Field of Schemes
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May 10, 2012

Vikings agree to accept only $800m in stadium subsidies

Sure enough, the Wilfs are not going to look a gift stadium in the mouth: The Minnesota Vikings owners agreed yesterday to pay an extra $50 million toward a new Minneapolis stadium, roughly splitting the difference between the $100 million hike the state house wanted and the $20 million increase the state senate approved. The revised legislation reconciling the two bills was approved in the house by a 71-60 vote at 3:30 this morning, and now heads to the senate.

From the sound of things, the Vikings have also agreed to the "blink-on" taxes on tickets, parking, and memorabilia that will go into effect if the state runs short of gambling proceeds to pay its share of the stadium; the Vikings did get back an exclusive five-year window to get an MLS team to play in the new dome, however.

So the final tally is:

  • The state will put in $348 million, either from electronic pulltab gambling proceeds or from stadium user fees if that's not enough.
  • The city of Minneapolis will put in $150 million in cash plus $189 million over 30 years for operating costs, a total that (counting the cost of borrowing the money, since the taxes to pay for it will be tied up paying off the convention center for the next few years) should come to around $375-525 million in present value.
  • The Vikings will put in $477 million, plus $327 million over 30 years for operating expenses. The team will get 100% revenue from NFL events, while the city and state will get money from the occasional monster truck rally.

There are a couple of lessons you could take from all this. On the one hand, it shows that when state legislators make demands, team owners who previously said "not one penny more!" can actually find quite a few pennies in order to protect a nearly billion-dollar windfall. On the other, it shows that if team owners ask for the moon and the stars, they can usually count on being bargained down by only a couple of lesser planets.


Pray that somehow, this deal falls apart.

Posted by Roger C. on May 10, 2012 03:34 PM

Man, I'm old, because I remember when $477 million could buy you an entire stadium. Now it's only half. Aren't Minnesotans always bragging about how tough they are because they have so much snow in the winter? If the folks in Buffalo don't need a roof, than the Vikings don't need one either.

(Oh wait, aren't the Bills starting to crow about needing a new stadium?! Oh well...)

Posted by Justin on May 10, 2012 08:11 PM

Re: stadiums 'only' costing $477,000,000. Thing is, those always turned out to be lowball estimates, so due to cost overruns, bribes to the local organized crime family, kickbacks and the like, the final cost was always nearly double.

Plus, every new stadium has to outdue the next newest in some way, like Jones did with Cowboy Stadium and that atrocity of a tv screen. Add in stuff like every inch of the goddamn place being wired for wi-fi and racquetball courts, different locker rooms for pro and college teams if both use the facility, on ground practice facilities, luxury boxes that have every goddamn thing imaginable and some stuff that is unimaginable like pornstars serving as nude waitresses, individual PS3's XBox 360s for every player, ipads for all the coaches and players and the money adds up really quickly.

Posted by Darmund on May 10, 2012 10:19 PM

Ok, I get your little site here that deals with railing against billionaires getting stadiums. I get it. It's cute. It's fun to be the negative guy who can always whine about things. But people do love the Vikings. This is a public stadium owned by the state. The State does not want to see the Vikings leave. Was it part scare tactics that got the stadium done? Perhaps. However, this was a state that lost the Lakers, lost the North Stars, nearly lost the Timberwolves and almost had the Twins contracted. So yes, this may not have been the most incredible deal on the planet, but we were working with the rarest of NFL Franchise circumstances, a TRUE Free Agent team that could have walked after this year. So you and your writers keep doing your cute little negative writing, and my friends and I will be enjoying the Vikings for generations to come. Take care, buh bye.

Posted by Mike K. on May 11, 2012 04:48 AM

Mike what does any of that have to do with the fact that the state just subsidized a relatively tiny and insignificant company to the tune of $800 million dollars?

The site isn't here to be negative the site is here to take a serious and analytical look at one of the seedier and more corrupt parts of our current political environment.

When the North Stars and Lakers left Minnesota was just fine, the state kept ticking along, the MSP metro continued to be the strongest in the Midwest outside of Chicago.

We understand that a lot of people love the Vikings/Lakers/Twins whatever, but those people (and the team's owners" should be the ones paying for new facilities, not the taxpayers.

Posted by Joshua Northey on May 11, 2012 10:11 AM

What I find striking is what a celebration of infantilism so much of professional sports fandom has become. Obviously not in all cases but the costumes and behavior of the stadium supporters at the Minnesota capital was, to be charitable, juvenile. But it goes beyond the goofy get-ups, it�s the underlying attitude of I want what I want when I want it and if I don�t get it I�ll have a tantrum and when I get it I'll gloat--see Mike above.

Posted by Skippo on May 11, 2012 01:09 PM

How do you know that if the stadium had been defeated, opponents wouldn't have gone to the capitol dressed up as lower property taxes and longer library hours?

Posted by Neil deMause on May 11, 2012 01:23 PM

And I enjoy the "Holier than thou", "I'm obviously smarter than any stupid sports fan" attitude shown by the anti-stadium crowd in Minnesota. See Skippo above. Anyway, the PEOPLE OF MINNESOTA let their voices be heard to their Legislators...and they voted accordingly. This is what the people wanted. Yes, does the public at times need to be saved from themselves by their Representatives? Of course. You can't let mob mentality rule. But that was not the case here. I don't want to give $498 mil to a billionaire. It seems ridiculous and I understand that, however that's what it's come to in today's sports market. Whether that is right or not is a different conversation for a different day. In the end, I want to apologize if I insulted anyone on the site. Obviously, you are passionate on stadium issues, which have divided cities throughout the country. That's perfectly fine. And P.S., I wasn't one of the painted face, horn wearing guys this week at the Capitol.(Suit & tie at work this week with Vikings tie)

Posted by Mike K. on May 11, 2012 01:37 PM

Mike, it had nothing to do with the people letting their voices be heard.

Big Bad Roger came to town and scared the living s**t out of lawmakers. They immediately fell in line.

Posted by Disco on May 11, 2012 01:48 PM

Goodell obviously used scare tactics. That's nothing new. Commissioners and owners have been doing that for generations. If that's your driving issue on opposing these stadiums, then I'm with you. It's not right. However it IS reality in our society at this time, and it surely is not changing in the near future.

Posted by Mike K. on May 11, 2012 02:09 PM

Not holier than thou, but perhaps more rational than thou. Half a billion dollars seems "ridiculous" but let's spend it anyway.

Every poll I've seen shows a clear majority stand in oppostion to subsidizing a new stadium for the Vikings and that's why the Vikings were so opposed to letting the voters of Minneapolis go to the polls on this.

Posted by Skippo on May 11, 2012 02:12 PM

If it was about letting the people's voices being heard, the final bill wouldn't have included a provision overturning the charter amendment that Minneapolis residents passed a few years ago to require a vote on any city contribution to stadium construction.

Posted by Richard on May 11, 2012 02:32 PM

They could have done it with user fees.

They could have put it on the November ballot and been off the hook politically. The people would have voted it down 70-30. They don't want to be extorted. The majority of us don't paint our faces. The majority of us stay sober on Sundays. We want our hard-earned taxes spent wisely.

Is that really too much to ask?

Posted by sd48webmaster on May 11, 2012 02:34 PM

Mike, that "reality" won't change because we've allowed our politics to become such that it CANNOT change. Unfortunately, your position (along with many others) is to simply surrender to that reality.

The situation is reducible to this: a private and very profitable corporation decided that Minnesota will build a stadium. The citizens sure as hell didn't make that decision; not even the lawmakers decided it.

Posted by Disco on May 11, 2012 02:35 PM

Clear majority? Show me one poll that displays those numbers and I'll show you 15 that say otherwise. And if you're going to fall back on the Charter argument, why did they also avoid taking the Target Center and Target Field to a public vote? The reason why they whined about the Charter is because they knew they could run out the clock and kill the Stadium by using the Charter clause to take it to the public. It sure as hell wasn't because they were "so worried about upholding the infallible Minneapolis Charter".

Posted by Mike K. on May 11, 2012 02:38 PM

These are the last two polls I have immediate access to:

The Minnesota polls on Vikings stadium funding have been pretty consistent on this over the years from what I've seen, but if you have other poll numbers that show otherwise, I'd be happy to see them.

Meanwhile, I actually think that "I don't like being extorted for stadium money, but if that's what I have to do to keep my team, I'll put up with it" is a principled position. (Leaving aside for the moment whether the Vikings were actually likely to move; the issue here is whether it's worth it to some people to make a payoff just to protect against even the risk of a relocation.) I'm not convinced that most Minnesotans would put their acceptable price point for this at $800 million, though.

Posted by Neil deMause on May 11, 2012 02:57 PM

Sorry guys, I'm at work and doing these posts from my cell phone. I'm having difficulty uploading links to the site from my phone. (Not just this site, pretty much all sites.) I can't even check your links from this phone. Obviously, you're not lying about what the info shows in your polls. You're well-researched on these subjects, so I'm sure what your polls show supports your viewpoint. In the summer and fall of 2011, the numbers showing people who were against using public funding fell from 75% at the high water mark to 56% by November. The numbers switched within the last 3 weeks to a slight favor of public money to fund a stadium at 53-54% according to a March 23rd KSTP poll and a similar one conducted by the Star Tribune. (A pro-stadium group conducted poll showed support as high as 63%, but that information obviously comes from a slanted viewpoint.)I'll get these links up as soon as I get back from work later. Are we being bullied in part into building these new Stadiums? Of course that's a part of it.

Posted by Mike K. on May 11, 2012 03:25 PM

Just want to finish up my viewpoint from the last post. Of course part of it is that the Leagues can bully teams into these stadiums. They have extreme power that Leagues and teams should not have. It's difficult to come to grips with when we crossed over to that point. I do not know how to change that. It's frustrating. I get it. It's not right. I get it. But here we are. The NFL is so popular and such a money-making machine that they can pretty much pull the strings and force these cities to dance. If that's what you guys are fighting against on this site, I hear you loud and clear. But saying that people do not want these stadiums to help keep their teams is clearly untrue. It's not just the "Paste eating, face painting, alcoholic fans." who want a stadium. It's the restaurants, hotels, bars, people who work for the team and stadium, construction workers, etc who also want the stadium to help keep teams in town as well to help their businesses and jobs.

Posted by Mike K. on May 11, 2012 03:38 PM

Thanks, Mike. I can't find the March 23 KSTP or Star Trib polls you mentioned, just the one by the pro-stadium group Home Field Advantage on that date, which included a long preface about "assuming most of it is paid for by the Vikings and no tax money is used...". If you can find the others once you're off your phone, I'd be very interested to see them.

Meanwhile, while I'll grant you that construction workers really really like anything involving construction, I've spoken to a bunch of restaurateurs over the years about the presence of stadiums, and their response has ranged from "meh" to the guy in St. Louis down the street from the Edward Jones Dome who closes his restaurant on Cardinals game days because the traffic is terrible and he can't do anything with a flood of people who zip past in 20 minutes on their way to the game. Football stadiums in particular are really dismal for this: While you could conceivably run a business on the increased foot traffic from an arena open 200 nights a year, a football stadium is dark the vast majority of the time, which is tough to build a business model on.

Posted by Neil deMause on May 11, 2012 04:03 PM

I'll get the links up later. Neil, I appreciate your opinions and the website. I find it to be quite interesting and the insight and information is top-notch. While we likely are not going to agree on much when it comes to this topic (especially about the Vikings Stadium), it is refreshing to hear opposing viewpoints done in a well-thought manner. I appreciate the work you guys are putting in here. I understand that I entered "enemy territory" here to post my views, and if my first post earlier offended you or your readers, I sincerely apologize. Thank you again for the debate. I'll post the other info later, and look forward to reading future articles on the subject.

Posted by Mike K. on May 11, 2012 04:42 PM

One last, I hate to admit this, but as I've read a few more articles around the site on this slow Friday afternoon, I'm REALLY starting to come around to your viewpoint on this story. I don't necessarily agree with the viewpoint of a few critics saying that people do not care about the team staying in Minneapolis, but I COMPLETELY now see your viewpoint exposing the extreme political pressure teams can put on Legislators and the underhanded scare tactics that Leagues are using to fund these stadiums. Wow that was a run-on sentence. Not joking, I've been looking online this afternoon to see which one of the local bookstores carry your book. I look forward to reading it, might not agree with all of it, but I'm sure it will be interesting.

Posted by Mike K. on May 11, 2012 05:09 PM

I read your article and all I can say is, spot on. I agree with you about pretty much everything. However, sappy jerk that I am, was very happy when I heard that my beloved Vikings are staying put. Kind of a shame we are mostly conditioned to accept these type of deals from our governing bodies. Ive also been to about 30 games or so at Target Field ....... sorry you must hats me now, but it is a pretty awesome ballpark.

Posted by Mark S on May 12, 2012 02:08 PM

I've been to a dozen or so games at the new (taxpayer-subsidized) Mets park, so I'm hardly one to judge. Haven't been to Target yet - what do you like about it?

Posted by Neil deMause on May 12, 2012 02:16 PM

Its just unlike anything ive ever been to. Great sight lines,comfortable, beautiful view of downtown Minneapolis, the food, and the atmosphere .Truly the best ballpark ive ever been to ( and ive been to about a dozen over my lifetime) . Those crooks built it right .....ill give them that. Hopefully, despite my objections, the new vikings stadium is built with the same amount of craftsmanship and care.

Posted by Mark S on May 12, 2012 04:16 PM

How's the view of the field? That's my main complaint about the design of most new ballparks - the cheap seats are ten miles from the plate, both vertically and horizontally.

Posted by Neil deMause on May 12, 2012 04:32 PM

Honestly, not a bad seat in the house. Ive sat all over the park, and I haven't been disappointed once. Highly recommend it to any baseball fan. I don't know if your Mets are scheduled to play here anytime soon, but if you're in our neck of the woods any time soon check it out. Its not a monsrtosity of park, about 40,000 seats,so its quaint if that makes any sense.The way the Twins are playing, you wont break the bank either.

Posted by Mark S on May 12, 2012 05:07 PM

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