Sunday, May 08, 2011

Mondale Joins Self-Serving in Pitching Vikings' Stadium Deal on Vikings' Terms

When the Minnesota Vikings first appeared on the Minnesota landscape fifty years ago, the team was comprises almost exclusively of individuals who played football as a second career, working in Minneapolis and the limited surrounding areas as their day job. That environment was closely analogous to the life of current Division I college football players who benefit from the love of the local fans to spot jobs and other opportunities in the off-season and reap other benefits throughout the year.

In those olden days, Vikings players routinely lived in Minnesota throughout the year, made friends, and stayed in the community after their playing days had come to an end. That connection was highlighted by the enduring community influence of players such as Alan Page, Bill Brown, Chuck Foreman, and Joe Sensor, among many, many other former Vikings' greats, and the tragic life arc of beloved Viking Karl Kassulke, who, three years ago, succumbed to the lingering damage resulting from a motorcycle accident just before training camp was to open in 1973.

The old days are mostly gone in Vikingland, however, with most players keeping their official residences far from Minnesota and the ownership group setting up shop, and registering their umbrella business entities, outside the State of Minnesota.

While the environment of professional sports has changed greatly since the 1960s, one thing that has not changed in Minnesota is the incestuousness of the local sports marketing network, a network that is now pulling out all of the stops to ensure that, even if those only staying the night are pitching something the benefits of which are so dramatically skewed in their favor, there ought be no reason why the heirs to the established families of Minnesota should not at least benefit from their presence.

In 1998, the DFL put forth four candidates for the post of Governor. Those four candidates were current Governor and heir to the Dayton's fortune, Mark Dayton, son of former U.S. Vice President Hubert Humphrey, Skip Humphrey, son of former Minnesota Governor Orville Freeman, Mike Freeman, and son of former U.S. Vice President Walter Mondale, Ted Mondale. All, of course, failed in their bid for the post. But all have maintained the ties that have offered them opportunities that most people without their connections ever are so gifted.

It was of little surprise, then, to see Ted Mondale make a career for himself carried in his father's footsteps. In 2011, needing another gig, Mondale prevailed upon his fellow silver-spooned-birther, Mark Dayton, for the post of Commissioner of the Metropolitan Sports Facility.

Since assuming the role of MSF Commissioner, Mondale's aim has been clear, if also singular. That aim has been the building of a new Vikings' football stadium. Despite Mondale's claims to the contrary, that aim includes no meaningful concern about the cost of that stadium to the public or whether the vast majority of even the current season-ticket-holding fan base will be able to afford attending Vikings' games in a new stadium.

Mondale's self-serving stadium pitch is far more transparent than Mondale likely believes it to be. Two weeks ago, he echoed Hennepin County Commissioner Mike Opat's contention that any new stadium in Minneapolis/Hennepin County would require at least a fifty percent contribution from the team. Opat seemed resolute that that number be at least fifty, perhaps much higher, and that the terms would require considerable negotiation with respect to various possible revenue streams and which party would profit from which revenue streams. Mondale seemed less resolute.

This week, Mondale showed his true colors, the type of colors, contending that the Vikings better be ready to pony up forty percent of the cost of the stadium--"maybe even high forties."

Mondale's current position would be disingenuous if retention of his post were based on merit or if he even needed to retain his post. Instead, his current position is merely condescending to all Minnesotans. That's because Mondale's current position is really no different from the Vikings' initial offering many years ago for a stadium constructed without a roof and for a stadium for which all of the revenue streams flow to the team. In short, what Mondale is attempting to do is pass off as a substantial gain for Minnesotans and taxpayers a plan that varies not one iota from what the Vikings pitched from the beginning--a plan that will make the Vikings a fortune and return to the State and governing municipality a pittance of what that entity would recover were someone truly representing the State/municipality's interests negotiating a deal with the team.

I've written numerous times on the potential value of a stadium deal to the governing municipality when such a deal fully takes into account all future revenue streams for a new stadium--parking, signage, naming rights, concessions, seat licensing, ticket sales, merchandise, other uses, etc. With his most recent attempt to create a false midnight in which Hennepin and Ramsey County purportedly are bidding against each other, Mondale has demonstrated both his disdain for Minnesotans and his priority of enriching yet another son of wealth in exchange for favors down the road. If the new stadium bears the name of "Mondale" we'll know for certain.

The path to a new Vikings stadium remains one of diligent negotiation that pairs benefits with public cost on a sliding scale. The more money the public commits, the more revenue the public receives. Somewhere along this continuum there is a point of equilibrium at which the Vikings and the public can be satisfied. Even without additional information, adopting the Vikings' original low-ball offer as the starting point for the public side of the negotiations is both a disservice to the public and a clear benefit only to the person negotiating.

Up Next: Will the Courts Order a Return to Business?


Shawn K said...


I've loved reading your blog for a long time, but it's time to turn that frown upside-down. This has got to be a record for the most consecutive pessimistic posts.

As far as the team goes, all teams go through down cycles and the Vikes are currently in that mode. It’s a little messed up right now with a veteran core and a rookie quarterback, but with all the draft picks, and hopefully a free agency period at some point, I’d be surprised if they don’t get dramatically younger before the upcoming season kicks off. This CF of a roster makeup is the fault of that idiotic poser of a coach that we finally kicked out of the building.

As for the draft, the Ponder pick seems like a reach but at least they are rolling the dice at a long term answer at that position. No matter where you are picking in the draft, picking a QB is always a roll of the dice. You can't get lucky on a QB if you never take a chance on one. Additionally, they drafted 10 players after only drafting 18 players in total over the previous three seasons. It’s nice to get some fresh bodies in here and see what they can do.

As for the coach, Frazier wasn’t my first choice either but he has elite playing (with the ’85 Bears) and coaching (from the Tony Dungy coaching tree) experience so let’s see what he can do. If Tony Dungy thinks he can succeed, that’s good enough for me. He is a class act and a good guy, and there would be nothing better than to have a guy like that be successful with the Vikings.

And finally… As for the stadium, it's either suck it up and get it done or lose the team. No matter what the solution or who is involved, it will leave all of us feeling like we were taken advantage of. But that is the reality of pro sports, and if you want a team in town you have to play by their rules. If not, then you can praise the local politicians for sticking to their beliefs while your former favorite team is playing somewhere else. Right, Norm Green? Hopefully when this gets done (and it will), it is a truly long-term solution... not a two-decade solution like the Metrodome seems to have been.

All of that said, keep up the good work, and I'll continue to tune in no matter what.

vikes geek said...


Thanks for reading and for the post.

If being honest requires sounding dour, that's probably how things are going to be here for some time.

I agree with some of your assessment of the past, but that makes the current predicament even more gnawing. I'm not one to remind others of what I have said in the past, but I made clear at the outset that I believed that Childress was absolutely the wrong choice, that nothing about Tarvaris Jackson justified the Vikings' early move on him, and that the Vikings' stockpiling of late-round picks in lieu of smarter earlier round decisions--no-brainers aside--was meaningless.

I don't know if Frazier will be a good coach, though he already is friendlier and easier to understand than Childress. Frazier's dilemmas are multi-fold, however. He is saddled with a team mixed with very good and very bad starters; he has an offensive coordinator with arguably less success in the league than his predecessor; and he is coming off of a draft that produced no single player that is even close to a "can't miss." All this in a division that has three other teams that could vie for a playoff birth next year. Given these obstacles, whether Frazier is a good coach might prove irrelevant.

If the stars and moon align next season, Ponder will be better than Joe Webb, the Vikings will find all of their missing pieces in free-agency, the Vikings' offense will perform, and all will be fine. If all of these things happen.

I realize that the truth is disappointing, particularly to fans. I've witnessed many good Vikings' teams and a few bad. Barring significant changes to the current roster--changes that could still occur if and when there is free agency--this Vikings' team has the look of a team that will lose more than it wins next year because its weakest elements were not addressed last year or this year. Last year was more misfortune for the Vikings as the team essentially was locked out of free-agency. This year, the team appears to have made mistakes, yet again, in the draft. Blame that on the triangle of authority of the fixation on taking a player to fill a hole when the team was drafting at a position where it should have taken the best available player who also filled one of the team's many needs.

As for the stadium deal, I've set forth a fairly common sense approach to the deal. That approach considers cost and benefit on a continuum and finds the equilibrium point at which both the municipality and the team are appeased. It's not pessimistic, in my mind, to point out that when representing the municipality, you do a grave disservice to your purported constituents when you open negotiations by insisting that one side contribute what they have already offered to contribute--particularly when there is no mention made of additional revenue streams accruing to the municipality.

If the Vikings leave Minnesota because common sense prevails on the side of municipalities, so be it. You cannot mortgage financial sensibilities merely to ensure that you can call an NFL team "your team." Assuming Ramsey County is truly willing to take on the clean-up and funding of their side of the proposed Arden Hills venture, they will have made the calculation that the cost is worth the return. We'll see what the terms are and whether the calculus bears out.