Vikings stadium proposal isn't for the "people"

Six myths the mainstream media perpetuates

For some of those people, the extra income might allow them to make ends meet or put away money for their kids' education. But is that work deserving of a $1.2 billion government subsidy?


Myth #5: Without a New Stadium, the Vikings Will Leave

The ultimate trump card in any stadium gambit is the threat to leave. In fact, it's generally the only card the team has to play, particularly after the economic arguments have been demolished and the emotional appeals exhausted.

The reality is that there is minimal risk of losing the Vikings, primarily because there are several other teams—Buffalo, San Diego, Oakland, Jacksonville, and St. Louis—in markets smaller than Minneapolis that also want greater revenues and stadium fixes. Or, as Forbes put it bluntly in a 2006 article: "[C]leverly leaving the Los Angeles market devoid of a franchise since 1995 has given small and mid-market teams with shoddy ownership...the leverage they needed to coax taxpayers into building them new stadiums."

Downtown East site plan
courtesy of the MSFC
Downtown East site plan
Texas billionaire McCombs (top) took home a whopping $350 million profit when he sold the Vikings in 2005. Wilf (below) will be all smiles if the public builds him a new football palace.
Top: Publicity still; Below: courtesy of the Minnesota Vikings
Texas billionaire McCombs (top) took home a whopping $350 million profit when he sold the Vikings in 2005. Wilf (below) will be all smiles if the public builds him a new football palace.

Even if the L.A. ruse wasn't transparent on its face, the numbers simply don't add up. The state of California and the city of Los Angeles have no money to support stadium construction, leaving private firms like the Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) to fill the void.

AEG wants to build a $1.1 billion open-air stadium in downtown L.A. (at a cost that could reach $1.5 billion once traffic and environmental concerns are factored in), but to make such an investment work, the company would need to retain virtually all of the stadium revenues—parking, concessions, advertising, suite rentals, etc.—plus the $700 million that Farmers Insurance has pledged over 30 years for naming rights.

With the team limited to whatever booty AEG is willing to share, there's no upside to the Vikings leaving Minnesota to become a tenant at Farmer's Field. Any potential buyer of the team would face a similar predicament.

The only party that would benefit from a franchise in Los Angeles is AEG, provided they could acquire a stake in the team at a substantial discount. Given how much value a new stadium can add to a team's worth, there would be no incentive to partner with AEG—unless the owner was in dire financial straits.

On top of that, the league's overall broadcast revenue will climb to nearly $7 billion per year by 2014, increasing each NFL team's annual take to approximately $218 million, almost double the current amount. Only a fool would be willing to share that kind of treasure.


Myth #6: There's No Other Option

In 1997, after the Minnesota Twins triggered an escape clause in their lease and wrongly guessed that the Legislature would award them a new stadium, the state was in a perfect position to strike a bargain on terms far more favorable to the people than to the Twins' wealthy owner, Carl Pohlad.

Unfortunately, former Gov. Arne Carlson allowed the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission to negotiate back-to-back sweetheart deals that gave the team the option on lease renewals, thus opening the door to protracted yearly negotiations that wore out frustrated legislators and resulted in the Target Field capitulation in 2006.

Although the Vikings have followed a near-identical approach to the Twins, bringing forward no meaningful proposals during the past 13 years, rejecting a partnership with the University of Minnesota at TCF Bank Stadium, and deliberately choosing to play out their lease, the end result need not be the same.

Seventy-five percent of NFL teams play outdoors, including those located in chilly climes like Buffalo, Boston, Cleveland, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Kansas City. The last time the Vikings made it to a Super Bowl, they played at frigid Met Stadium, where Old Man Winter proved as much an advantage as the decibel-rich Metrodome. Frosty Lambeau Field certainly hasn't hurt Green Bay's success.

A stadium similar to Lambeau or the Patriots' privately owned Gillette Stadium would likely cost $400 to $500 million in today's dollars, but with $200 million from the NFL's G4 loan program, the option for personal seat licenses, multiple in-stadium advertising opportunities, and possibly $240 million in naming rights, the Vikings should already have the resources they need.

The team can spend $30 million to acquire the much-ballyhooed Arden Hills TCAAP site, allowing Wilf to pursue a lucrative venture similar to what Robert Kraft achieved in New England for his Patriots. Or, they can save land acquisition costs and persuade the Legislature to sell them the Metrodome for a $1, a proposal that's been around for years.

If that's not enough of a sweetener for the team, they should take their lobbying act to the corporate suites of Minnesota's Fortune 500 companies. 

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