Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Could Vikings ownership lose fanbase's support in stadium push?

This might be how the Vikings brass loses its fans.

As the the Minnesota House and Senate tinker with how to finance a bill to get a new stadium built for the Minnesota Vikings, the team's stadium bagman, Lester Bagley, may have made a fatal error by saying that the Vikings owners will not pay an extra $105 million, as the House wants them to do, to get a new stadium built.

I understand the Vikings will keep driving a bargain to not spend a penny more than they've committed. But Bagley's comments can't sit well with most Minnesotans.

I think the House's voting in favor of a stadium bill that would see the Vikings pay slightly more than half for the $975 million stadium, instead of slightly less than half, was the kind of deal you have to expect and accept.

Surely Zygi and Mark Wilf must understand that there are plenty of Minnesotans who have a problem using half a billion dollars in state money to pay for a football palace that will make the Wilf's business more profitable. And surely they know that Minnesota politicians know this, and so those politicians are going to be cautious about voting "yes" to doing so if it might cost them their jobs.

Voting in favor of a stadium bill that lessens the state's commitment by $105 million, and also has the stadium proponent pay at least half its share, is something the politicians probably felt they could sell to their constituents come voting time.

However, with Bagley saying the team will pay $427 million and nothing more on the stadium, the team has lost some moral high ground here. The stadium will make the Vikings a more profitable team and it will increase the value of the franchise significantly. In the long run, the Wilf's and their minority owners will make a nice return on that extra $105 million investment. And they won't go down in Minnesota history as the guys who moved the most popular sports franchise in the state to Los Angeles.

That must be worth something to them.


  1. An extra hundred million would've been easier for the owners to swallow a few years ago with a lot more cooperation from the political realm. I don't think they're arguing dollars, I think they're arguing pride. The powers that be have dragged a very patient Wilf pair through the ringer and they've done all that's been asked of them. I admire that they've drawn a line in the sand, but I wish they could've been pushier with timing and given more on the price.

  2. I certainly hope they take that sort of deal. For years the conversation has been about whether the public should be funding a stadium at all, instead of what it should have been which is how much is reasonable to fund an important amenity to the state.

    Historically, the Colts got a much better deal than that, but most teams have not.

    In 2010 the Jets/Giants/NFL paid 100% of their $1.6B stadium
    In 2009 the Coyboys/NFL paid 72% of their $1.2B stadium. The government spent $336M.
    In 2008 the Colts got the gvmt to pay $626M (comprable to the vikings) but they only paid $101M. - a better deal.
    Prior to 2008, no stadium cost as much as $475M TOTAL, so asking the government to pay 50% or more was a much more reasonable ask.

    I am highly in favor of the state subsidizing a stadium, but I'm glad someone is finally putting pressure on the Vikings to pay more.

  3. I don't see how the Vikings can win this PR battle. If the state votes to help build them a stadium, can they really say "Well, you aren't giving us as much as we wanted, so no dice." Who would still be on their side then? I don't think they could EVER expect to get another stadium deal through the legislature if they do that.

    I also had to grimace at a Strib article where Bagley opposes user fees because it pushes the state contribution onto the team and fans (it wasn't quoted, so I don't know Bagley's exact words). Guess what, nimrod: We're the ones that SHOULD be paying for it! Are you really going to win PR by arguing the actual fans of the actual team shouldn't be forced to be the ones who pay too much for the actual stadium?

    At this point, for the first time in probably a decade or more I actually expect this to go through.

  4. Of course, if you get your news from ESPN, you'll hear John Clayton saying the Vikings and NFL "can't" pay the additional money (with a solemn, grim face, probably to stop us from laughing), that they may HAVE TO move.

    1. I like the Wilf's as owners, but don't have much sympathy for them if they are going to play hardball if this $105 million thing goes through.

      Our old friend Patrick Reusse had a column a few months back (I can't find the column) pointing out the Vikings had turned their backs on a stadium location back in 2008 or something because they wanted to build one in Arden Hills. I could have the details mixed up, but the point is, the state isn't the only side of this that has held this up.