Saturday, November 05, 2011

Vikings and Their Cohorts Continue to Pitch Half-Truths and Pandering Logic in Stadium "Debate"

The drum beat goes on from the NFL, local media, and NFL-orchestrated call for a publicly funded stadium for the Minnesota Vikings. Those whose jobs and/or high salaries depend on the Vikings remaining in Minnesota--virtually everyone working at the Vikings' flagship station, those with high paying sports commentator salaries, those working local news, and those with connections to the team--are, of course, among the most vociferous proponents of a publicly funded stadium, with the "what me worry" segment of the fan base, a small, but vocal group, a close second.

As the Vikings amp up their contributions to the coffers of those willing to play henchman and inform Minnesotans that the Vikings will leave if a new deal is not soon completed, thereby leaving the Wilf's the claim that they "have never threatened a move," the team has prevailed upon its many minions to trot out the same tired lines. Many of the lines, of course, would be readily diminished, if not otherwise debunked, by anyone inclined toward objectivity. Among these cliches:

1. "The stadium will create jobs." True, constructing a stadium will create jobs. So, too, however, would the construction of a stadium without use of public dollars. But if one is really interested in using public funds to build a stadium, then one certainly ought to be aware that public funds can be used for a whole host of things that would generate jobs.

2. "Keeping the Vikings means tax revenue for Minnesota." True, again. The Vikings certainly generate tax revenue--on ticket and merchandise sales and on employee and player salaries, at least the portion that stays in state. Again, however, so do all jobs. The question is how does the public get the best--or even a sound--return on its investment? The Vikings are selling the stadium deal as a panacea for the state's job ills. A more likely panacea would be taking all of the money that the Vikings are requesting from the public and funding public projects in numerous areas--particularly infrastructure. That would create tax-revenue creating jobs, provide tax-revenue creating services, and reduce the need for additional taxes in other areas, all well into the future. And it would do so without relying on the magnanimity of a single professional sports entity that almost assuredly will be back at the door with at least one hand out in five-year's time.

3. "I didn't support the Shubert, now it's my turn to get something others do not support." In addition to epitomizing the decline of civilization and the rise of the tit-for-tatters-no-matter-the-consequences, such rants miss the mark. That mark is that foolish spending in one area does not support foolish spending in another area. It also, of course, grossly exaggerates a purported parallel. The Shubert Theater, one of the most expensive renovation efforts ever in the world of dance venues, cost the state approximately $16 million, with the bulk of the $60 million or so needed to complete the job raised from private donations. That's about 25% public funding. It's also about $16 million in arguably mostly unwarranted public spending. That certainly does not justify engaging in even more egregious public expenditures by providing 67% (and up) of the funding for a grossly over-priced facility. With the nearly $700 million that the Vikings are demanding from the public to build them a new stadium that will return the team an estimated $225 million per year in revenue, the State of Minnesota could fund nearly 45 Shuberts. And that's before accounting for the fact that bonding $700 million will cost the public more than $2 billion when it is all paid off--this in a state that only recently auctioned off its future income from the tobacco settlement to bridge a far more modest budget gap today. Criminal.

4. "It's like $200 per person per year--get over it." Yes, it is like that. Like $200 a year for every affected resident for the next 30 years. It is just like that. And that means that it is just like taking $6,000 from every resident--adult, child, fan, non-fan, attending fan, non-attending fan over thirty years, or $24,000 over that thirty-year period for a family of four. For some--namely those willing and able to plop down the seat-licensing fee, $100/game ticket fee, and other costs of going to a game--that's chump change. But to the vast majority of Minnesotans, that at least causes pause. And if that does not cause pause, what should is that that cost comes with an opportunity cost--diminished flexibility for the relevant municipality to address some future crisis with a bonding measure. At some point, a society simply can no longer accept paying $6,000/person for every project. Ask the people of Minneapolis who already are paying for a Twins' stadium, and the Shubert, and the Guthrie, and the Walker, and a poorly managed Police pension fund, and a school board that appears to have run amok, all on top of already high property taxes. And pity the outlying areas if Minneapolis ever turns the tables on them and goes to Court to stop paying into the LGA fund from which it receives less and less return each year. In short, despite what to some appears to be a small amount of pain for those not interested in participating on this venture, the pain is actually far greater. If this is the Vikings' strongest selling point, they need to rethink their strategy.

There are many, many more such contentions, but none more ardently pressed by those who believe that these are the winning arguments. But all such contentions take a back seat in the panoply of this debate to the strategy of attempting to win the debate by making the same contentions over, and over, and over again, and making them louder. If you have not tuned into the Vikings' flagship station recently, that is all that you have missed. Under the guise of "just being sensible," the flagship folks have opted for full sell-out. Their jobs are at stake, they are under orders, but, they also, most assuredly, have discarded all semblance of personal pride.

I've stated it before and one would think that it was obvious, but apparently it is not. A publicly funded stadium for the Vikings can make complete sense if those bargaining the deal for the state understand the game. The Vikings can be a revenue asset for the state--and that is the only manner in which anyone in state government ought to view discussions over a new stadium--if the deal is a partnership that returns to the state revenues in proportion to the state's percentage of investment. If it does not, it's not a good deal for the state and the state ought to let the Vikings leave for wherever it is that the Wilfs think the NFL will let them go. If that's LA, that means the Vikings will have saved at least four other cities from being held hostage by an entity not worth being held hostage by, and permitted the residents of Minnesota the opportunity to more effectively invest their tax revenue.

Up Next: In Awful NFC, Vikings Not Yet Eliminated.


Mike Whitaker said...

"$24,000/year from a family of four."

$24,000 over THIRTY years, unless I misread your math. $200 x 4 x 30.

Childress of A Lesser God said...


All your points make sense, but the Vikings have all the leverage. LA is waiting with open arms and full pockets. The NFL is a business and the Wilfs are (so I've read) good businessmen. As such, unless the MN legislature (and its voters) cave, the Vikings are history. It's that simple. Sad, but simple.

vikes geek said...


I'm not sold on that. In fact, I'm more persuaded that, at a minimum, those negotiating with the Vikings have the far better hand.

The NFL does not want a team relocating to LA as it means a loss of $1-2 billion for the NFL in franchising fees. Nor do the Vikings fit the model of a team that either purported LA NFL group is interested in as both want unencumbered franchises. That means both want teams that they will own; they do not want the Wilfs moving to LA. The Wilfs have no interest in selling even under the current mere golden goose terms. Moreover, the NFL likely would not support the sale of the Vikings to either LA group because a sale also would mean less money for the NFL and current owners.

Moreover, there are several teams far more eager to move to LA than are the Vikings. Those teams include the San Diego Chargers, Oakland Raiders, Buffalo Bills, and Jacksonville Jaguars--and possibly the Rams.

All of this means that the Vikings' willingness to move to LA is far less the concern than whether LA wants the Vikings more than other, potentially less expensive options, and whether the NFL wants any team moving to LA--thereby reducing the NFL's take and removing from the equation the NFL's long-standing threat of a large market relocation city.

To me, that sounds like a royal flush in favor of the state versus a hand of mismatched cards. Unfortunately for Minnesotans, the Governor appears intent on negotiating as though he has no clothes.


Childress of A Lesser God said...


I disagree with you, but hope you're right.

At some point - probably soon - the Wilfs are going to get tired of battling MN lawmakers for a new stadium. Right or wrong, it is clear that they are not going to pay for it out of their own pocket, and MN is not in a financial position to help them. The Metrodome is no longer viable. Although I don't have the numbers in front of me, the Vikings' revenue is continually in the bottom three or four teams, with no end in sight.

Whereas, selling the team to an LA group is a very sensible option for the Wilfs. The NFL clearly wants a team in LA and an expansion team is not in the offing. As such, an existing team will move to LA sooner rather than later. The Wilfs (one of the leagues newest ownership groups) are at least as likely if not more likely than the other candidates (Bills, Chargers, Jags or Raiders)to go. The Wilfs, who have little allegance to MN, are going to look elsewhere.

If the Browns can leave Cleveland, then the Vikings can leave MN.

vikes geek said...

LA is worth at least as much to the NFL as a relocation threat than as an actual market--particularly with SD already serving the area. For every new stadium that the NFL cajoles the public into building, the league gains two valuable assets--greater league equity that it can leverage and greater leverage in future CBA discussions (no team debt means teams can hold out far longer than the NFLPA).

Although expansion would create issues under the current divisional structure, adding four teams--two in LA, one in San Antonio, and one other, would allow the NFL to have two, 18-team conferences with three, six-team divisions. And the NFL believes that Europe is viable for at least two NFL teams. But all of this will be at the NFL's behest, not that of the Vikings. There will be substantial hoops to jump through if the Vikings want to move to LA--not the least of them being that the Wilfs will have to sell the team rather than move the team, and the Wilfs know that they can make more money here, even in the Metrodome, than they can make selling the team to an LA enterprise.

Again, this is not necessarily a dichotomous discussion, rather, it should involve a range of options for both sides with each party gauging the economic interests of the Vikings staying in Minnesota. That does not and cannot mean acquiescing to the Vikings demands for sentimental reasons. If the Vikings' ownership group is inclined to leave Minnesota if it is not permitted to rape the residents, why would any rational person want the team to remain in Minnesota know that more such demands surely would be in the offing?



dp said...

fu vg. idiots like you are what us going to cause our passion to leave the state. you are clearly not a fan. idiot.
once the team leaves, we all will be stuck paying ten times more for an inferior product. moron.