Friday, October 02, 2009

Full Disclosure Required on Vikings' Stadium Drive

No matter where one stands on the Viking's stadium issue, there certainly ought to be nothing more deplorable nor more reviled than the Vikings' continuing attempts to insinuate that the team will move away from Minnesota if not ceded a brand new stadium by the good people of Minnesota and, mostly, those Minnesotans who live in Hennepin Counnty. Never at a loss for a local toady to pitch their scheme, the Vikings once again have turned to our eldest provincial scribe to paint the picture that the end is near.

Before delving into the latest stadium-story plant, and the numerous comments following that story that almost certainly come from team sources, it is provident to consider some financial facts about the Vikings, many of which have been discussed on this site in the past.

Despite insinuations of near-poverty, the Minnesota Vikings are flush with cash. While the team continues to point to its dearth of revenue generated by the Metrodome, the fact of the matter is that the Vikings do quite well even without any money from ticket sales or any other Metrodome revenue streams. Add to that the Vikings' recent deal, presumably authorized by the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, to sell naming rights to the dome and the fact that the Vikings do, indeed, sell out home games, and the Vikings have several additional and substantial revenue streams on top of the largess that they receive for the league's numerous and burgeoning television deals and other shared receipts.

In short, the Vikings needn't have the public's sympathy. And a very strong case can be made that, at least in terms of finances, the Vikings needn't have the public's dime to build a new stadium.

That brings us to the Vikings' current ploy to obtain a publicly funded stadium. In an attempt to repackage the previous refrain that the team is in dire straights, the Vikings are letting slip that they have not reached nor do they intend to make any marketing deals involving the dome that extend beyond 2011, the year that the Vikings' current dome lease expires.

The insinuation is two-fold. One is that the team is cash-strapped. The other is that the team is considering a move.

Team representatives now and far down the road will insist that those insinuations are not being made and that the team is only disclosing its current environment. They will contend, if pressed if and when a new stadium is constructed, that their comments were simply factual in nature and that no insinuations were intended. That, of course, would be nonsense.

The Vikings desire is to create a sense of a team so mired in financial troubles created by its dome lease that they are left with no recourse but to bail on the State if they do not receive a shiny, publicly funded, new stadium. The Vikings will deny this, too, of course, but it is as plain as could be. Whether the team is leaking a report about some idiot in Los Angeles claiming to be building an NFL stadium, highlighting Buffalo's games in Toronto, coordinating a highly visible visit to the State by NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, dropping some cues on willing local media members, or ordering the minions on their game-day radiocasts to beat the drum of the value to fans and the State of a new stadium, the Vikings have long been at the publicly funded stadium drive as a necessity for the charity-driven, willing-to-spend, yet near-broke organization.

What is true of the situation, and what Vikings' fans ought to know, is that the Vikings are a very wealthy organization by any measure. What the team is requesting of the public in Minnesota is not necessary assistance, but discretionary assistance. The Vikings' sole legitimate claim, then, is to argue that they provide a service that is sufficiently valued in Minnesota to warrant public subsidy.

To be certain, numerous entities around the State receive public subsidies for services that reach far smaller numbers of participants. It is disingenuous--even dishonest--however, to insinuate a need for public funding when what the Vikings really are requesting is a subsidy entirely blind of need. What the team wants is a subsidy for existing.

This is a matter for the public to weigh in on. And it is one that ought to take into consideration numerous factors, not the least of those being whether the Vikings have a viable alternative to playing in Minnesota, what the State can gain from building a new stadium, what new taxes or bonding will be required to fund a new stadium, who will pay any new taxes or for any bonding, and what it means to have a team in Minnesota?

These are questions that ought to be addressed well before anyone considers obligations of parties to funding a new stadium and returns from revenue streams for parties making those contributions.

A common cry from those who blindly rally to the Vikings' call for a new stadium is that the taxes are minuscule and only a concern in the abstract. Here are some numbers that paint a different picture, however. Those electing to eat and drink in downtown Minneapolis face the following taxes: Minnesota sales tax (6.875%), Minnesota liquor tax (2.5%), Minneapolis general sales tax (.5%), downtown Minneapolis food and alcohol tax (3%), Hennepin County tax (.15%), Minneapolis live venue tax (3%). That's exclusive of the numerous other taxes applicable to Minneapolis, Hennepin County, downtown Minneapolis, and the Metrodome. These taxes are the direct result of a need to create revenue for publicly funded items, such as the Metrodome and Twins Stadium. And, as one fine pundit once put it, no tax is too out-dated to put to bed. All of which means that, if the State legislature opts to fund a new stadium for the Vikings, it will do so at a cost to a public already feeling the cost of previous outlays.

If, in the end, the Vikings obtain public funding for a new stadium, it, thus, ought not be on the strength of subterfuge, but on the strength of a meaningful public debate that operates with full access for all to relevant information. Unfortunately for Vikings' fans and non-fans, alike, the present debate--virtually entirely one-sided--has been based on leaks of misinformation and not-so-subtle insinuations and the media's rush to spit out both as fact while blissfully ignoring any facts in contravention there to.

Up Next: Best Game of the Season?


Luft Krigare said...

"In short, the Vikings needn't have the public's sympathy. And a very strong case can be made that, at least in terms of finances, the Vikings needn't have the public's dime to build a new stadium."

Then why did the Twins and Gophers get it? Why are the Vikings holding the bag for this public building? Is there a question of equity or stupidity, gullibility, or whatever on the part of citizens to pay for two new stadiums when sharing of the Metrodome has worked for 28 years?

It is not like the Vikings own the Metrodome any how. They may have been a major investor and reap profits from their use of it, but so did the Twins and the Gophers, along with concerts, basketball final 4's, home and boat shows and more. All of that goes to the publicly controlled Sports Commission and it is that public entity making the argument that the Dome needs rebuilt just as much as its major investor.

Plus, spending money to entertain and please the citizenry has been good politics for millennia. It still can be today as enough legislators thought so for an outside baseball field, a smaller football field on campus that caters to the poorer students, but yet scream bloody murder when the biggest cash cow wants an upgrade or to play without a roof.

I'm happy they are getting a little more revenue from the new streams. It will make the decision to sell and move more difficult. It is a good thing.

Peter said...

Where will they have monster truck rallies if the metrodome gets torn down?

I'm anxious to see what the dome looks like on Monday night.

John said...

Have you seen the study by economists in Philly that studied property values for cities that gain or lose NFL franchises? It showed that, just like living close to the ocean or some other attraction, living in a NFL city increases propert values, and thus, city government revenue.

vikes geek said...


I have not seen the Philly study. Accepting the argument, however, does not necessarily mean that public funding of an NFL stadium is good public policy. I suspect good infrastructure, solid schools, parks and recreation facilities, a strong business environment, and low taxes also correlate positively with increased property values. The question is not whether there is positive value in having an NFL team, but what level of commitment is appropriate for the public entity to make to ensure the perpetuation of the team in the relevant market?

It's easy for teams to play on fan passions--and the Vikings have numerous people doing just that. But there is a point at which fiscal responsibility comes into the equation. For me, that's at the beginning of the process, rather than at the end when the relevant public entity finds itself unexpectedly on the hook for an extra $200 million in taxpayer money.

The Vikings' stadium deal is possible and, from my perspective, tenable, if done in true partnership with the county/city/state. The questions are who puts in what amount of money and at what return? It would be ridiculous for a public entity to fund the bulk of the stadium without a substantial cut of the revenue streams that the new stadium will produce. If the Vikings don't like that, they can fund the bulk of the stadium and allow the public entity a smaller cut of the revenue streams.


Peter said...

"Up Next: Best Game of the Season?"

I know that you post when you can, but I love your stuff. I'm looking forward to your thoughts on last night's game.

Chuck said...

I can think of one counter-example to the Philly study right off the top of my head: Detroit. They have an NFL team, and their property values have plummeted. Hmmm...public health care vs. Stadium? Education for my children vs. stadium? Better transportation options vs. stadium? More bailouts to big business is ridiculous! People were up in arms when GM, AIG, Freddy Mac, Fannie Mae, etc... got money, but no one seems to care about bailing out their hometown team, which is another big business. I for one do not want my money going to make one more millionaire richer.