After months of negotiations over seat license fees at a new Minnesota Vikings stadium — something that Gov. Mark Dayton had warned would be a betrayal of the public trust — the state and the team yesterday announced a deal on how much Vikings fans will have to pony up for the right to buy tickets:
The team and authority agreed to attach a one-time fee to 75 percent of the seats in the 65,000-seat stadium, charging season-ticket holders anywhere from $500 to $10,000, depending on the seat. The remainder of the seats, including some held by season-ticket holders, would not carry such fees.
Is that a lot? It depends on your point of comparison. The total cost to fans will be about $100 million (though the Vikings’ site has it as $125 million for some reason), which as the Vikings’ site also points out is a bunch less than other teams like the San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, and New York Jets have charged, though also a bunch more than other teams in smaller markets have charged. And it’s less than the $200 million that the Vikings were originally set to collect.
Still, it’s definitely a lot more than Dayton’s professed statement that “$1 for a personal seat license is $1 too much.” And the governor, who has made PSLs the one point of the $1.1 billion stadium subsidy deal that he’s making a stink over, didn’t exactly sound thrilled yesterday:
“For most Minnesotans, this will look like a questionable deal because the economics of professional sports are questionable all over this country,” Dayton said, addressing the issue before the board meeting. “But we had to make a deal and we had to get the owners of the team to agree to a deal.”
And what about fans? Are they happy that in order to buy most seats they’ll be paying, if not through the nose, then just through one nostril?
“Season ticket holder for 30 years, no way in hell I’m paying upwards of 2500 dollars on 4 seats. Take your SBL’s and shove them.” Matt Mattern wrote on Vikings.com. “I’m done.”
Some of the venom was directed at Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton.
“The ‘Peoples Stadium’ my aunt Matilda. Only those with a South Dakota trust fund could participate,” Jay Schuster commented on TwinCities.com.
“Why was the license fee part of the stadium deal? Didn’t our goof ball governor read that clause either?”
(Incidentally, you gotta love that what passes for “venom” in Minnesota is “goof ball” and “my aunt Matilda.”)
In the end, the state did manage to negotiate Vikings owner Zygi Wilf’s demands down a bit: He’ll have to finance $100 million less of his stadium via fans, and will instead have to dip into his own profits for that money. Though given that he’ll probably compensate for lower PSLs by raising per-game ticket prices on those seats, at least some of it will likely come out of fans’ hides anyway. And even if this does end up cutting into team profits some, since Wilf is already getting more in public subsidies than the stadium will cost to build, he can certainly afford it.
Now it’ll be interesting to see how the PSLs sell. The Jets and Giants already had trouble getting fans to shell out for all the seat licenses at their new stadium (I actually just found out that my neighbor gave up his Giants season tickets after 50 years because he refused to pay PSL fees), and you have to expect that fans are going to rush to grab up the fee-free seats before plunking down thousands to earn the right to tickets in the next section over. Not that any of this is Minnesota’s problem — thankfully, even though the state will be handling the sales for tax reasons, if the money comes up short it’s for the Vikings to make up the difference — but it will help determine whether Vikings fans greet the new stadium with a bad taste in their mouths, in addition to the light feeling in their wallets.