Viking deal should be made [UPDATED]Published 10:56am Monday, March 5, 2012 Updated 12:56pm Monday, March 5, 2012
So I read a story quoting House Majority Leader Kurt Zellers that stated his opinion in regard to the latest Vikings’ stadium proposal: “I’m a Vikings fan … I don’t want to see them leave. That doesn’t mean we can put together a bad deal.”
The quote was in regard to covering the $975 million construction tab with $398 million from the state, $150 million from the city of Minneapolis, and $427 million from the Vikings.
In addition, Minneapolis would eventually provide another $189 million in operating costs while the team would kick in another $327 million to that end.
The state’s share would come from authorizing an electronic version of an existing pull-tab gambling game played in bars and restaurants; the money would be raised from existing taxes on pull-tabs in the belief that the new version would increase gambling activity.
The city’s share would come from a redirection of existing sales and hospitality taxes that currently fund the city convention center.
Maybe Zellers is hedging his bets, simply making sure that, after digging into the details of the deal, something doesn’t wash. If that’s the case, I get that. We don’t need to stick the city and state with a bad deal if a better one can be negotiated.
On the surface, however, the deal seems to address three important points:
• Keeps the stadium at the Metrodome site, which avoids all complications with a new location, such as the clean-up of a former munitions plant.
• Uses an existing sales tax in Minneapolis currently being spent on the Minneapolis Convention Center. The Vikings stadium certainly falls under the same category, which is to bring visitors to the city of Minneapolis.
• Uses electronic pulltabs to finance the state share. It seems that gambling revenues are the most palatable of any revenue stream, since a pure tax forced upon state revenues will never pass.
That said, my bet is that if Zellers and his buddies in the Legislature, and the Minneapolis City Council for that matter, don’t approve this deal, they won’t approve any deal. And while the Vikings may stick around for a year, even two or three years, eventually, they will leave Minnesota.
If we’re all OK with that, then that’s fine. But we won’t be.
I guarantee, 10 minutes after the Vikings’ moving trucks start rolling, someone will get a campaign going to bring a new NFL team to Minnesota.
And the thing is, it may take a long, long, long time to get a team back, and then we’ll still have to build a new stadium.
I saw a quote from former presidential candidate Ralph Nader urge the powers that be to “just say no” to public stadium subsidies. Considering Nader is from Connecticut, and he’s not likely a football fan, I really hope legislators aren’t really seeing his opinion as credible. I’m fairly certain that Nader could care less whether the Vikings are located in Minnesota, Los Angeles or San Antonio.
Yes, billionaires should build their own stadiums. Yes, the economic numbers probably don’t add up when it comes to the benefits of a professional sports stadium versus the costs.
Yes, the Vikings haven’t been very good the last two years, and they probably won’t be very good for the time being.
But I don’t want the Vikings to leave. And I’m willing to buy some electronic pulltabs and spend a little extra at a Minneapolis hotel and restaurant to make sure they do.
Clearly, not enough people feel as I do. So if Zellers, his friends, and the constituents dead set against public financing of stadiums are all OK with watching the Los Angeles (Lakers) Vikings on television on Sundays, then so be it.
Joel Myhre is The Journal’s Publisher. E-mail him at