Vikings stadium czar: Team was never moving to L.A., thanks for the $500m, though!

With stadium talks with the San Diego Chargers still going nowhere fast, this has left the San Diego sportswriters who’ve been pushing for a deal in a bit of a quandary for what to write about. On Friday, Mark Ziegler wrote about how Tijuana’s soccer team got a new stadium when San Diego isn’t (the trick: a total cost of a mere $125 million, plus an owner who was hoping to cash in by getting his team promoted to the top Mexican league, two things that aren’t options for the Chargers); today, it’s our old pal Kevin Acee pointing out that it took the Minnesota Vikings a good decade and a half to get a new stadium, so San Diego should be patient and — wait, hold on a second here:

Even as the Vikings were frequently mentioned from the outside as a possible relocation candidate in the years leading up to the 2012 approval of a new stadium here, [Vikings stadium point man Lester] Bagley said the team never used Los Angeles as a bargaining chip. He said he believes ownership would have sold the team before it moved the Vikings.

“Never used Los Angeles as a bargaining chip”? So when NFL VP Eric Grubman declared that the time was “getting ripe” for the Vikings to move and that “I think the Wilfs do not want to sell the franchise, but I think there is a point where they probably would be open-minded,” and then NFL commissioner Roger Goodell flew to Minnesota to scare the state legislature into coughing up half a billion dollars in public money, something it immediately did despite an electronic gambling scheme that ended up generating no revenue and having to be bailed out by other state cash, that was just, you know, a coincidence? Or he’s making a distinction that the owners never threatened to move to L.A. themselves, they just had league officials threaten that the team would be sold and moved to L.A., which isn’t a bargaining chip at all, right?

Oy. For a palate-cleanser, go read this NBC San Diego report on how the Chargers may be in violation of their lease for not meeting with the city often enough to discuss stadium plans. It doesn’t really make any more sense — San Diego would have nothing to gain by breaking its lease with the Chargers, unless you really think the Spanos family could be frightened into spending more money on a new stadium by the threat of being forced to play in the street — but at least it’s based on actual reality.

Minnesota to spend $40m on park that will be reserved for Vikings during football season

If you stopped counting the exact amount of public subsidy that was going toward the new Minnesota Vikings stadium once it passed $1.1 billion, yeah, pretty much so did I. But Minneapolis City Pages has uncovered an additional subsidy that’s worth reporting on if only because it’s exceptionally sneaky.

Here’s the way it works: The state legislature is to vote on a bill to allow both Minneapolis and St. Paul to implement parking surcharges in certain parts of town. The revenue from the surcharges would be used to build “public plazas… designed to promote enjoyment of the city for Minnesotans and tourists of all ages.” In this case, that means Downtown East Commons Park, a planned public park next to the new Vikings stadium. Looks nice, doesn’t it?

home-imageAnd Minnesotans had better hope that it’s perpetual springtime in the park, as in this photo, because they’re not going to be able to enjoy the park in the fall without a ticket:

Part of the stadium giveaway brokered by those representing the people gives the Vikings and other VIPs exclusive use of the park for almost a third of a year.

Is this a huge deal? No, it’s not — the park will cost maybe $40 million to acquire and build, plus whatever it takes to maintain the place (pretty sure Vikings owner Zygi Wilf isn’t chipping in for that), and it’ll at least be available to the public part of the year. Still, it’s one of the growing list of examples of ways that team owners tack on additional costs that often don’t show up in the official figures — at least, not until after it’s too late to do anything about them.

And speaking of the Vikings stadium, it’s not only going to be a huge presence on the skyline, it’s going to have a huge U.S. Bank ad at the top, something that University of Minnesota design professor Tom Fisher calls “corporate graffiti,” though he adds that it may be “the only way to afford such expensive buildings.” Of course, that would be a better argument if the naming-rights fees from the bank were going to either the taxpayers who are putting up virtually all the money for the stadium or the residents whose eyeballs will be afflicted with this ad — but who can truly put a price on humans’ visual surroundings?

Stadiums can be anchors for related development, say newspapers in search of cheap headlines

You know what I missed while I was away? Having the time to read long, misinformed articles about new stadium projects and how they’re just totally different from those old bad stadium projects of a couple of decades ago. Got anything like that for me, Google News?

With the era of standalone, isolated stadiums largely over, sports team owners increasingly are taking on the role of developer and using their stadiums as anchors for entertainment districts or retail and residential developments.

Oh, yeah, that’s the stuff.

The article in question is from the Tampa Tribune’s Christopher O’Donnell, and argues that this newfangled stadium-plus-other-development model being used by teams like the Atlanta Braves and Detroit Red Wings (or “Redwings,” as he calls them) could be used by the Tampa Bay Rays for a new stadium as well. It ignores the fact that these stadium-plus projects aren’t especially new, going back well over a decade (the St. Louis Cardinals‘ “ballpark village” was one of the earlier ones, but I’m sure I’m forgetting others), and mostly ignores, aside from a comment by stadium architecture consultant Philip Bess (who O’Donnell calls “Phillip” — fired all the copy editors, did you, Tampa Tribune?), the problem that if development around a stadium were profitable enough to pay off a stadium, teams would be able to pursue this strategy without public subsidies. Not to mention that if stadium-related development is profitable it could be pursued without the money suck of a new stadium attached, that it could just end up displacing development that otherwise would have taken place somewhere else in town, that development around stadiums has typically appeared years late when it shows up at all, etc., etc.

Anyway, good to see that these articles still pop up every once in a while for me to throw rocks at, and — whoa there!

The new Minnesota Vikings football stadium, to be completed a year from now, is helping draw nearby office towers, upscale housing and other developments, according to its supporters.

Guys! One article at a time, please! I’m still getting back up to speed here.

Minneapolis council pushes to stop Vikings stadium from committing mass bird murder

Have I neglected to mention that the new Minnesota Vikings stadium is going to kill birds? Well, it’s going to kill birds. Thousands of them, according to the Minnesota Audubon Society, which says that migratory birds will crash into the stadium’s enormous glass window unless the Vikings spring for $1.1 million in glazed glass that birds will be able to tell apart from open air.

Now five Minneapolis city council members have introduced a resolution, to be considered tomorrow, to “call on” the Vikings and the state stadium authority to build a bird-safe stadium. Added one of the bill’s sponsors, councilmember Linea Palmisano, “Ironically, a thousand years ago, the real Vikings made use of birds for helping with navigation.” (And no, I don’t think that’s actually irony.)

Now, the Minneapolis council was never crazy about the Vikings stadium deal — it took a last-second flip of two members’ votes to get it approved — and this resolution is decidedly non-binding. It does help raise the profile of the bird issue, some, though (if an article in the New York freaking Times wasn’t enough profile), and apparently state construction guidelines require bird-friendliness, so the Vikings may yet have to spring for an extra million bucks for the fancy glass. Given that they’re getting $200 million more in state and city subsidies than the stadium is costing to build, they can probably afford it.

New Orleans doesn’t win Super Bowl bid, Drew Brees says new stadium needed, Facebook freaks out

Minneapolis was awarded the 2018 Super Bowl on Tuesday, and I thought about posting, but you know, somebody is always awarded the Super Bowl, and Minneapolis will have a new stadium with a roof, so sure, why not? The only bit of news that seemed particularly relevant to this site was this note about the runner-up in the bidding, New Orleans:

New Orleans had been 10-for-10 when it bid on the Super Bowl. The city will be celebrating its 300th birthday in 2018. But, it plays in an old stadium, the Superdome. Feel free to wonder when the next pitch for public funds for a new stadium in New Orleans will come.

If you had your money on “two days from now, by Saints quarterback Drew Brees,” you’re a winner!

At a charity softball event Drew Brees inserted himself in a debate about whether the city of New Orleans “needs” a new sports stadium.  His comments came a few days after New Orleans lost a bid for the 2018 Super Bowl.  Minneapolis, with its emphasis on having a new football stadium, won the bid.

“Listen, the league wants to encourage new stadiums to be built.  This motivates and incentivizes cities, especially the small market teams, to pass legislation and approve bills that end up funding those types of stadiums,” said Brees.

WWL-TV then followed up this vague but incendiary comment by an NFL player who probably was just trying to answer a question that had been put to him with a bunch of quotes from Facebook comments, because modern journalism, people. (For the record, both Debbie Hall Perrone and Judy Clasen Sinnott think that New Orleans doesn’t need a new stadium.)

NBC Sports’ Mike Florio, meanwhile, who thinks that everybody needs a new stadium, says the selection of Minneapolis tells cities, “If you’ll be going up against a city with a new stadium built in part by taxpayer dollars, don’t bother.” Which could lead to future Super Bowl bids that “suddenly won’t be as good as they otherwise would be,” because cities without new stadiums won’t bother. Which is a nice bookend to Florio’s February column that holding cold-weather Super Bowls in cities with new stadiums will encourage more cities to build new stadiums, then bid. Just so long as somebody is being arm-twisted into something that can generate clicks, both the NFL and the sports media are happy, so it’s all good.

Minnesota paying Vikings owner to store his own construction dirt

I’ve seen a lot of oddball hidden stadium subsidies, but this is a new one: The state of Minnesota is paying Vikings owner Zygi Wilf $90,000 to store the dirt from construction of his new stadium. Apparently the demolition of the Metrodome generated a big-ass pile of dirt, and rather than truck it offsite, the state decided to store it on neighboring parking lots owned by Wilf, in exchange paying his property taxes on the site for the duration of the dirt storage.

This isn’t a lot of money, but it still rankled some elected officials like state senator John Marty, who said, “In the big picture of things, yeah, it’s small potatoes. But, I mean, do we have to give [Wilf] everything the guy ever wants?” To be fair, though, who would pay for dirt storage is probably something that wasn’t addressed in the original stadium deal, and when the state approached Wilf to ask if he’d store his own damn dirt for his own damn stadium for free, he demanded some kind of payment for—

[Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority Michele] Kelm-Helgen acknowledged that, instead of asking whether the Wilfs would store the dirt for free, the stadium authority offered the tax deal.


New Vikings stadium to be twice size of Metrodome, the better to sell you things

If you know me, you know that I love this stuff, so without further ado I give you the Minnesota Vikings‘ overlay comparison of the Metrodome and their new $1 billion stadium:

Yup, that sure is big. And even if the peak of the roof is just roof, those upper-deck seats at the new place are likely to be awful.

The Vikings also report that the total floor space inside the new stadium will be nearly doubled, from 900,000 square feet to 1.75 million square feet. And there you have the real reason for new stadiums: more space to sell you crap. Not that the crap they’ll be selling you would likely be worth enough to repay the billion-dollar construction tab, but fortunately for Vikings owner Zygi Wilf, he doesn’t have to worry about that.

Vikings reveal how much fans will have to pay for right to buy tickets at taxpayer-funded stadium

The Minnesota Vikings announced their personal seat license prices on Friday; if you’re a VIkings fan you probably already know all about what seats cost how much, and if you’re not a Vikings fan you hopefully won’t care. So the broad summary: Unless fans want to sit in the 12,000 seats in the last rows of the nosebleeds, they’re going to need to plunk down between $500 and $9,500 per seat just for the right to buy tickets, which will then run between $50 and $400 a pop. That’s pretty much what the team hinted at back in October, and about middle-of-the-pack for NFL teams that require PSLs.

There’s been much uproar (including from Minnesota’s governor) that this is an outrage given that the public put up a large chunk of the money for the Vikings’ new stadium (at the behest of Minnesota’s governor), and you can understand that fans aren’t happy to hear that seats at their shiny new football home will come with a mortgage in addition to yearly payments. But really, PSLs are just an early form of crowd-funding: By asking fans to put up cash for something that was previously free (the right to be on the season-ticket list), teams are effectively monetizing an asset they hadn’t used before, while fans get something they can sell when they’re done with it instead of just dropping their ticket rights for nothing. (The Vikings PSLs are perpetual so long as you keep buying season tickets, and can be sold after the first year.) And if they really think it’s too rich for their blood, they can refuse to buy the PSLs at this price and force the Vikings to drop their rates as other teams have done — yes, it’s part of the growing aristicratization of sports, but we’ve crossed that bridge already, and without PSLs the Vikings would likely just charge even more for tickets themselves.

If you want a cause for outrage, focus on the fact that the state is actually selling the PSLs on the Vikings’ behalf, as a tax dodge. Or on the fact that the state agreed to pay for half the stadium construction cost (really more than 100% of the cost when operating subsidies and tax breaks are figured in, but who’s counting?) because Vikings owner Zygi Wilf only could afford to pay for the other half, when Wilf’s half will likely be mostly covered by PSL fees and naming rights. Who pushed for that deal again? Oh right, that guy.