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.
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