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October 24, 2011
Subsidy foes: Let's give Metrodome to Vikings for free!
Veteran stadium-subsidy foe Minnesota state senator John Marty jumped into the Vikings debate on Friday, joining with Republican Linda Runbeck (Marty is a Democrat) to propose handing over the Metrodome to the team instead of building a new one for $1 billion or so. Marty explains:
I joined with Rep. Linda Runbeck to offer a bipartisan alternative: give the Metrodome to the Vikings in exchange for a 25 year contract to play in Minnesota. This proposal does not require any public funding. No Ramsey County sales tax, no Ramsey County automobile tax, and no state taxes or "fees" or "other revenues." Taxpayers would be fully compensated for the value of the Metrodome through property taxes, from which the Vikings are currently exempted.
State stadium negotiator Ted Mondale fired back that the proposal is "ridiculous" and "not a solution." And on one level, he's right: For the Vikings owners to get control of their stadium but have to pay property taxes on it wouldn't really gain them anything, so they're not going to consider it a solution to their problem. (And, in fact, a Vikings spokesperson immediately denied any interest in the Marty-Runbeck deal.)
What it does do, though, is point up that Vikings execs' complaints about their lease at the Metrodome are beside the point: The reason they want a new stadium is to get the public subsidy that comes with it, not because a stadium itself is worth anything. Of course, we knew that already, but maybe there are some members of the state legislature for whom this will help deliver the message.
It may be a complete non-starter for the Vikings, Neil, but it's a political victory for the deal/bill's authors.
They could take it further, of course. In an effort to show the tax paying public what a cash grab stadium deals are (even those who hide their eyes and run when the math is explained), Marty-Runbeck could simply add operating subsidies on top of "giving" the stadium to the Vikings until such time as they show interest in "sitting down" to discuss it.
At that point, the public would know exactly how much they think they are going to benefit financially from a new stadium.
That's nothing new, though. New Orleans has already done it for the Saints. And Indy's deal with the Pacers isn't far off that, with Columbus' hockey team working to get into the same kind of position too. Why pay rent or amortized construction costs when the people are stupid enough to build you a facility and then pay you to play in it?
More or less my thoughts John.
Team owners love to leave stadium ownership in the hands of the cities and are always loathe to sign contracts with cities.
I am always fantasizing about a city using this against an owner. Make a stadium deal with them, then build the stadium. Then 3 months before the season say "we want a 30 year lease at fair value for the usage or you can find somewhere else to play this season".
Turnabout is fair play right? So you can absolutely play the blackmail card right back at them.
Granted it would be hugely expensive, but:
A) You were probably going to build the stupid stadium anyway, so in one sense it costs you nothing.
B) If they do find an alternative venue and leave the following year, you will probably get a different team soon because you have a brand new stadium!
C) It would help demonstrate how ridiculous the current situation is.
D) It might actually work and you get the lease.
E) The anger the owners would feel at being beaten by the own game would be totally worth it!