The Minnesota Vikings have wanted a new stadium for over 10 years, and they wanted the state to pay for part of it. After much wailing and gnashing of teeth, the state of Minnesota said they needed to do two things, and the state would pay up to $300 million towards a new facility:
1) Find a local partner that has a way to finance approximately one third of the cost
2) Get a location
The Vikings did that. They partnered with Ramsey County, who proposed a 1/2 cent sales tax to raise their portion, the Vikings will contribute $400 million, and the state would kick in their $300 million. Let's play ball in Arden Hills!
Boys and girls, I think we've officially entered what we call the 'Crisis Stage'.
Because Mark Dayton, Kurt Zellers, and Amy Koch just gave the Vikings the finger earlier today.
If there has been one roadblock put up to stop the Vikings from getting this Arden Hills stadium, there have been a dozen. I won't detail them here, but there has been strident opposition since the day the Vikings announced this plan.
Those of you that read this site or have kept up with the stadium know that if a county wants to impose a sales tax increase, they have to put it before the voters in a referendum. The next time a voter referendum could be on the ballot is in 2012. Unless the legislature votes to waive that requirement, which they did for Target Field.
And that would be okay, with just a couple of tiny points of contention: The Vikings lease with the Metrodome expires some 10 months before a vote on a referendum could take place, and there's no plan in place to replace that money. So one of the key parts to this deal was to waive the referendum. But Republican leaders in the House and Senate said there isn't support to vote for waiving the referendum. And Dayton rolled over on it.
Tom Powers said it best in the Pioneer Press:
Without some type of follow-up action, Tuesday's announcement basically was one big "drop dead" to the Vikings organization. Not a very subtle one, either.
Because Powers writes for a family paper, he has to say 'drop dead'. Because this is Chris' neighborhood, yo, and he isn't a big fan of the harsh language, I can't tell you what my phrase would be, but let's just say it rhymes with 'duck poo'.
Personally, I think there's stuff a lot more nefarious going on here--are the politicos subtly forcing the Vikings into Minneapolis?
I personally believe that the power players in the Capitol would almost rather see the Vikings leave Minnesota altogether as opposed to leave Minneapolis and re-locate into St. Paul, because the Minneapolis Mafia is still butthurt about losing the North Stars and seeing the Wild come back to the X...which is in St. Paul. And when they said they weren't players for a Vikings stadium, they essentially called Wilf's bluff on a new stadium. They gambled that there wasn't another county in Minnesota that could come up with a way to raise the $350 million required from a local county government, and they never felt Wilf would ever move the Vikings. So they probably thought they could force Wilf to do what they want when they wanted in terms of building a new stadium in Minneapolis.
But when Wilf said 'duck poo' to Minneapolis and struck a deal with Ramsey County, they were furious--and embarrassed. I would almost bet my bottom dollar that there were meetings in back rooms all over Minneapolis, and the power players decided they were going to bend over Wilf and make him dance to their tune.
And this is the song I think they're playing:
1) Further on in Powers' column, he states that "at least now there appears to be unity among our elected officials. They realize that the end is drawing near and they need to get off the dime", but I am of the opinion that there won't be a workable solution that makes everyone happy to finance a plan in Arden Hills, and that will be by design. I mean, this is the same legislature that voted to eliminate the referendum for the Twins stadium...because Target Field was built in Minneapolis...yet now, mysteriously, there isn't the 'political will' to do the same goddamn thing for the Vikings. My contention is there is no political will because the stadium is currently planned to be built in Ramsey County.
2) Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak's people almost immediately began pimping the financing plan Minneapolis wants to forward--a plan that the Vikings have rejected out of hand, by the way. So what is the plan? From the Strib:
The mayor’s second funding option for a Minneapolis stadium, garnering funds from a downtown casino, would hinge on some money going to the Target Center and securing the "financial future of the Convention Center." Rybak also wants any gambling revenues to help benefit urban Native Americans.
Here's what I think is going to happen, and I think it will end badly if my theory is, in fact, accurate:
1) A political alliance will soon form around this financing plan, but there will be a catch. And that catch will be that the stadium location has to be moved in to Minneapolis if the financing plan is to be approved in the Legislature.
2) The Vikings want Arden Hills. The Metrodome site isn't workable, and the Farmer's Market site is nothing more than a theory right now, but mark my words, the political class will coalesce around one of those two sites. My guess is the Farmer's Market, because the Vikes have flatly rejected the Metrodome site for a bunch of reasons.
3) The Vikings will be forced to either accept this revised plan that keeps the Vikes in Minnesota, but is less than the ideal plan that is currently on the table in Ramsey County or reject it and move.
4) Wilf sells or moves the team, because these plans are, at least right now, unworkable.
In my opinion, this isn't about what's best for the state of Minnesota, the fans of the Vikings, or the team. This is about the local Minneapolis power players 'beating' Wilf at this point. Wilf out smarted them and found a willing partner outside of Minneapolis, that pissed them off, and they're going to make Wilf take a bad deal or try and take the blame as The Guy Who Moved The Vikings.
And in reality, if the Vikings leave, it will be everybody BUT the fault of Zygmunt Wilf.