As regular readers here know, I’m always quick to criticize news outlets that respond to every mayoral press release with excited “We have a deal!!!” headlines. So props to the Associated Press for leading their story on yesterday’s Minnesota Vikings stadium announcement like this:
It has taken the Minnesota Vikings nearly a decade to get this far in their quest for a new stadium.
There is a lot more work to be done.
After yesterday’s press conference by Gov. Mark Dayton, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, and Vikings owners Mark and Zygi Wilf, here’s where we stand:
- As first revealed a week and a half ago, the state would kick in $398 million, the city $150 million, and the Vikings $427 million toward a $975 million stadium. The city and the Vikings would share operating costs, with the city putting in $189 million over 30 years and the Vikings $327 million.
- The state money would come from revenues from electronic pulltab gambling, as first proposed back in January. The city would use money currently being used to pay off its convention center, as first proposed back in December. And the Vikings would presumably use stadium revenues for their share (including naming rights money, though state legislators have previously indicated that they want that to count toward the state’s share), plus a $200 million G-4 loan (really a grant) from the NFL.
- The Vikings would get 100% of revenues from NFL games, including concessions and ad signage. The state stadium authority would get revenues from any non-NFL events.
- The stadium would be built on the current Metrodome site — actually part on its current footprint and part in what’s now the east parking lot, which could conceivably allow construction to begin before the Vikings are forced to relocate to the University of Minnesota’s stadium, but if so not by much.
The Wilfs are trying to spin this as “the Vikings are paying more than half the cost,” but that’s only true if you count stadium operations costs in the year 2045 as the same value as up-front construction dollars, which isn’t economically kosher. And in any event, the Vikings would clearly be getting far more than half the benefits from the new place, unless you think the Final Four is going to be played there multiple times every year.
The plan now goes to the Minneapolis city council, which already has a majority saying it will reject it without a public vote; if Rybak can somehow get the bill through there, it moves to the state legislature, where it’s uncertain to pass as well. It doesn’t help that the alleged pro-stadium votes include guys like Minneapolis councilmember John Quincy, whose enthusiasm looks like this:
The Vikings are privately owned, and it’s for their benefit and their need, and they would be the beneficiary of a new facility. Why do we have to — we being the overall state, not just the City of Minneapolis — why do we have to help pay for that?
That’s the philosophical hang-up I had when I started thinking about it, but it’s something I turned over when I looked at the larger picture…
I think we have to recognize it’s a jobs plan, and is it appropriate for public financing for a jobs plan? I would say yes. Especially in this economic climate. It’s called a stimulus, and that seems appropriate even if these are short-term construction-only jobs…
We’re talking about all the restaurants, the hotels, all those ancillary businesses that benefit, retail in the downtown area and the city as a whole and the state as a whole. We have to think of our place as an economic engine for the state and then it makes sense that there is a local partnership.
Expect the Vikings and their backers to be hammering hard on the “It’s economic stimulus!” argument in the coming weeks, as well as the “They’ll move to L.A.!” argument. No matter that neither argument holds much water — the city and state could get ten times the bang for their buck if they spent the money on other projects, and even a less lucrative deal would be more tempting to the Vikings than what’s being offered in L.A. It’s Chapter 4, after all.