Until word broke of the Miami Marlins‘ epic sale, the big stadium news from yesterday was out of Minnesota, where Gov. Mark Dayton apparently abruptly noticed that hey, whoa, the Vikings owners were planning to pay for their fraction of stadium costs by selling personal seat licenses, and those things cost fans money:
In a sternly worded letter to the team owners, the governor objected to a proposal to charge seat-licensing fees in exchange for premier seating choices, a move that could mean big-spenders boot longtime season-ticket holders to less desirable seats.
Fans of average means supported the stadium, “not just rich Minnesotans, because they believed the Vikings are also their team,” Dayton wrote. “If a new stadium were to betray that trust, it would be better that it not be built.”…
“I strongly oppose shifting any part of the team’s responsibility for those costs onto Minnesota Vikings fans,” Dayton wrote in his letter to Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf. “This private contribution is your responsibility. Not theirs. I said this new stadium would be a ‘People’s Stadium,’ not a ‘Rich People’s Stadium.’ I meant it then, and I mean it now.”
(Dayton’s full letter is here.)
Though the stadium was signed off on by the legislature back in the spring, Dayton’s threat to blow up the PSL portion actually has some teeth: Thanks to a clause in the lease designed to hide Vikings revenues from taxation, the seat licenses are actually going to be sold by the state-controlled Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, three of whose five members are appointed by Dayton, before the money is handed over to the team. Dayton can now simply order the authority not to market any PSLs — and he’s said if they won’t listen, he’ll ask the legislature to repeal the authority’s authority to sell the licenses.
This is potentialy a huge, huge deal: Though Vikings owner Zygi Wilf is getting $1.1 billion in public subsidies for his $1 billion stadium, much of that is in future property-tax breaks, and he still needs to come up with $477 million in cash to pay for his share of stadium construction, and was no doubt counting on PSLs — which, unlike other team revenues, don’t have to be shared with the league — to pay for a large chunk of that.
So far, we just have a staring contest, and it’s always possible that once the public furor over PSLs has died down and Dayton has scored his political points, he and Wilf will sit down and find a way to paper over their differences. (Though Dayton’s going to look awful silly if he does so after all that talk about “betraying trust.”) In the meantime, expect somebody to start predicting that the Vikings will just walk away from their $1.1 billion subsidy and move to Los Angeles — oh, look, there’s someone now.