Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Talking stadiums

The push for a new Vikings stadium took a step toward collapse Tuesday with the joint statement from Gov. Mark Dayton and the legislative leadership that the Legislature will not approve a stadium bill that bypasses a referendum on a local sales tax.

Minnesota has a new baseball stadium,
but a new NFL playground appears
increasingly unlikely.
Such a exclusion was a crucial component of the legislation that enabled the construction of Target Field, but that bill was passed by a different Legislature and signed by a different governor in a different political and economic climate.

It's my guess that the governor's efforts to concoct a passable stadium bill are doomed, that there are simply too many legislators opposed to (a) any broad-based taxes for any purpose; (b) subsidies for professional sports; and-or (c) expansion of gambling.

On a purely personal level, it makes no difference to me if the Vikings are in Arden Hills, Minneapolis or Los Angeles; I have trouble staying awake for the entirety of any NFL telecast. I recognize that this is a minority view among sports fans. It's not the first time I've been out of step with the public, and it won't be the last.

But I do think the state will be a lesser place without the Vikings. And as one who lost sleep at times over the possibility that the Twins would leave over their stadium desires, I feel for those who love the Purple and would be crushed if they depart.

A few observations about the current debate:

  • It intrigues me that -- there may be exceptions, but I don't know of any -- that football-only stadiums cost vastly more than baseball-only ones. The Arden Hills plan to which the Vikings currently cling is put at $1.1 billion; Target Field cost (including financing and infrastructure) $522 million.
  • It's difficult to justify public subsidies for the jobs created by a stadium, but if they can be justified, it would seem a lot easier to justify it for a baseball stadium's 80-plus games than for a football stadium's 10.
  • My opinion is that -- whether it be for public works projects or anything else -- broad-based, open and obvious taxes are vastly preferable to gimmickry financing, such as expanded gambling.
  • The Target Field legislation was not widely popular at the time, yet I know of no public official who lost an election over it. I suspect the same would be true if the Legislature passed a Vikings stadium bill with open and obvious financing.
  • I further believe that a serious effort to use the Legacy fund to pay for a stadium would, in fact, be political suicide for its proponents. 
  • If a stadium bill is passed, I predict it will be for the Metrodome site, which figures to be less expensive than the others and comes with the transportation infrastructure already in place. That is also the site that least interests the Vikings ownership, because they would have practically zero control over nearby development.


  1. I was gonna say something, but as a strictly baseball fan, it would probably be meaningless anyway.

    But my wife says, "Let 'em go to LA!"

  2. "On a purely personal level, it makes no difference to me if the Vikings are in Arden Hills, Minneapolis or Los Angeles"

    I feel the same way, but for very different reasons. I DO watch the Vikings whenever I can and I've been a big fan since 1961. But I can count the number of games I've attended in person over the past 50 years on one hand. Where I'll make several 5 hour trips from my Iowa home to the Twin Cities for Twins games every year, I have almost no interest in attending Viking games.

    So if Minnesotans don't want to do what has to be done to keep an NFL team, so be it. It's your collective decision to make. I'll just keep being a Viking fan, wherever they call home.

    Just don't expect me to change allegiance two years later when you decide it's fine to pay even more than what's proposed today to build a stadium to lure the Jaguars to relocate.