Progress towards design, placement, funding and construction of a new football stadium in the Twin Cities resembles a Shriners’ dragon snaking its way along a summer parade route. The locomotive power of the thing is provided by scores of constituent members proceeding blindly, led by one person who makes his way by the sight of one eye, possessing no brakes or steering apparatus over it. It bumps up against its audience along the street from time to time and issues forth a cloud of smoke with a great hiss. There is an atmosphere of anonymous hilarity, and more than a little suggestion of intoxication. (This metaphor veers uncomfortably close to characterizing the functioning of democracy in general, an observation we will set aside for now.)
A majority of the members of the Minneapolis City Council oppose the new stadium, apparently, on the principle that any expenditure of tax dollars must flow through the public employee unions, supposedly to the benefit of the poor and, of course, children. The dollars that this project would funnel into good jobs over three or four years for the construction unions apparently will not deliver sufficient benefit to the public. One member, Sandra Colvin Ray, was moved to reference Occupy Minnesota as her inspiration for opposing the stadium. (Perhaps she feels the heroic occupiers should be first in line for any new public restroom facilities.)
From the other end of the political spectrum, out state legislators have groused about the continuance of hospitality taxes, which nick their constituents when they wish to spend a night frisking about in the big city. Perhaps the silliest input from out state came from Republican senators who suggested that the Vikings should borrow the state’s share from Minnesota government. Such a move, they speculate, would inspire private enterprise to step up and “partner” with the Wilfs.
Thus there is no end of dumb ideas and lame rhetoric from all sides of this issue. The inescapable fact, however, is that the stadium in question has become more or less necessary infrastructure in any first tier urban area. The Vikings, who will not own nor run it, will require its use for ten football dates, including exhibition games, and possibly for playoffs. (It appears that the Wilfs, unlike the impossibly cheesy, tightfisted Red McCombs, appear ready to shell out for the draft choices and free agents necessary to rebuild the Purple.) The rest of the time, a municipal stadium commission will make dates to host such marquee events as NCAA basketball, the Super Bowl, high school and college tournaments, etc. Do not forget the essential Monster Truck events, and various races.
For this key contribution to a vital downtown metro area, Minneapolitans will have only to put up with the redirection of hospitality taxes in place, no new ones, a measly $150 million up front. The state’s share, $398 million from electronic pull tab gambling, will not require any new taxes either, will benefit private charities, and have aroused no opposition from the tribes and their gaming interests.
And for the “let the billionaires and millionaires build their own playpen” faction, the Vikings and NFL will provide the lion’s share of the funding, $427 million. What’s not to like here? – no new taxes either metro or out state, no new gambling, and a continuance of the enormous amount of tax dollars paid by NFL players and ownership, which would leave the state along with the Vikings, a near certainty without a new dome.
It is perhaps true that the Wilfs and the Vikings could afford to build their own stadium, but they certainly won’t. That is not the competitive situation across the NFL, like it or not. Major cities without NFL franchises, starting with LA, are desperate for them and will pay what it costs. The LA Vikings will be immediately a much more valuable franchise than the Minnesota Vikings. This will soon occur to Zygi Wilf, the fox. We need to secure the Vikings for the next 30 years with a new stadium now.