For those who think Wisconsin has intractable political problems, I suggest you look west:
Yes, the cheesehead card has been played in the Vikings’ attempt to get the state of Minnesota to build a new stadium for them.
The short version of this drama: The Vikings’ lease for the Metrodome expires after this season. (Maybe. More on that later.) The Vikings have said they will not sign another long-term lease for the Metrodome, whose ’80s-level creature comforts (that is, lack thereof) and lease put the Vikings near the bottom of the NFL in revenue. There is more than one potential site for a new Vikings stadium — the Vikings’ favorite is a former munitions plant, now a Superfund site, in a St. Paul suburb — but Minnesota legislators are not hurrying to endorse the Vikings’ suggestions for funding said stadium: a 0.5-percent county sales tax, a sports-themed lottery game and new state taxes on satellite TV and sports-themed memorabilia. (The county sales tax apparently is dead since it would require a referendum.)
As with apparently all political arguments these days, class warfare is rearing its ugly head. The Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Patrick Reusse believes (as do others) that the only beneficiary of a suburban Vikings stadium will be Vikings owner Zygi Wulf:
The latest rough estimates are $900 million for a stadium at the Metrodome site (including demolition) and $1.1 billion at Arden Hills.
Which means, even if Zygi chooses to pout and cuts his offer to $300 million for a non-Arden Hills stadium, it still would be $100 million cheaper for the state to build at the current Dome than it would at the old ammunition factory.
Wilf is correct in his letter. Arden Hills is the best possible site for a Vikings stadium — if what we have as our main concerns is Zygi being able to collect $40 per car for thousands of cars on game Sundays, and for Zygi to be able to develop the rest of the large acreage with retail, lodging and offices.
You can’t blame Wilf for pushing this, not when remembering that Zygi might own a football team but in his chest beats the heart of a commercial real estate developer.
If the goal for the folks at the State Capitol is to give the Wilfs everything they would want in a stadium site as team owners and land developers, it’s Arden Hills in a walk.
On the other hand, who would benefit from building at the Metrodome? Apparently, Reusse’s employer:
I pay $45 to park in a Minneapolis owned lot three blocks from the dome and near the StarTribune. The lot and service is terrible. I don’t ride rail, ever. One hour traffic jams are common leaving games. Existing infrastructure stinks. Patrick’s viewpoint is skewed by his relationship to the StarTribune.
Everyone just remember that the Star Tribune has a vested interest in having a Stadium at the current Dome site so they will do what they can do derail the Arden Hills site. Think about it, have they written a positive story about the Arden Hills site?
Don’t forget that it would benefit Startribune the most because they own a lot of the buildings around the metrodome, woops was I supposed to mention that?
The Vikings should be playing outdoors like the Packers, but of course having played 30 seasons in the Metrodome, the Vikings assume their fans don’t want to freeze outdoors when the outdoors is freezing.
Don’t tell the Vikings this, but the Vikings’ 30 seasons of indoor football mean that bad things happen to the Vikings outdoors:
The Vikings’ stadium situation is like a love triangle with Ragnar (the name of the Vikings’ wrongly horned mascot) trying to decide between his wife, Lena, and the temptress to the west, Angel. Los Angeles, the second largest media market in the country, hasn’t had an NFL franchise since the mid-’90s, when the Rams left for St. Louis and the Raiders returned to Oakland. Minnesota is one of at least four franchises (the others being Jacksonville, San Diego and Oakland, the latter two having previously been in L.A.) that are the apparent target of efforts to relocate one or two NFL teams to L.A.
An Associated Press story with seven writers handicaps who might be heading to L.A.:
The Vikings aren’t the only franchise on relocation alert, but the team’s tie to its current city appears to be the loosest in the near term.
The St. Louis Rams have a possible out after the 2014 season. The Oakland Raiders are under lease through 2013. The Buffalo Bills intend on staying put as long as the founding owner — 93-year-old Ralph Wilson — is alive. The Jacksonville Jaguars would need to exercise a special escape clause to leave Florida but would owe the city for lost taxes and parking revenue for years to come.
In San Diego, where the Chargers have been seeking a new stadium since 2002, the team has its eyes on a new downtown site but lack financing. The Chargers could get out of a lease starting in February if a better deal surfaces elsewhere, but the team is building toward a 2012 ballot measure.
The story adds this: “Vikings vice president Lester Bagley has told The Associated Press that both Los Angeles business groups have been in contact, but has continued to stress that the team’s main focus is securing a deal to stay in Minnesota.” Which is not exactly a we’re-staying-n0-matter-what statement, is it?
And unlike the moves of the Baltimore-to-Indianapolis Colts, Cleveland Browns-to-Baltimore Ravens, and Houston-Oilers-to-Tennessee Titans, whatever team(s) move(s) to L.A. isn’t likely to be replaced in its departed market. Even if the NFL was inclined to add an expansion franchise to replace the former Vikings, Jaguars, Chargers and/or Raiders, the experiences of Baltimore, Cleveland and Houston in getting teams to move or an expansion team demonstrate that getting a team is considerably more expensive than keeping the team you have.
I’m surprised the St. Paul Pioneer Press’ Bob Sansevere wasn’t hanged in effigy for this blasphemy:
So the worst worst-case scenario is the Vikings move to Los Angeles and Minnesota never gets another NFL franchise.
And … and then what?
Well, there’s always the Green Bay Packers.
The Packers filled the NFL void for many Minnesotans before the Vikings arrived and, if the Vikings leave, they become an option again. That will be difficult, at first, for many passionate fans of the Purple.
You can be stubborn and give the Packers the ol’ Heisman Trophy straight-arm, or you can accept the reality that the Vikings won’t be coming back and the Packers will be there for you. At least you’d be rooting for a winner. …
If abandoned Vikings fans started rooting for the Packers, they can be certain of this: The Packers are community-owned and never would crush their spirits and hearts by moving.
Proving that the term “Minnesota Nice” is an oxymoron, one reader commented:
Do all us Viking fans a favor Bob, drive in front of a train on the way home!
Much of the problem is the fact that Minnesotans have forked out plenty of money for stadium construction since the Metrodome opened, to wit:
1990: The $104 million Target Center in Minneapolis for the NBA’s Timberwolves. (Of course, 21 years later, it’s time for renovation.)
1993: The University of Minnesota’s $20 million Mariucci Arena for the hockey Golden Gophers.
2000: The $130 million Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul (at the site of the former St. Paul Civic Center) for the NHL’s Wild.
200?: The University of Minnesota’s $303.4 million TCF Bank Stadium for the football Gophers.
2010: The $412 million Target Field in St. Paul for the baseball Twins. (The Twins formerly played at the Metrodome, built in part to eliminate Twins rainouts. Target Field, however, has no roof. The Twins had two rainouts last April and another game delayed due to an hour-long hailstorm.)
A new Vikings stadium is expected to cost, depending on where it is, between $900 million and $1.1 billion, within range of the cost of all of those stadiums combined.
This is where one thinks how much better the state of Wisconsin did with Miller Park (no rainouts since it opened in 2002; five games have been moved to Miller Park due to a Cleveland snowstorm and a Houston hurricane) and Lambeau Field ($295 million renovation paid for by a voter-approved 0.5-percent Brown County sales tax). Hindsight says the Minnesotans should have figured out how to build a stadium for the Gophers and Vikings. It is inconceivable that Wisconsinites would allow the Packers to leave over their stadium, but support for the Vikings has been more lukewarm and more front-runnerish over the years.
Complicating matters further is the disagreement between the Vikings and the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission over whether this is the final year of the Metrodome lease or not. The MSFC claims that the lease has a “force majeure clause” provision that extends the lease should the Metrodome be unable to host a game — for instance, a snowstorm-caused roof collapse. I don’t know whether that’s commonplace in commercial real estate, but that seems bizarre to me — your lease gets automatically extended, whether you want it or not, because of a problem with the building for which its owner, not renter, seems responsible. The Vikings reportedly have until Feb. 15 to tell the NFL they’re leaving.
Were I a Minnesota legislator (and I am a third-generation ex-Minnesotan), I would not be happy with the box into which the Vikings have put the state. On the one hand, the Metrodome is now an NFL stadium in name only, and no new stadium, no more Vikings. And yet polls indicate Minnesotans, while wanting to keep the Vikings, don’t want public money used to keep the Vikings. Whether or not the various bailouts of late last decade were necessary, they were and are extremely unpopular with voters and taxpayers.
The question is whether the views of (according to the aforementioned Minnesota Poll) the wishes of 67 percent of Minnesotans (who want to keep the Vikings) override the view of 56 percent of Minnesotans (who don’t want tax increases to fund a new stadium). Yes, there are Minnesotans in both groups. Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and the Republican-controlled Legislature get along so well that state government shut down earlier this year after the fiscal year began without a new budget. Dayton, meanwhile, now says the Minnesota Capitol might fall apart without hundreds of millions of dollars in renovations. What a Hobson’s choice for Minnesota legislators: Raise taxes or lose the Vikings.
Can former Vikings fans become Packer fans? I predict we’ll find out next season.