Vikings close to stadium deal, also not close to stadium deal

The holiday actual-news doldrums continue, and sportswriters continue to fill it with delicious, speculative nougat:

It’s Christmas, and it looks like Vikings fans are about to get a pretty big gift.

Peter King of Football Night In America reported earlier in the hour (I know this because I was standing right next to him) that the Vikings and Minnesota officials are close to a deal that would keep the team in the state it has called home since entering the league in 1961.

According to King, it’s no longer a question of “if” but “when.”

While I can’t comment on where NBC Sports’ Mike Florio was standing at the time, the rest of it appears to be premature at best, at least according to the Vikings themselves, whose press spokesperson Jeff Anderson tweeted yesterday: “While we continue to work hard on a stadium solution in Minnesota, there is no agreement imminent.”

Reading between the lines, it’s entirely possible that both reports are true: The Vikings are making progress in their talks with the state, but have a long way to go. And then, of course, there’s the little matter of who you mean by “the state” and what you mean by an “agreement”: The Vikings could easily be close to a deal with Gov. Mark Dayton, for example (or his negotiator Ted Mondale), but that doesn’t guarantee that the legisature will back it — or if they do, that whatever local government will be handed the bill for the remainder of the stadium cost will agree, or be able, to supply that share.

So a more accurate headline would probably be “Vikings continuing stadium talks with state officials.” But since that’s pretty much the same headline that people in Minnesota have been reading for the past five years, you can see why King (and Florio) went with the snappier lede.


21 comments on “Vikings close to stadium deal, also not close to stadium deal

  1. Glad you made a post about this nonsense. People were all aflutter here without there be any news of consequences.

    I do think the fact that the state budget actuals came out much better than the projections did not help those of us who yearn for more responsible economic development spending.

    I think the legislature is feeling a little flush with an unanticipated billion sitting around. Then again they could use that billion to just refund some of the multiple billions in cuts that have happened over the past few years, or rescind some of the recent tax increases (particularly by local governments who had their state aid cut).

  2. Aside from the fact that this is an asinine website built with nothing but an ax to grind, I find it quite comical. Neil, you write this drivel as if you are a jilted lover. If you love “your” Minnesota Vikings, why are you not rallying harder for a workable solution that will allow them to stay in Minnesota. And don’t give me the canned b.s. answer that the Vikings don’t require a new stadium. Maybe that was true 20 years ago. The Vikings and Raiders are the least valuable franchises in the NFL.

    Now I understand that being “least valuable” in an elite billionaires club may sound laughable to you…but this IS big business. And even though there’s revenue sharing and parity, it is a business fraught with unfair advantages. Minnesota is no New York or Dallas and cannot be expected to build a stadium without state help.

    So keep believing the Vikings will never leave. This is ignorant at best and mean spirited at worst. I realize that it is completely unfair that billionaires get help in building these stadiums (they are essentially glorified playgrounds for wealthy businessmen and athletes) but do NOT ignore the contribution that sports franchises add to the culture of a location. I for one refuse to allow Minneapolis/St. Paul become a cold Omaha.

    I beg of you and your ilk: grow up. These tax increases, while not preferable, are going towards a worthwhile thing that happens once every half a century at worst.

  3. Oh, and trust me, I know you have a book as well. And I know your website says to avoid the ad hominem angle but honestly, you are a hack. I would MUCH rather be “swindled” by a corporate jerk who at least provides me a football team to support than give you a DIME to provide nothing but negativity.

    I am very sorry that you have had any success. I wish nobody would buy your garbage book. You are a sad individual.

  4. The “Neil D.” who posted that comment is not me. I am not now, and never have been, a Vikings fan.

    As for my book, you’re welcome not to read it if that’s your choice. Or to borrow it from the library and avoid giving me any money. As I hope others here will concur, it’s not all negativity – it’s 90% negativity, tops.

  5. Neil (the real one) I appreciate your attempt to bring levity to the situation. I realize this is an emotional issue. In a perfect world sports franchises would not hold their cities hostage and everything would be wonderful. But as someone who has lived through not one but TWO teams leaving this wonderful state (and further wound us by winning championships AFTER leaving) I do not think you can ever empathize…to do so would be tantamount to telling a patient with a terminal illness “I know what you’re going through.”

    The sad fact of this website leads to one of two possible explanations: either 1)100% of your income comes via this obsession with HATING the idea of corporate STADIUM welfare (while conveniently ignoring oil corporate welfare or military-industrial corporate welfare) or 2)you are a borderline psychopath with a strange obsession for documenting EVERY stadium ever.

    Do you not miss the irony in the fact that YOU profit from all of these stadiums/arenas/ballparks? If not, cop to the fact that you are making a nice little living from a cottage industry.

    Look, I’m not here to diminish the real gripes of real people when it comes to these stadiums. But it takes some MIGHTY big cajones to act as though you are some sort of definitive authority on what is best when it comes to something do damn subjective. I think what is really annoying about your stance is that EVERY situation is cart blanche the same to you: wrong against the ONE commandment of the anti-public funding tablets. Perhaps you have a calling as an Christian Evangelist…Lord knows you are already great at being one for a niche cause.

  6. If I were opposed to all sports stadiums, or all public financing of sports stadiums, I’d agree with you that it would be a weird obsession. But that’s not the purpose of this site, or the book.

    To make a very long story short: My co-author Joanna Cagan and I went into this because we thought it was an odd coincidence that two of our favorite teams (the New York Yankees for me, Cleveland Browns for her) were demanding new stadiums from cash-strapped cities or else threatening to move. When we started investigating, we discovered that it was far, far more serious than that: An entire industry had built up around extorting public subsidies for sports stadiums, and by and large the result was bad for taxpayers, bad for fans, and bad for sports, too.

    Not every new stadium deal is a bad one, and not every move threat is fake. (This is particularly the case in the NFL, the one sport where it doesn’t matter whether you play in a tiny city or a large one so long as you get a cut of the network TV money.) But the percentage of bad deals and fake threats is so high that it’s always worth approaching team owners demanding stadiums with a jaundiced eye.

    The fact of the matter is that right now, what the Vikings are asking for is way, way richer than they could get in L.A. or anywhere else, so I don’t think it’d be unreasonable or even that risky for Minnesota to drive a hard bargain.

    None of which really has much to do with this item, which was just about news reporters trying to conjure a stadium story out of not much on a slow day. But you (kinda) asked.

  7. Neil,

    Is it plausible that professional sports entities donate money to the media to curb them from reporting on the scam that is going on in relation to taxpayer funded stadiums, ticket prices, et al? Do you think this is occurring?

  8. The local media is uniformly committed to keeping teams in town because it’s good for business, so there’s no need for the teams to bribe them. Local sports media are not journalism outlets, they are rah rags for the local teams with advertising deals and non-editorial coverage that drives circulation.

  9. yoshimi,

    I do live in Minnesota, have my whole life, also played sports my whole life (still play men’s league hockey every week) and love the NFL and NHL. I have been to every single state hockey tournament since I was a fetus.

    Despite all that it is clear to me that the state has no business paying for most of a football stadium. I work in economic development and it simply isn’t a good project.

    Now if one community wants to pay for it to steal spending from neighboring communities that “might” make sense (though probably not). But the state as a whole benefits so little from the Vikings. They simply o not add much, and the spending on them would be reallocated if they left.

    I know you and many other people care about them immensely, but that is an argument for the team sucking more money out of your pockets, not the state paying for a giant stadium when a perfectly serviceable one already exists.

    If the project was 80/20 it would make a lot more sense for the state to be involved, but right now it is like 30/70, and just a complete corporate handout.

    Also FYI I doubt Neil likes defense contract handouts, or other cases of misappropriation of public funds anymore than he likes it when it happen with stadiums, but other people already walk that beat. This is the niche he found and has developed some expertise in.

    Go vent your frustration elsewhere if you cannot understand that.

  10. Well Neil, I have to thank you for your thoughtful replies to my comments. It is a strength for someone with a diametrically opposed point of view to start engaging and potentially persuading someone from the “other” side.

    That said, I do find a couple of things worth noting in your own admissions. The first being that “not every move threat is fake”: clearly not. There are MANY teams that have moved, with recent examples being the Washington Nationals and Oklahoma City Thunder. As a Minnesotan I have witnessed the departure of the champion Lakers and the relatively beloved North Stars.

    You mention your co-author Joanna’s Browns “coincidentally” demanding money from “cash-strapped” Cleveland. But I would counter with this: did the original Cleveland Browns not in fact move? I believe THAT franchise can be found in Baltimore under the moniker of the “Ravens.” Do you think it is mere coincidence that the Ravens have had more success after leaving Cleveland? Might they have had that success with better support in Cleveland?

    You also mention that the Vikings are asking for a deal that is “way, way richer than they could get in L.A. or anywhere else.” Based on what criteria? And more specifically for WHOM? For Zygi Wilf, yes, the richest deal for a stadium lies in Minnesota if he remains owner. But he stands to make a larger profit in the short term if he sells the team to either group in L.A.

    It is not until analyzing your main reason for griping about the whole stadium situation that you may completely realize the ridiculousness of your complaints: you didn’t want your dear Yankees to move from New York to New Jersey. Forgive me if I fail to empathize AT ALL with that. The distance from Minneapolis to Los Angeles is about 2,000 miles. The distance from NYC to New Jersey is closer than my commute to the Metrodome. My heart would be just as broken for you as it is for New Jersey Nets fans who will have to watch them in Brooklyn.

    I guess I don’t have a problem so much with the website itself…I just have a problem with how EVERYTHING is presented. Automatically wrong. “Team X wants a stadium built with Y percent state/local funding? Well next thing you know they’re going to be raping our children!!!”

    It just seems so slanted…so excuse me if this negativity is met with negativity. You have your fans, that is obvious. And as I’ve said before…in a perfect world, this wouldn’t be the system. But it is, and we have to decide if the CULTURAL value of such teams is important enough to the state. Oh, and Joshua…how do you know how much value the Vikings bring to Minnesota. I’ve seen reports overestimating their effect and others underestimating it. We can’t and won’t know for sure until it’s too late. Again, not a price I’m willing to pay.

  11. “You also mention that the Vikings are asking for a deal that is “way, way richer than they could get in L.A. or anywhere else.” Based on what criteria?”

    See:

    www.fieldofschemes.com/news/archives/2011/10/4693_nfl_hates_on_ae.html

    Meanwhile, I have a question for you, Yoshimi: It’s clear that you’d be willing to put up public money to avoid even the possibility of the Vikings moving, and that’s fine. My question is, how much would you be willing to spend? If Zygi Wilf wanted the entire stadium paid for by taxpayers, would you do that? What if he wanted a free stadium plus $10 million a year to boost his bottom line? $100 million a year?

    I’m not saying this as a challenge. I’ve just seen occasional studies of how much people are willing to pay on average to keep a sports team, and I’m genuinely curious where your own walk-away price point is.

  12. Well, Zygi won’t be the one to move the team to L.A. He will sell the team. If someone else chooses to move the Vikings, then they will get to deal with AEG or Roski or whomever if something should materialize.

    That is a legitimate question about financing. How much should the public finance? Well, ideally I would say that Wilf would finance at least half if not two thirds. Wilf is going to be paying about $425 million on a 1.1 billion dollar project so that IS decent, though not ideal. I guess the disappointing aspect in ALL of this is that the state is essentially $100 million away and while that is not chump change it is silly when you realize a lot of that is infrastructure upgrades that are going to be required sooner or later anyway. I doubt you have ever been to Minnesota and if you have I don’t think you have driven around I-694. If you have you would know that the northern most part is in serious need of upgrades. So why not kill two birds with one stone?

    If Zygi Wilf was asking for a free stadium plus $10 million a year I would tell him to get lost…but that is reductio ad absurdum. That is not what is being asked for. Is he asking for a bit much? Perhaps. But the reality of the situation is too dark to deal purely on principle. The state could’ve worked towards a deal years ago but put it off for so long that they have given the Vikings all the leverage. At this point the most important thing is to get the deal done. And unfortunately for you I have a feeling it will.

    (For the record I would like to say that I realize it’s only sports, not life and death, but as I’ve stated earlier…this is an emotional issue for many)

  13. Yoshimi-

    Wilf asking for a free stadium plus $10 million per year is not reductio ad absurdum. The New Orleans Saints receive a free stadium from the state of Louisiana plus direct cash payments of $23.5 million per year. They are working on a new deal that “saves” the state of Louisiana $281 million between 2010 and 2025 by switching some of the payments to Tom Benson (Saints owner) in other forms such as the state renting office space from him.

  14. If yoshimi (or Wilf) were paying his own money, who would care what the stadium costs? A billion, a trillion, it makes no difference. But yoshi (and a lot of folks like him) say “this is an emotional issue” and therefore we all have to open our wallets to pay for his emotions.

    You say losing the Vikings is “not a price I’m willing to pay.” But it’s not your price you’re talking about – it’s what you’re willing to force others to pay. Aren’t we all happy to get what we want at someone else’s expense?

  15. I think there’s a larger comment that needs to be made here, one Neil DM is too nice to utter – that Yoshimi is the one here who comes off as a dogmatic, biased jerk. Neil’s research, contained in a well-footnoted book, clearly lays out the case that publicly-financed stadiums are often swindles and any community asked to pony up cash should be wary. Instead, all Yoshimi can do is waltz in here with the attitude I’ve seen all too often from those addicted to sports: denigrate, point fingers, and make accusations of bias without somehow being able to see the tremendous irony contained in their own statements. If you want to argue about the “cultural” value of sports franchises, fine, although most cities big enough to support pro sports franchises have more than enough culture to keep the citizens entertained. Until anyone can present a coherent argument against Neil’s ideas, coming in here and complaining about the site just makes one look stupid.

  16. I think there’s a larger comment that needs to be made here, one Neil DM is too nice to utter – that Yoshimi is the one here who comes off as a dogmatic, biased jerk. Neil’s research, contained in a well-footnoted book, clearly lays out the case that publicly-financed stadiums are often swindles and any community asked to pony up cash should be wary. Instead, all Yoshimi can do is waltz in here with the attitude I’ve seen all too often from those addicted to sports: denigrate, point fingers, and make accusations of bias without somehow being able to see the tremendous irony contained in their own statements. If you want to argue about the “cultural” value of sports franchises, fine, although most cities big enough to support pro sports franchises have more than enough culture to keep the citizens entertained. Until anyone can present a coherent argument against Neil’s ideas, coming in here and complaining about the site just makes one look stupid.

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