MN gov: Who said Vikings could have exclusive soccer rights to stadium? (whistles, averts eyes)

Minnesota United, which starts play in the MLS next year, is building a new stadium in St. Paul, with the help of state tax breaks. The team’s owners would like to use U.S. Bank Stadium, the new home of the Vikings that got about half a billion dollars in state funds and is owned by the state so that it can get hundreds of millions more in property tax breaks, for a few friendly matches (that’s soccer for “exhibition games”) against international teams. Vikings owner Zygi Wilf, whose own application for an MLS franchise was rejected in favor of Minnesota United’s (which was backed by, among others, the owner of the Twins), is now threatening to sue, saying they have exclusive rights to have an MLS team play home games at the stadium, and exhibition games count as home games, so nyah.

All this pissing match between two sports gorillas (er, sorry for that image) has left Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton in the rare position of being able to attack one local sports baron in the defense of another, and he took full advantage on Wednesday:

Gov. Mark Dayton called the Vikings’ opposition to possible Major League Soccer games at U.S. Bank Stadium “sour grapes” because the team’s owners lost an expansion franchise to a rival group led by former UnitedHealth Group CEO Bill McGuire…

“This is not the Vikings’ stadium,” he added. “This is the people of Minnesota’s stadium. It’s run by the stadium authority for the people’s benefit which means generating opportunities for Minnesotans to come together and support the various opportunities they enjoy.”

You go, Mark! Maybe everyone will forget that the whole reason the Vikings have that stadum — and the lease clause about soccer rights — is because you spent years campaigning for it.

 

Minnesota officials defend free suites for Vikings games as needed to conduct, uh, “business”

Here we go again: The Minneapolis Star Tribune revealed yesterday that board members of the state-run Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority get use of two free luxury suites to Vikings games as part of the deal that approved more than a billion dollars in public stadium subsidies. That’s fairly common, as is outrage over the impropriety of such deals once they’re revealed.

The twist in the Minneapolis case is that even though the suites are supposed to be used for business purposes (wink, wink), nobody on the MSFA will say who’s using the tickets (and free food and parking passes), and insist that secrecy is vital to the cause of conducting government business at football games:

MSFA Chairwoman Michele Kelm-Helgen and Executive Director Ted Mondale say confidentiality is critical as they seek to book the stadium’s event spaces to cover the cost of amateur events such as high school football, baseball and soccer games, along with University of Minnesota baseball games.

“If people think they’re going to be in the newspaper, it’s not going to be effective,” Mondale said.

Or it could be because they’re bringing family members and campaign donors to games, in violation of the state’s ban on public officials accepting gifts outside of their government duties. Who can say! That’s what makes secrecy so fun!

The big question here, obviously, is whether there was some sort of quid pro quo that induced state officials to approve the stadium funding by offering them free tickets to games. Probably not directly — the people on the MSFA board aren’t the same legislators who voted to approve the deal back in 2012. But lots of stuff happens indirectly in politics, which is why there are laws against taking gifts. Plus it just looks really, really bad when taxpayers are paying the bills on a $1-billion-plus stadium plus PSL fees and higher ticket prices, and state bigwigs are getting to watch games for free.

(Also, obligatory note: Ha ha, Ted Mondale thinks people still read the newspaper! He’s so quaint.)

Brand-new Vikings stadium forces players to be carried to locker room through sports bar

The Minnesota Vikings held their first regular-season game yesterday at their new US Bank Stadium — or, as Minneapolis City Pages readers voted to nickname it, A Bad Use of Taxpayer Money — and star running back Adrian Peterson got hurt, as football players will do with alarming regularity. Then he had to be carried to the locker room through a restaurant:

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Having players walk from the locker room to the field past fans is an increasingly popular design decision, and this was being sold as a plus just a couple of months ago:

After Vikings players get ready in the locker room, it is really just a short walk out onto the field — and that walk will be a cool part for fans and players alike.

They go down a pathway through what is called the Delta Sky Club, which fans can be at pregame, during the game and postgame. Players walk right past the fans and out onto the field for pregame warmups.

This, it now turns out, was a really really bad idea. Maybe there’s a shortcut that Vikings staffers could have taken with Peterson but they didn’t? That would be a good thing. Otherwise, the Bad Use of Taxpayer Money just got a little bit worse.

Stadium openings in Minnesota, Miami offer ear-splitting noise, fears of Zika and hurricanes

It’s almost football season, which means it’s time for the debut of new and/or newly renovated stadiums. In Minnesota, the Vikings‘ new $1.1 billion dome (nearly all of it funded with public money) opened for a preseason game on Sunday, and it was really really loud in there:

But several Vikings players compared its volume favorably to the Metrodome after a preseason game, and initial acoustic readings topped out at 114 decibels during the 23-10 win over the San Diego Chargers.

That’s up from 105 decibels at a soccer match the week before, and about the same as the team averaged at the old Metrodome. So not out of the ordinary, but still, that’s way louder than the average stadium, and potentially ear-damaging, says WCCO:

U.S. Bank Stadium could be the loudest stadium Minnesota has ever seen. The Minnesota Vikings website says the roof on U.S. Bank Stadium features more “acoustically reflective material” and “should make the stadium louder” than the Metrodome.

A local radio station measured the sound during the soccer match at U.S. Bank Stadium reaching over 105 decibels. HealthPartners says that is ten times louder than the volume at an average NFL stadium.

Dr. Geddes says any sound over 85 decibels can damage tiny cells inside the ear. Even if your ears stop ringing after a loud event, you could have problems down the line.

“It’s not necessarily that you go home with permanent hearing loss after one-time visit, but over an extended period you may have noise-induced hearing loss,” Dr. Geddes said.

Dr. Geddes says it’s important to wear ear plugs during loud games.

I can’t tell from the coverage whether this was loud crowd noise or loud amplified music and such. But either way: It’s loud, which is what the Vikings intended, so wear protection.

And speaking of protection, the Miami Dolphins unveil their $350 million stadium renovations on Thursday (most of privately funded by owner Stephen Ross, though he’s still trying to get more public money retroactively), and have spent the runup busily spraying everything in sight for Zika-carrying mosquitoes, and hoping they don’t get hit by a hurricane.

If anyone here went to the Vikings game or goes to the Dolphins game and has any less apocalyptic reviews, please share them in comments.

Hundred-million-dollar “or” could threaten Vikings, United stadium funding

Minnesota has been through some awfully weird stadium shenanigans in its time, but this takes the cake: A one-word typo in a tax bill meant to raise money to pay off the almost-completed Vikings stadium is now endangering not just funding for that project, but for the new Minnesota United stadium, too.

How’s that work, exactly? Well, it seems as if the Minnesota state legislature, as part of a bill designating pulltab gambling money for the new Vikings stadium, intended to carve out a tax exemption for bingo halls — i.e., places where bingo is the main business, not other gambling establishments that happen to host bingo from time to time. So they wrote this into the legislation:

[A bingo hall is a place where an organization] regularly conducts bingo if that organization gets half of its revenue from bingo or no other organization conducts lawful gambling.

See the problem here? If that “or” were an “and,” only organizations that got the majority of their revenue from bingo could get the tax break. Instead, any gambling organization can get it just by “regularly conducting bingo,” so long as it’s the only gambling organization on the site. It’s a whopper of a typo, one that state budget officers say would cost the state $100 million in revenues over the next three years, “all of the revenue over the next three years from charitable gambling intended to offset [Vikings] stadium expenses.”

That’s right up there with the infamous million-dollar comma, but the fallout from the typo could be even more far-reaching: Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton says he’ll veto the entire tax bill unless the typo is fixed, and since the tax bill also contains Minnesota United’s $54 million property tax exemption for their new stadium, now suddenly the expansion MLS franchise is caught up in this, too.

It’s extremely likely that all this will get worked out, but with the legislature already having ended its session for the year, it may not be a simple fix. (Some legislators are saying they’ll just write a letter saying “that’s not what we meant,” but state budget officials say a special session would be needed to set this right.) In any case, it’s all a great opportunity to point and laugh at Minnesota elected officials, not to mention a terrific case for why it’s important to have copy editors.

Minneapolis developer claims Super Bowl will fund its affordable housing project, is this for real?

Could it be? An actual benefit that a city is getting from hosting the Super Bowl? That’s what the Minneapolis Star Tribune is reporting about that city’s hosting of the 2018 game, which has supposedly helped local developers create a new subsidized housing project for middle-income earners:

[For-profit developer] Ryan [Cos.], First Covenant Church, and Community Housing Development Corp. (CHDC) a year ago outlined a rough vision for a six-story apartment building across S. 6th Street from the new Vikings stadium. This week, they submitted to the city a near-final plan for the $38 million project, which was designed by UrbanWorks Architecture…

Ryan, First Covenant and CHDC found a way to make the math work for their project, one that takes the Olympics for inspiration. They have an unnamed private partner with a nice budget for housing and operational space during the Super Bowl festivities that is close to committing to the project.

Since the building’s site is within the Super Bowl’s required security perimeter, 500 feet from the stadium, the group plans to first rent the building to this private entity at a rate that would make the project financially possible — and without subsidy.

So, great, right? The “unnamed private partner” gets space to use during the Super Bowl, people earning $20,000 to $55,000 a year get some new affordable apartments, and it’s a win-win all around!

Well, maybe. The developers say their model is Olympic Villages, which after the games are over are often repurposed for other uses, but those are usually built with Olympics money, not paid for by a particular private entity looking to rent short-term space. Not only is the CHDC’s private partner unnamed, but so is the amount they’re willing to pay to rent the buildings for Super Bowl week — you can get a one-bedroom in downtown Minneapolis during the Super Bowl on Airbnb for a whopping $8,000 a night, so if you double that for the prime location and multiply by a full week and for 160 apartments, that’s: $20 million, maybe? And that’s the retail price, so I’d be very surprised if the private partner is paying more than $10 million for the Super Bowl rental, which comes to about $60,000 an apartment, which is about one-quarter the typical cost of building affordable housing in Minneapolis, though if they just need it to span the gap between their costs and what renters can afford to pay … maybe. Or it’s possible this project would be happening anyway, but they’re getting a little extra cash and some added publicity via the Super Bowl angle.

I would love to see a way to fund affordable housing on the backs of rich people who are willing to pay whatever it takes to live next to the Super Bowl for a week, but I’d need to see more numbers (and names) attached to this before I’m willing to give it the full three cheers. In housing as in stadiums, please hold your applause until all the financial details are in.

People in Minnesota are already struggling for words to describe ugliness of new Vikings stadium

Sure, you’ve seen renderings of the Minnesota Vikings‘ new stadium set to open this fall. But unless you live in the Twin Cities, you probably haven’t seen it with your own eyes — Pioneer Press columnist Joe Soucheray has, though, and he’s happy to describe it for you:

That stadium gives off a dark vibe.  Sheathed in black. Knife-edged. Towering.

Ugly.

No, ugly is too quick to the keyboard. Not charming. That’s it. It is not charming. It looks like a hangar for the bat-winged flying machines of evil alien forces. It was supposed to resemble a Viking ship, I thought, but the only vessel shape that comes to mind is a bloated Noah’s Ark, and I am sure the architects and the Wilfs didn’t imagine that.

“Bat-winged flying machines of evil alien forces” — now there’s what the XFL needed to stay in business.

Here’s the latest image of the stadium, via the Vikings’ construction webcam. Post your own fun descriptors in comments!

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Vikings’ new stadium has a leaky roof, team somehow resists urge to demand an even newer one

The Minnesota Vikings‘ new stadium has a leaky gutter, and you know what that means: Time to tear it down and build a new one! No? Too soon?

M.A. Mortenson Co. executive John Wood announced Friday that the gutter on the $1.1 billion building was leaky and needed about $4 million in repairs.

Last fall, workers noticed dampness on the parapet wall and some pooling of water in the gutter, but the water had yet to seep inside, Wood said.

“We’re happy they found it now,” Wood said. “Stuff happens on projects.”

If anyone out there can identify the exact point in time at which “stuff happens” turns into “this building is obsolete,” there’s a Nobel Prize in Situational Economics with your name on it.

Vikings near goal of selling $125m in PSLs, other NFL teams think that’s just adorable

The owners of the Minnesota Vikings have announced they’re 90% of the way toward selling out their stadium-builder licenses (i.e., PSLs) for their new stadium, having raised $115 million toward their $125 million goal as part of funding for their $1 billion stadium.

That’s good for them, but it points up how crazily unbalanced the PSL market is, with the Dallas Cowboys raising about $650 million, the San Francisco 49ers, New York Giants, and New York Jets a bit over $300 million apiece, and teams like the Vikings and Atlanta Falcons down in the $100 million range. That sort of explains why NFL teams are willing to pay $550 million to go to Los Angeles for its supposed PSL riches, though not really, since unless the Rams suddenly become as popular as the Cowboys they’re still only looking at maybe $250 million of added PSL sales, which according to my math is less than $550 million.

The other interesting bit is that, as has been the case with other PSL deals, the Vikings sold out the best seats and the cheapest ones first, and it’s the mid-priced ones that are the toughest sells. That could be a commentary on our increasingly economically polarized society, though it could also just mean that NFL teams are lousy at setting prices. Either way, if you have $2,000 burning a hole in your pocket and a desire to spend it on the right to buy football tickets (which will cost extra money to actually buy, of course), then Minnesota has a deal for you.