Three years ago, a local sportswriter took a break from smoochin' the buttcheaks of local sport's team owners to castigate Carl Pohlad for attempting to contract the Twins. Then a local judge forced the Twins to remain in existence and, suddenly, our local sportswriter had a change of heart, reverting to his former, well-known, butt-smoochin' ways.
Today, that very columnist is once again beating the drum of despair, attempting to frighten locals into believing that the departure of the Twins and Vikings is imminent failing legislative funding for new stadiums for both teams.
The most interesting/laughable contention that our local columnist makes today is that the Vikings and Twins cannot compete on a regular basis without the additional revenue provided by a new stadium. Of course, this is sheer idiocy.
With the exception of the past three years, the Vikings have been at least as consistent as any other NFL team in making the playoffs. And this is not a surprise given the talent that the Vikings have had on their roster for the better part of the past 30 years.
But how can this be? The Vikings have never enjoyed the revenue streams now associated with ownership rights to stadium revenue. They have never had seat licenses, full concession rights, full parking revenues, naming rights, limitless corporate skyboxes, or advertising rights. Being competitive thus seems virtually impossible--particularly when many teams already have some, if not all of these ownership revenue streams.
The answer for the Vikings is that each NFL team receives a motherload of annual revenue from the league and the league has a hard salary cap. The largesse bestowed upon each team by the NFL, as a result of licensing agreements and television rights, provides each team enough revenue to meet approximately 70% of the cap. Teams must rely on their own resources to account for the remaining 30%, with the most prominent source of additional revenue being ticket sales. Because the Vikings consistently sell out at an average ticket price of approximately $40 and a seating capacity of 60,000+, the Vikings gross approximately $2.5 million per game on ticket sales alone. That equates to $25 million per season, not including interest earned on season ticket sales and waiting list down payments, putting the Vikings' revenues well over the NFL spending cap. And it does not include what is probably another $20 million in tax breaks (as a conservative estimate) owing to salaries and other business expenses.
To put it mildly, no matter the Vikings' "loss" of revenue from non-existent revenue streams, the Vikings remain competitive because they are able to spend to the cap (even though they do not) and still turn a hefty profit. The fact that Red wants a new stadium thus has nothing to do with Red's ability or willingness to spend more on the team and everything to do with Red wanting a greater return on his investment. There is nothing inherently wrong with Red's ambition, but there is something wrong with Red's message--carried to us via his local sportswriting stooge--that he must, out of economic necessity, leave town if a new stadium is not built soon.
The Twins have a more compelling claim, if also fraudulent, that they need a new stadium to compete. As evidence of this need, our local sportswriter notes that other teams have new baseball stadiums, including Baltimore, Colorado, San Francisco, Milwaukee, Texas, Cleveland, Detroit, Seattle, Houston, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, San Diego, and Arizona, and that the Twins are falling behind in the competitive race.
Let's see. The Twins are in the playoffs for the third straight season, playing in a "low-revenue" stadium. Of the 14 teams with new stadiums, none have yet secured a playoff spot this year and only one likely will. What does that suggest about new stadiums and all their revenue? Merely that there is no necessary correlation between increased team revenue and the ability to compete.
What is even more damning of the argument that teams need publicly financed stadiums to compete, however, is that there is a built in rebuttal to any criticism of a team's failure to make good on its promise to be competitive with a new stadium--teams can always say that, with the proliferation of new stadiums, they are able merely to maintain the status quo. Most assuredly, the next step will be to approach the locals for even greater subsidies than already conceded in conforming with the teams' request for a new stadium. And if the locals finally put their foot down, the team will threaten to move. Which is right where we started, right?
The only solution is to determine the value to the locals of maintaining a sports franchise and, if that franchise is deemed of sufficient value to the community, to work with ownership to make retention of the team viable for both the club and the locals. Build a new stadium in a rundown part of town, give the keys to the owner, let the owner decide the concessions, and give the city naming rights and parking revenue, and slap a tax on the tickets to pay for construction. Once construction is paid for, save the tax revenue for what is sure to be the next request for a publicly funded stadium. Finally, reach agreements with the respective league and team by which ownership agrees not to move the team for X number of years--preferably correlated with the number of years it will take to pay off construction of the stadium.
But certainly don't be cajoled into buying the story of despair offered by our local columnist on a routine basis. He has a stump, but that stump is rotten and void of any thoughtful analysis of the issue.