"The Stack" is back today after a day with no internet and we are here to talk about one thing and one thing only: the Vikings new stadium! After years, too many years if you ask me, the Minnesota Vikings finally have a new stadium after the state legislature and senate passed the revised bill yesterday with only a day in the session to spare. It's time to look at why this stadium was so desperately needed in the "the stack" for today, Friday, May 11:
Vikings stadium: a long, frustrating but finally rewarding ride
The quest for a Vikings stadium started long ago, back in the late 1990s, when Red McCombs owned the team. His efforts failed, running into futal efforts by then Governor Tim Pawlenty. McCombs got frustrated enough that he sold the team to current owner Zygi Wilf seven years ago. Wilf also ran into frustration with Governor Pawlenty as well as suffering through several embarrassments with the team including the "love boat" incident. Those embarrassments were not the thing that Wilf needed to get that new stadium built. Eventually, he saw the Minnesota Twins get their brand new stadium, Target Field, and the Univeristy of Minnesota get TCF Bank Stadium. Wilf just stood on the sidelines, patientily waiting his turn.
Good news came in November 2010 when Governor Mark Dayton won the election for governor in a very close race. Dayton had been a stadium supporter. In his less than two years since, that has definitely come true. When the roof collapsed on the stadium Deccember of 2010, that was Wilf's golden opportunity to show people just how much of a dumpy the almost thirty year old Metrodome was. Politicians were starting to come to his side and wanting a new stadium built, but not enough. Last year came and went, no stadium. Still Wilf was patient. The Metrodome lease expired, but he had hope. They played the year out in the Metrodome, hoping their show of good faith would be rewarded. After the Vikings season, the Vikings said they would not sign a new lease without a new stadium. They would play next season out and see what happens from there. Minnesota's elected leaders gathered this year with the Vikings stadium issue looming over their their heads, the elephant in the room. And yet stadium opponents, led by Speaker of the House, Republican Kurt Zellers, did what they could to try to avoid the issue and not get a Vikings stadium bill done. There was a bill in place. There had been several deals in place before, in 2006 with Anoka County and a couple of years ago with Arden Hills. But this bill, led by several republicans both in the house and the senate, this was the best bill in years, with gambling funding portion and the Vikings willing to pay $427 million. Yet three weeks ago, the bill appeared dead and the Vikings future in Minnesota uncertain to say the least. L.A. here the Vikings come.
Minnesota has lost sports franchise before. They lost the NBA's Minneapolis Lakers to Los Angeles in 1960. Then in the early 1990s, they lost the NHL's Minnesota North Stars. The state of hockey lost a hockey team. How embarrassing and humiliating. But Minnesota was about to lose it's most beloved and popular team. The Vikings. Rallies and groups formed. Vikings fans campaigned at the capital. But what started this resurrection was a trip to the capital from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. No threats were made, but the message was clear: Build a new stadium or risk losing the Vikings. Then the wheels started to turn and the bill made its way through committee by committee, barely getting by in some instances. Enter this week and the scene at the capital. Hundreds of fans and construction workers wanting the jobs the construction of the stadium would bring chanted "Build It." The House met Monday, for eleven hours. The fans could be heard all over the Capital. The bill passed through the house. It went to the Senate Tuesday, where deliberation lasted for eight hours. Once again, the fans were loud. The bill passed. On to the special committee, where the bill's differences in the house and senate would be agreed upon. They asked the Wilfs for an extra $50 million upping their contribution to $477 million, something the Vikings had said at one point, they would not do to go beyond their cap of $427 million. The Wilfs obliged, for the good of Minnesota and to keep the franchise here in Minnesota. The revised bill went before the house late Wednesday night where they deliberated for two hours. Finally at 3:30 AM CT, the house passed the bill. One more hurdle to go. Finally, the moment all Vikings fans had been hoping for, shortly after 2:00 PM CT, the Senate voted yes and approved the bill. YES!!! YES!!! YES!!! Skol Vikings, the team's theme song could be heard throughout the capital and the state for that matter as Vikings fans rejoiced. Their team was staying. A new stadium would be built. Governor Dayton, your signature is all that's needed. One of the biggest cheerladers of the whole saga, Dayton will happily oblige. Now unless the Minneapolis City Council takes a bunch of stupid pills and elects to not support the bill, the new Vikings stadium has finally become a reality.
Now finally to the pros of the stadium. We're not going to focus on the negatives. Because really, there are not many. Was this bill that passed the house and the senate? No. No bill is. But this was very fair. Personally, I would have loved to see racino been added as a way to fund the stadium, but some of the tribes and casinos in Minnesota thought otherwise, as did plenty of legislatures. Gambling to fund a stadium? Plenty of people don't like it. Already, Minnesota elected officials are saying "it will destroy families" and "the funding won't be there" and "we'll have an I told you so moment." Yeah I'm talking to you Senator John Marty. The state's share of the cost will come from charitable gambling, including electronic bingo and pull tabs. You don't think people will play a little more to support this stadium? I think they will. They won't go outside their means, at least we hope most won't. Inevitably, some will. That's sad, but it's no different than alcohol abuse and if there were a tax on liquor.
Ok, so now we're really getting to the pros of the stadium. One, downtown Minneapolis will continue to thrive. All of the money the restaurants and hotels will see from Vikings fans is extroadinary. Ask any of them. They'll tell you that they see way more business when sporting and other events are in the downtown area. Don't forget a Super Bowl and Final Fours. What did the businesses and the local economy Indianapolis make in February for the Super Bowl? Wasn't it in the hundreds of millions of dollars. I think so. Not to mention what a new stadium can do in terms of bringing MLS to Minnesota. Add to that concerts and other events, the facility can be used all year round.
This is a source of pride for the state. The Vikings are the most popular team. They can now play in a facility where they will generate revenues that can make them a profit and compete with some of the better teams in the NFL. Don't you think a new stadium will be more pleasing to the eye in downtown? I think so. Really the new stadium's big pro is it's economic impact on the the region. Not to mention the state pride the Vikings bring. They are the most popular team for a reason. The state cares about them. Yes, could the money used for this stadium be used for education, health care, roads, etc.? Sure, but that is the excuse every year and it's not like the state of Minnesota has to put up $348 million in one year. They will spread this out over the next three decades. Perhaps, some elected officials don't understand that.
Am I a little biased when it comes to the stadium? Absolutely! I have been a staunch proponent of a new stadium for years. I see the benefits of a new stadium and see the success that other teams and other cities and communities have seen from getting a new stadium. Plus, it's about pride. The economic impact that the Vikings and a new stadium bring to Minnesota is huge.
So this is a day to celebrate. Celebrate the Vikings remaining a true NFC North team. Celebrate them being one of the best markets in the NFL in terms of the ratings. The Wilfs are committed to brining a championship to Minnesota. And now they have helped bring a world class facility to Minnesota that if everyone would stop and think about, is best for everyone involved. As the team song goes, skol vikings, let's skol!
Enjoy the weekend of NBA and NHL playoff games this weekend and the rest of the big sports events. And be sure to wish your mother a Happy Mother's Day.
Coming up Monday: Weekends biggest sports stories
Comments and suggestions on what to write about are always welcomed and appreciated.