans, while another was contingent on securing taxpayer funding for a stadium.

Factor in $100 million in seat licenses, $75 million estimated in naming rights, and $200 million from the NFL, plus miscellaneous non-team contributions, and the Vikings’ out-of-pocket cost looks to be about $225 million, or $275 million including the portion of the NFL loan that is repaid by the team.

How the team is generating those funds is unclear. “We don’t know much at all about NFL teams’ financial situations,” says Moody’s vice president/senior analyst John Medina (Moody’s did not work on USBS). “They keep them very private. Their leverage may be in a holding company. We don’t see the owners’ financial guarantees” to lenders.

One common financing method is for ownership to borrow against “contractually obligated income” like naming rights and multiyear suite rental contracts, says Craig Skiem, a Twin Cities stadium development consultant who has advised the MSFA. The Vikings would not detail specifics of the team’s $602 million contribution to date.

A win-win?

The other big unknown in stadium projects is their capacity to generate economic benefits for the communities where they are built. The Metrodome’s upside for downtown Minneapolis was long thought to be marginal. But there have been home runs.

“The public sector made a fortune in San Diego’s Ballpark District,” which transformed a blighted and unloved section of downtown, says Rosentraub. “So when it works out, it’s an investment, not a subsidy.”

“You use sports to anchor a real estate development,” he continues. “Typically, the NFL doesn’t have enough events to create the economic activity and deliver the value alone. But venues with complementing real estate have proven to be good public investments.”

Twin Cities Business

And that has been the goal in Minneapolis this time around. “Stadium investments do not create economic activity in a vacuum,” says R.T. Rybak, mayor during the birth of the USBS plan. “It’s a recipe for a windswept plain of parking lots.”

The key player, says Rybak, is a parking ramp mandated in the state’s stadium legislation. It motivated Wells Fargo to relocate 5,000 jobs to Downtown East. “I’d note that parking ramps, not Target Center, set off the boom on the west side of downtown as well,” says Rybak, “Peripheral parking has been great for Minneapolis,” he says, because once people get out of their cars, they walk past stores and restaurants—and sometimes go in.

Still, the argument will be made that because most of Wells Fargo’s relocated jobs were already based in Minneapolis, the public investment is merely engendering a transfer of economic activity from one part of the city to another. Former City Councilmember Paul Ostrow even contended that the project created no new permanent jobs for the city.

Michigan’s Rosentraub says there are flaws in the economic transfer argument if the public investment can transform chronically troubled areas. “Cities are not financed on a regional level by and large,” he says, “so what happens in [a suburb] doesn’t necessarily benefit the city—Detroit is the best example of this. I tend to think of the economic-transfer thesis as a false academic argument.”

Another surprise to national observers is that the team remains in downtown Minneapolis.

“The trend has been if you’re trying to attract financing to move to a different municipality” within your market to extract investment from the county or municipality that stands to benefit, explains Moody’s Medina. This was the recent tactic of both the San Francisco 49ers and the Atlanta Braves, and for quite a while the Vikings seemed headed for the old Twin Cities Arsenal site north of St. Paul.

A rare rejection

The Vikings say they benefited from the community’s experience with Target Field and Xcel Energy Center, as most local fans understand the amenities and opportunities of a modern stadium.

The USBS experience “won’t be like Target Field, in that baseball has a completely different pace of game,” says LaCroix. “Fans don’t wander and gather to the same extent in NFL, so we are layering in a lot of unique elements within the seating areas,” such as special club lounges, and food and beverage options.

Fans seem to have responded. To date, 80 percent of the team’s season-ticket base has ported their seats over from the Metrodome, which is near the team’s renewal peak (90 percent in the Brett Favre years). Not everyone is making the trip, though.

Minneapolis resident Lori Mittag has been with the Vikes for 30 years as a season-ticket holder, at times sharing a full row at the Metrodome with another family. She says she sat with the “real fans, not the folks [at midfield], who hate it when you stand and want you to be quiet.”

She let her seats lapse at TCF in 2015, but was prepared to return for USBS’ inaugural season. “The sales center was very impressive. I accepted the idea of the seat license as an asset,” Mittag recalls. “But then I thought that you have to put a good product on the table for [the seat license] to hold its value, and that hasn’t been the case much of the last 30 years.”

As her thinking evolved, Mittag says the license felt like “I was paying for the stadium twice.” It wasn’t that she couldn’t afford it, Mittag says, but that she felt it should be enough to pay for her tickets and contribute as a taxpayer. She didn’t want to be like those Vikings fans “who don’t have a pot to pee in, but are such diehards they will find a way to buy in, come what may. I just decided I had my limits.”

Based on the numbers alone, the Vikings can take solace that Mittag’s view has remained an outlier.

This article is reprinted in partnership with Twin Cities BusinessAdam Platt is TCB’s executive editor.

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Comments (60)

“The NFL is a made-for-TV

“The NFL is a made-for-TV sport,” says Lester Bagley, Vikings executive vice president for stadium development. “We need to compete with the couch and make Vikings games an immersive experience.”

An odd thing to say. The NFL is a made for TV sport, but not quite as much as it used to be. That's why we had to build a new stadium for them. TV-wise the Metrodome was just fine, but the Vikings wanted a new stadium to increase their non tv revenues.

There is a reason we call it "The Tick"

As it sucks the people's money and keeps asking for more [and it looks like a tick].
Public funds should never have gone to support something for which there will only be private benefits. Where is the return on my tax dollars used to build this thing? Will I receive a yearly dividend? Just because fans are willing to shell out exorbitant prices to watch millionaires play ball doesn't mean this was a good thing for the general public.
Shame on all politicians who think this was a good idea. You all lost my vote. Wilf and co. should've paid for this out of their own pockets. This is one of the main reasons the public has given up on the ability of our elected officials to work for the common good.

Re: There is a reason we call it "The Tick"

Agreed, 100%. It's a huge blotch on Mark Dayton's otherwise positive legacy.

Worth it for whom?

Articles like this frequently miss the point because they fail to ask the basic question and identify the beneficiary they should be writing about.

In this case the most obvious beneficiary would be the largest contributor, those who paid the price for the stadium, yet their benefits are conspicuously left un-examined.

Since neither the fans nor the team actually paid for the stadium their satisfaction with the "deal" may be of little interest. As beneficiaries of the largest public subsidy in state history I'd rather they just say: "Thank you." and move along.

Contrary to Rosentraub's statement:

" Michigan’s Rosentraub says there are flaws in the economic transfer argument if the public investment can transform chronically troubled areas. “Cities are not financed on a regional level by and large,” he says, “so what happens in [a suburb] doesn’t necessarily benefit the city—Detroit is the best example of this. I tend to think of the economic-transfer thesis as a false academic argument.”

the economic transfer analysis is rock solid and has been observed and confirmed in nearly every city where subsidized stadiums have been built. With the Vikings stadium and Wells Fargo we're literally talking about moving people what? Four blocks? The effect the heavily subsidized Mall of America had on surrounding retail is a perfect example of transfer. It's taken over a decade for a population increase to catch up to the blow other malls and the downtown's suffered.

The Target Arena didn't save Block E and the Twins Stadium didn't spawn the residential development in the warehouse district. New Stadiums and arena's make money for the team owners, not the community or the taxpayer.

The Deal has been great for the Vikings, but that was always the whole point. I just don't know why I should be interested in Ziggy Wilf's business?

What is interesting is the fact that business journalists rarely report the fact that sports franchise owners seek public subsidies because subsidies are actually an integral part of their business model. Without the subsidies teams could not grow revenue yet the narrative is that teams are delivering value to the community rather than the other way around. This creates the illusion of leverage in a parade where the Kings clearly have no clothes.

So true.

Investments like stadiums may focus development but they don't crate anything new. While there may be a little bit more development in the small region around an amenity it means an equal amount less is invested someplace else. Subsidizing something like the stadium (or any other business) either directly or indirectly through otherwise unnecessary infrastructure improvements always benefits the people controlling the entity being subsidized and the few that use that amenity while being a burden on the public as a whole.

Imagine

Imagine a car salesman getting your elected officials to drag you in and force you to pay 100% over sticker for you to watch him drive his new car and pocket the difference, and you have the NFL scam in an nutshell. Everyone got taken here, including the fans.

Financing

The Viking contribution to the stadium is often criticized as being, I don't know, less than real, but whenever I hear that, I don't know what alternate form of financing would have satisfied this criticism.

In a business sense, the Vikings have have real, tangible assets apart from some sweat stained football jerseys. It's business is really a collection of revenue streams some of which are increased by the stadium. There is simply no way for the Vikings to pay for anything except out of these revenue streams.

All businesses profit from public expenditures to one degree or another. In the case of the Vikings, what the public got was an NFL franchise to root for. Whether that benefit is worth the price paid is of course, arguable, but that is the public benefit we received.

The Vikings were not a good investment for the community. No community sports investment is. But lots of stuff we buy in life isn't a good investment. Economic considerations are not the only reason we buy stuff.

So....

So what you are saying is that despite being a waste of over a billion dollars it is fine because we do this type of thing all the time.

What

What portion of Minneapolis, the Metro, and the rest of Minnesota hold "an NFL franchise to root for" as a benefit, never mind whether worth the cost? How does that jive with who is really paying for it?

So at best, it was paternalism

of an extreme magnitude.

The economic argument wasn't there. The majority of folks didn't want it. So Mr. Dayton, Mr. Rybak, and all those who went along decided it was in our best interest to fortify the billionaire and turn a large part of downtown into a vulgar dead zone because we weren't smart enough to realize that we really did want, more than money, more than a vibrant downtown of human scale, more than anything, "an NFL franchise to root for."

What alternate form of financing?

I, for one, would be completely satisfied if the Vikings and private investors had paid 100% of the costs.

Financing vs. Subsidizing

Stadium opponents were always very clear that they would be satisfied with a stadium built by the Vikings for the Vikings. Dayton originally declared that he wouldn't support more than $100 million public dollars total public spending and most critics would have lived with that.

If the Vikings have "real" tangible assets like other business's they should use those assets like other business's to finance their growth. One thing it is to benefit from public spending, another to completely depend on it or even demand it... specially for a business that creates no new jobs or economic activity inside or outside the stadium. Again, this was the LARGEST public subsidy in MN history and it went to a company created no new jobs and no additional economic growth.

Sure we could argue about whether or not having an NFL team to cheer is a "worth" the price, but we already know those arguing on behalf of the NFL would lose that argument. We know that the vast majority of Minnesotans ALWAYS said they didn't want to build a stadium for this team, and that they'd rather lose the team than build them a stadium. Public opposition is the reason that politicians had to short circuit all the referendums that were supposed to be required by law.

But you say we'd loose the team! The specter of losing the team was always an artificial public crises. By the time we get done paying off the bonds we issued to finance this stadium it will have cost the taxpayers close to a billion dollars. Clearly as a state and as taxpayers we have other far more pressing concerns than an out of state billionaire's sports franchise or the satisfaction of NFL "fans". Spending a billion public dollars so season ticket holders can buy seats in a new stadium is difficult to describe as anything other than obscene.

These stadium deals are simply another example of government of the elite by the elite for the elite, they're not about "buying stuff".

At any rate, seriously, whatever. What's done is done. Just say: "thank you" and move along.

True again

The vast majority of Americans are always asking for things but looking for others to pay for them.

Do you have proof to back up

your comment? The vast majority of Americans are not looking for handouts, they want a job with a fair wage, no more no less. Its the elites, like those paying thousands of dollars for a ticket to a game, who want someone else to pay for it. They aren't the majority, they are the vocal minority.

Well...

Every person who goes to a came or concert at any of the publicly funded stadiums is making use of a handout. Particularly those who live outside of the areas most highly taxed to pay for it. Asking others to pay for what you consume isn't contained among any particular socioeconomic group. Parents who want others to help pay for the kids education, drivers or transit users who want others to help pay to move them around or people with mortgages who fight to painting the interest deduction on their taxes are all asking that "others" help them pay for their lifestyle.

That is the whole reason government runs on concentrated benefits and diffused costs. It allows politicians to promise people very clear and distinct benefits while hiding the costs. The less the people who benefit from the amenity or program have to pay for it the happier they are and the more likely they are to support that politician or party. The stadiums are simply some of the most obvious manifestations of this structure.

Rybak's fallacy

Someone should tell Rybak and any future elected official in MPLS that if you want new parking ramps you can just build new parking ramps. You don't have to build stadiums and arenas in order to build new parking ramps. It's a lot cheaper to build parking ramps than it is to build parking ramps AND stadiums.

Someone should tell Rybak that we're investing billions of dollars in transit so people don't to drive into the downtowns... it's kind of a weird time to be demanding new parking spaces downtown.

Imagine a car salesman

Imagine a car salesman getting your elected officials to drag you in and force you to pay 100% over sticker for you to watch him drive his new car and pocket the difference, and you have the NFL scam in an nutshell

Imagine an NFL owner telling you, if you want a team to root for, you are going to have to give them a half billion taxpayer dollars. Whether that was a good deal or a bad deal is arguable as our endless arguments have proven But that was the deal we offered, and that's the deal we took. It's simple enough, and the understanding of the deal is really enhanced by resorting to complex analogies.

Something to understand about the stadium. Without the Vikings in it, it is worthless. If the Vikings left, like Metropolitan Stadium, like the Met Center, like the Metrodome, it would be torn down. One of things that means is that the only real value we got from the stadium was the presence of the Vikings.

Sorta..

Yup, the people who fell for the sales pitch were taken for a ride. The problem is of course they dragged along those of us to smart to fall for the BS.

Well, getting nick picky..

Not to belabor the point but Hiram might have a point IF we'd had ANY of the referendums we were supposed to have as required by law or even if polls had shown a majority of public support. If we'd had the referendums and the public voted to take the "deal" we could then talk about how we bought a team to cheer for and whether or not it was worth it.

Unfortunately this analysis makes a lot of what we used to call: "We We". In point of fact "we" were never offered a deal in any rational, coherent, or meaningful way. The mechanism we've set up to consider such deals was deliberately bypassed because EVERYONE knew that "we" would have voted the down the stadium. So if we imagine the NFL asking us if "we" want to spend a billion dollars (remember, by the time we get done paying the interest on the $500 million...) to root for, we know the answer would have been: "Buh bye". This fact puts Hiram's imaginary scenario in the realm of fantasy rather than analogy and there are no "supporting" analogies for fantasy scenarios.

Having said that, I have to agree that this was a simple deal. Our elected officials from
Rybak on up to the Governor simply bent over backwards to bypass required referendums and ignore public opinion and rational public priorities, in order to deliver a billion dollar stadium to an out of state billionaire at the expense of constituents. Government of the elite by the elite and for the elite isn't very complicated. A billionaire demands a billion dollars and he gets it, how many "special sessions" have we had to get stadium funding? Meanwhile we can't get funding for SWLRT because there's no billionaire behind public transit... just people who need it.

I hate to say it but nothing says: "rigged system" like stadium deals and this one reason so many people are so angry. This is actually a little microcosm of frustration that's given us the Clinton vs. Trump fiasco.

Yep

But in the end, it's all about upside down priorities. I get emails and mail ads all the time about stuff I want. But, even if they're on sale and that sale ends tomorrow or the stuff sells out, if it's not in the budget, I live without it. We can't get kids properly educated in some parts of the state, we can't keep roofs over the heads of every child, we can't make sure an elderly person doesn't go without food at the end of their social security check, and we can't make sure everyone who wants a job has the skills or tools to get a job, but, BY GOD, WE HAVE FOOTBALL! Sit down in front of the boob tube (for free!) and forget about the rest.

the people who fell for the

the people who fell for the sales pitch were taken for a ride.

I don't know that anyone really "fell for the sales pitch" in the commonly understood sense. We all pretty much knew that theses kinds of sports investments, in strictly economic terms, are losers. While I have heard many stadium advocates argue it makes financial sense to spend a billion dollars on a building which is only meaningfully used eight times a year, not once have a I seen someone argue that with a straight face throughout the presentation. The economic argument, for all of us, was a rhetorical Potemkin Village created to provide an excuse for what we wanted to believe, or really what we wanted to buy for ourselves.

We bought the Vikings presence in the Twins Cities for the same reason we buy TV sets, because we want to watch them. In each case, what really motivated our decisions had nothing at all to with the merits of the purchase as an economic investment.

Not to quibble...

but it's already been meaningfully used (whatever that means) four times this MONTH; only one of those times was a Vikings event.

Yeah but...

Who's making all the money in exchange for that "use"? It was mighty nice of MN taxpers to spend a billion dollars so Metallica could come to town and pull millions of dollars out of our pockets while on their way to the next concert in a different city.

Financially it would have made more sense to lose the Vikings and continue booking concerts in the dome. The Vikings weren't even paying rent. Metallica would have played the dome, apparently the acoustics were better in the dome anyways.

Meaningful Use

Two of those events were concerts. Was there no other venue available? Or were they booked for the stadium to show that it really was not just for the Vikings?

Stadium values

The truth is that no matter how much you spend on a stadium it's worthless the day the doors open with or without a team, so no, the Viking don't bring any "value" to the stadium, they just pull increased revenue out of the new stadium. Remember, we tried to sell the dome for one dollar while the Twins AND the Viking were still playing there and there were no takers. This is why so few (if any) of the stadiums are actually owned by the teams.

It's worth remembering that during the stadium debate people like myself actually pointed out the fact that stadium subsidies are actually economically detrimental community at large. Sports franchises compete for local entertainment dollars and public subsidies for sports franchises funnel tens of millions of dollars a year into handful of (mostly out of state) pockets. Remember, while sports is popular and profitable, franchises are actually quite small, few of them actually have more than 10-20 full time employees, an average McDonald's franchise actually employs more people year round. Sports franchises are unique business entities in that they actually can't create more jobs; they have a fixed maximum number of players and you only need so many support staff. Sports franchises simply have no place to create additional jobs, there's literally no growth potential, which is why they need subsidies to grow revenue and value. They can't even sell more tickets (note these "new" stadiums aren't really any larger than the ones they replace), they just have to create an excuse to raise the price for tickets.

The addition of food vendor's, bars, restaurants, and merchandise retailers INSIDE the new stadiums and arenas deliver a blow to surrounding businesses outside the stadium. Sports events can actually harm downtown business potential at large because they create parking and traffic problems for people who might want to go downtown for other reasons. And of course there's simply the diversion of entertainment dollars from local theaters, bowling alleys, restaurants, etc. During the 2005? NHL hockey lockout a sales tax study actually found that entertainment spending in St. Paul increased citywide. The loss of the NHL games was actually a boon for the city.

Of all of the private enterprises that a public subsidy could be directed towards, sports franchises are the worst possible bet.

The truth is that no matter

The truth is that no matter how much you spend on a stadium it's worthless the day the doors open with or without a team, so no, the Viking don't bring any "value" to the stadium, they just pull increased revenue out of the new stadium.

If the Vikings didn't provide value, nobody would pay the ticket price, and commercials offered during their tv broadcast wouldn't sell.

Your credibility is shaky

A lot of your piece is opinion, which is fine. But it doesn't make it right. You do try to point out certain facts, one of which is absurdly incorrect. A sports franchise only employs 10-20 full time employees?? Do you realize that's about the amount of coaches on the Vikings payroll? That doesn't even count 53 players, scouts and office personnel. I'm sorry, but you're so off base with that "fact" it really calls into question everything else in your piece.

Your reading and comprehension is shaky

I said 10 - 20 full time employees. Most of the organization including the players, are seasonal employees.

but it's already been

but it's already been meaningfully used (whatever that means) four times this MONTH

Not really. Vikings Stadium exists because it fits the specific needs of an NFL franchise. It is, in effect, a single use stadium. Now it will be used for a variety of other functions during it's life time; concerts, high school graduations, bachelor parties, probably, but none of those activities specifically require an NFL stadium, and all of them could be adequately served by any of the other numerous and pre-esixting facilities around town. If the Vikings left town, or for some other reason ceased operation, and the Twin Cities were unable to secure a new NFL franchise, the Vikings Stadium would have to be torn down. As all sports facilities who lose their tenants are. That's why in the purely economic terms people love to talk about, the Vikings Stadium, without an NFL franchise is essentially worthless.

The Reader Comments

Show this was just a puff piece, and that Minn Post readers deserve better.

Don't worry, be happy...

And the exact same negative sentiments were expressed in 1957 when we built Met Stadium (with no major sports tenants), 1982 and the Metrodome, 1999 Xcel Center, and 2009 Target Field. Everyone, over time, has proven, or proved to be a civic asset, worthy our time and money.

Let me repeat that one more time so it really sinks in:

And the exact same negative sentiments were expressed in 1957 when we built Met Stadium (with no major sports tenants), 1982 and the Metrodome, 1999 Xcel Center, and 2009 Target Field. Everyone, over time, has proven, or proved to be a civic asset, worthy our time and money.

USB Stadium will no doubt prove to be the same and rather wait 20 years to acknowledge this, let's learn from the 4 successful past ventures and, when we look at the stadium, the adjacent park, the near by development, simply say:

"This is pretty cool, great job by the folks who built it and congratulations to all of us for having the civic pride and commitment to getting it done"

Everyone, over time, has

Everyone, over time, has proven, or proved to be a civic asset, worthy our time and money.

If Metropolitan Stadium and the Metrodome were civic assets in themselves, why do they no longer exist? But of course, we want sports teams, in the same way we want other luxuries, and those are for reasons quite apart from their economic value. And I don't see anything wrong with that.

Going forward, what I will say about Vikings Stadium is that we should not let the owners off the hook. We should never let them forget that what gives value to our part of the deal is not just having a team but a winning team. It should always be made clear that all the bells and whistles we add on to a stadium mean a thing if the team doesn't win. No sports fan I have ever met would trade a good team for a good stadium, no matter how many big glass doors the building might have.

What, EXACTLY, is the value of a winning team ?

...to the taxpayer??

Let's hear no frothy foam about cold Omaha's, civic pride, or false claims about economic benefits. Let's hear a real economic value - in return for the economic value extracted from the taxpayer, a very significant amount in real money.

We know the downtown parking lots & restaurants are beneficiaries, along with the Wilfs, players, the season ticket holders, and the local media. But what is the real difference to the TAXPAYER whether the Vikings win or lose any game, or a season of games??

Mr. Platt has evaded this fundamental question, for good reason.

Your notion that the payoff is or should be a winning team begs this basic question - what does a winning team do for the taxpayer ?

What, EXACTLY, is the value

What, EXACTLY, is the value of a winning team to the taxpayer??

The number we put on the fair to mddling Vikings was about a half billion dollars. If at some point, a winning Vikings teams threatens to move, we will get another market quote.

"what is the real difference to the TAXPAYER whether the Vikings win or lose any game, or a season of games??"

It means happy Mondays instead of sad Mondays. Is that worth the half billion dollars we paid for it? That's arguable, but it costs more to get an NFL team back than to keep one. Just ask the taxpayers of Los Angeles.

Apparently, the taxpayers of LA are paying lots less than we

Happy Mondays?

Please. Have you seen "fans" after the Vikings lose a game? An NFL franchise has absolutely no value for taxpayers, period. The stadium's main value is for the team. Most of the fans only value the team as long as it wins games.

We KNOW that taxpayers would have voted down the stadium. We know that given the choice Minnesotan's would not have paid a billion dollars for a few happy Mondays. Let's be real here.

The entire stadium debate relies on gross exaggerations regarding the economic, civic, and cultural importance and value of sports and sports franchises.

OK, so you like football, whatever. Just say: "Thank You" and move on, don't try to pretend that these teams are so much more than they are.

The value depends on the user

Steve, someone like you with no interest in sports doesn't put much value on it. Us sports fans place great value on it. And a winning team gives my circle plenty to talk about for days, months and years. Conversely, I get zero value for all the grants given out to the Arts. And I don't froth at the mouth when the topic comes up.

Exactly

Which is why more than anything else luxuries like entertainment of all sorts should get zero public funds and be paid for exclusively by the people who use the service.

Well...

I no longer own that 1968 Chevy that I drove to high school. It was certainly an asset to my life style at that time; but, time marches on and old cars and stadiums almost universally become obsolete (57 Chevies and Wrigley Field as exceptions).

We built the Met with the hope that we would attract major league sports to this area and spur development along the 494 corridor thru Bloomington . It became obsolete to the needs of its' tenants (as determined by the fact they threatened to leave) and we built the Metrodome. Two world series, a super bowl, a final four and 360 days of use per year proved it was $55 million well spent.

I am in 100% agreement on the owners meeting their obligations too, as evidenced by our own local Pohlads 100% failing to do that. I share a Twins ticket package and if, in a conversation with a Twins official, they utter the words: "Target Field Experience" I give them a 5 minute diatribe on what's on the field being a lot more important than what's on the menu.

"Target Field Experience" I

"Target Field Experience" I give them a 5 minute diatribe on what's on the field being a lot more important than what's on the menu.

I think that's a lesson we learned after the last few years. As nice as the building is, what matters is the team, not the ballpark as attendance numbers now show. And the result of having a bad team in a leveraged stadium, is pretty substantial financial losses for the franchise, and ultimately for the city.

If it had been good deal..

If it had been a good deal a developer would have made the needed investment and the team contribution would have been in the form of a lease. If the team's contribution were insufficient the developer could have tried to make the investment work by buying surrounding properties and developing those as well. Creating the critical mass needed to bring the area in line with the rents they would need to charge to make the project viable.

If having a winning team was meaningful half of all teams would be considered unsuccessful. Given those odds spending hundreds of millions of dollars seems like a bad bet. What team owners have done is figured out a way to eliminate their risk by leveraging the vocalness of their customers to manipulate the political process in their favor. None of that or the resulting expendetures or built stadium become inherently a good value because they contain teams or are used for other events.

opportunity costs, who pays, who benefits

public subsidies of pro sports is one messy public policy area for debate. One of the things few people discuss is what else might have been purchased with the more than $1 billion in expense for the new sports palace. Could the public share of that money have been put to better use for all citizens of the State of Minnesota than investing in a dedicated sports building for a private pro football team? Who really pays the cost of this thing, who really benefits? I suspect that the public pays, and the wealthy - owners, players and live attendees generally receive the benefits. So I expect Vikings fans, players and owners to stand up and applaud their fellow citizens of Minnesota at the end of every football event, in thanks for subsidizing their fun. That would be gracious at least.

Hamilton

“but remember, the producers of Hamilton are getting $350 a ticket, too, and they are not wringing their hands.”

That chaps my hide. I am not required to contribute part of my income to a billion+ dollar building in which Hamilton will play at a price point I can't afford. AND...eventually, Hamilton will likely go off Broadway for a price I can afford. As a bonus, Hamilton will likely teach me something I don't know.

I am not required to

I am not required to contribute part of my income to a billion+ dollar building in which Hamilton will play at a price point I can't afford. AND...eventually, Hamilton will likely go off Broadway for a price I can afford. As a bonus, Hamilton will likely teach me something I don't know.

That's a different issue. The government spends money differently from the way I would spend money but that doesn't chip my hide, particularly. For some reason my omniscience and perfect judgment in public matters isn't nearly as widely recognized as it should be. People disagree with me, and sometimes their views prevail, something I find baffling, but which I have learned to accept.

"If it had been a good deal a developer would have made the needed investment and the team contribution would have been in the form of a lease. "

It wasn't a good deal for a developer. The question was, whether it was a good deal for us. As someone else noted, people seem quite at peace with the bargain that was made on their behalf. Tickets sold. I expect Vikings TV ratings are going to be high. Nobody now seems excessively burdened by the half billion dollars they paid to keep the Vikings here.

The deal may fall apart. The deal we made for the Twins stadium is looking shakier than it once did. But Vikings wise, I know of no existing metric that shows that Minnesotans are unhappy with their purchase.

Web of incoherence

Some people are getting stuck in their own web of incoherence here. One persons entertainment isn't more valuable to the community than another's so massive subsidies for sports franchises make no more sense than subsidizing Netflix or Cable TV... when do I get my check?

If the NFL had a self sufficient business model they wouldn't need massive subsidies, that's not a different issue, it's a different business model. One business model (pro sports) requires massive public subsidies, the other (Theater and: "Hamilton") do not. We don't spend a billion dollars to bring Broadway shows and Metallica concerts to MPLS, we just don't.

Are Minnesotan's "unhappy" with their purchase? Time will tell. What I can guarantee is that ten years from now when the NFL is looking for its next boost in value they'll be talking about more new stadiums. Taxpayers are, and never have demanded the new stadiums.

One addition

I agree with Paul and have one addition. The argument against public subsidies of the stadium is that the vast majority of credible evidence says it is problematic on multiple levels. First it sets a president that encourages more bad behavior by government and those makes the government generally less trustworthy and valuable. The point most argued is the straight a cost/benefit economically and the arguments for the pro-stadium side are unproven at best and most likely fairly unbelievable. The fact that stadiums purposefully enrich the incredibly wealthy, despite their product's violet, sexist, racist and homophobic tendencies, is truly unconscionable no matter your political leanings.

The fact that so many people can say the prescribe to either a party and still justify the public subsidization of the stadium shows how easy it is to use politics to sway public opinion.

The argument against public

The argument against public subsidies of the stadium is that the vast majority of credible evidence says it is problematic on multiple levels.

The argument for public subsidies is that people like football, and want a local NFL franchise. It's a much stronger argument than any argument against subsidies, and it is in fact, the argument that always prevails.

Hiram -

With all due respect, you just don't seem to get the criticism of your use of the royal "We."

If I were an elected official asked to give a billion dollars of my constituents' money to a private use, I would have done very substantial due diligence to assess the extent to which my constituents would benefit, and the amount they would be willing to contribute, and I would have negotiated strictly on that basis.

I paid a great deal of attention during the entire, multi-year process to the evidence stadium proponents produced of public support for the public subsidy. I have a clear recollection that during all of this time there was NEVER a single survey of public support, let alone economic evaluation of public willingness-to-pay. Like the dog that didn't bark, this (along with the deliberate circumvention of the Minneapolis charter provision) was the strongest evidence that the proponents knew quite well that adequate public support was not there. The only real show of support ever produced was a busload of folks painted purple and yellow, and representatives of the construction trades.

It's not a matter of whether the owners produce a winning team or not. It's that to many of us, the VIkings, at best, simply are not relevant, we don't watch them on Sunday for free or otherwise, and we don't believe there is substantial "civic pride" value in having a professional football team associated with our region (indeed, I would argue the opposite - that resorting to spectacle indicates a certain lack of civic pride - but that's beyond the scope of my comment). I would venture that a large majority of Minnesotans, and particularly MInneapolitans, who bear the brunt of the financial, land use and opportunity cost burdens, simply value the existence of the VIkings not at all, or very little. I have to conclude that if this were not true, the nearly unlimited resources of the stadium proponents certainly would have been employed to show that.

The Argument in Favor

"The argument for public subsidies is that people like football, and want a local NFL franchise."

I could substitute any number of things in that sentence, and have it make equal sense:

"The argument for public subsidies is that people like donuts, and want a local Dunkin' Donuts franchise."

Sorry, I'm not seeing much difference.

Completely false

Hiram,

That isn't an argument for building the stadium. It is a description of how we ended up wasting a lot of money. Your argument for the stadium seems to be that because some people wanted it, and because there was potentially some benefit (though nothing verifiable), that it was worth any potential expense. That argument could be used to support absolutely anything for any reason and is therefore one without merit.

One persons entertainment

One persons entertainment isn't more valuable to the community than another's so massive subsidies for sports franchises make no more sense than subsidizing Netflix or Cable TV... when do I get my check?

You won't be getting a check, but you can watch the Vikings for free on Sunday.

"If the NFL had a self sufficient business model they wouldn't need massive subsidies, that's not a different issue, it's a different business model."

But they don't, and we live in the world that exists, not the one that doesn't.

"What I can guarantee is that ten years from now when the NFL is looking for its next boost in value they'll be talking about more new stadiums."

Oh sure. I have no doubt that somewhere in the basement of the new Vikings headquarters in Eagan, there with be a room, possibly one without a number on the door, where some nameless person will be designing a new stadium, which will replace the current Vikings Stadium once the paint has completely dried. That's the nature of the business.

"That's the nature of the business."

Maybe so, but that doesn't tell me why the taxpayers should be validating it.

Maybe so, but that doesn't

Maybe so, but that doesn't tell me why the taxpayers should be validating it.

they did it because they wanted a football team.

Really?

Did they ask the taxpayers if they wanted to pony up tax money to keep a football team? Was there a referendum that I missed?

We want Hamilton

So, when will we all be spending tax money to eventually see it on TV for free?

Huh?

The taxpayers absolutely did not validate this subsidy. The elite had to deliberately and conspicuously freeze the taxpayers out of the process in order to get it done.

Why should the taxpayers be involved or required to validate public spending? That's no even a serious question. In a democracy the people are supposed to direct public policy and spending, that's why we have elections and votes.

Now there are arguably times when elected officials should set aside public sentiment, but stadiums don't qualify as public necessities, they're private franchises, and the stadiums we build are not public infrastructure. No one dies or even serious suffers of a pro sport franchise goes away.

you can watch the Vikings for free on Sunday

Only when they're on broadcast channels. That excludes Sunday night (as well as Monday and Thursday nights, if you meant them, too).

Yep

Sunday night games are on NBC available for free.

Monday's ESPN games and the Thursday night games that are exclusively on NFL Network are simulcast on a local broadcast channel when the Vikings are involved.

Watching the Vikings for free

"You won't be getting a check, but you can watch the Vikings for free on Sunday."

Free? Dude we've been talking about the fact that this cost a billion dollars. At any rate I'll be riding my bike or watching Barney Miller re-runs for free and neither of those activities required a billion dollar public subsidy. Whatever, what's done is done.

I still don't see why you guys can't just say: "Thank you."? You got your stadium, your team, and your free TV football on the public dime. Instead of throwing all this crap about how good a deal it was for me and everyone else around why don't you just say: "Thank you."?

I obviously think stadium deals are obscene betrayals of public trust and policy but for what it's worth... you're welcome.

Just to be clear..

Hiram says:

"The argument for public subsidies is that people like football, and want a local NFL franchise. It's a much stronger argument than any argument against subsidies, and it is in fact, the argument that always prevails."

Stadiums don't get built because backers win arguments, they get built because the elite wants them built and arguments are irrelevant. Stadium opponents always win the argument but lose the vote. As for people liking football, again we know that if people were given a choice we'd find out they don't like football to the tune of a billion dollar public subsidy.

What's done is done but let's not try to pretend that we ALL got something we wanted to buy. Whatever. Again... you're welcome.