Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Should the public build a stadium for the Vikings?

This is an issue that is near and dear to my heart but I suspect that the people who know me will be shocked at which side I support.

I am a life-long sports fan and have passionately followed the ups and downs of the Vikings ever since I moved to Minnesota in the 1960s. They have provided me with many hours of enjoyment and even more hours of anguish. I have supported building a new stadium in Minneapolis for the Vikings ever since it was first proposed about 10 years ago. I have closely followed the debate and have read and considered the arguments from both sides.

The stadium proponents argue that the Vikings are the most popular professional team in Minnesota, have been a major part of the fabric of Minnesota culture for 50 years, play in an outmoded stadium that does not provide the amenities expected from modern sports stadia, would provide well-paying construction jobs and thousands of service jobs in surrounding hotels and restaurants, and have waited patiently while the public built new stadiums for the Gophers and the Twins.

The stadium opponents basic argument is that we can't afford to waste public money building a new palace for the Vikings when they have a perfectly serviceable stadium in the Metrodome and the state of Minnesota probably has a $5 billion shortfall over the next biennium.

Part of the problem is that the just proposed stadium bill is vague on specifics like where the stadium should be built, how much public money would go into the stadium, and where would the public money come from - taxes and fees on sports fans or sales tax increases.

As an individual sports fan, I have no objection to paying a small increase in taxes for a limited number of years to insure that the Vikings stay in Minnesota but I also understand the anger of people who wonder why we are talking about cutting all kinds of services for average citizens and at the same time contemplating spending almost a billion dollars to increase the profitability of a private business. I would love to see the Vikings stay in Minnesota but have to admit that now is not a good time to spend that kind of public money on something as frivolous as professional sports. It's definitely not fair that the Twins and Gophers got new stadia while the Vikings did not and I do believe that the Vikings will probably end up in Los Angeles as a result of bumbling and inaction by the legislature but now is not the time to build another stadium.

By the way, I am beginning to believe that the Wilfs don't want to stay in Minnesota. When you look at the way this whole process has been mishandled by the Vikings organization, it sure appears suspicious. The new bill is a vague travesty and the Vikings show no interest in attempting to deal with the many legitimate questions raised by concerned voters and legislators. I think that the Wilfs believe, probably correctly, that they can make a lot more money in LA than they could in the Twin Cities. But they can't just pick up and move. They have to have the permission of the rest of the league. That is why they are pretending to want a new stadium in Minnesota. They need to be able to say to the rest of the league that they tried their best but that Minnesota just wasn't cooperating.

I'm very much afraid we will be waving goodbye to the Vikings in 2011. I guess I'll just have to start rooting for the Pack. And that's not all bad. They are a much more successful organization than the Vikings and are owned by average citizens rather than out of state millionaires.


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