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Buckle Up, Folks. . .Stadium Fight's A-Comin'

Everyone that's followed the Beloved Purple for the last handful of years knows of the difficulty that the Vikings have had in generating any serious discussions for a new football stadium.  Ever since Red McCombs bought the team in 1998, pushes have been made for a new venue to host Minnesota Vikings football, but the team has been unable to even get a bill out of committee to this point, never mind to an actual up or down vote of any sort.

This history made it a bit of a surprise that a week ago, the Minnesota state senate gave the green light to a study geared towards finding ways to replace the Metrodome.  Though the governor wasn't a fan of the proposed study, and it had its share of other opponents as well, it looked for a moment that there would actually be some substantive discussions towards a new football stadium in Minnesota.

You'll notice that I used the past tense there.  "Looked," not "looks."  I use that tense because yesterday, the Minnesota senate removed the provision for said study from the larger tax bill that it was originally part of.

Keep in mind for a moment that the study would have cost the taxpayers of Minnesota exactly zero dollars.  Every penny for the study would have come from the pockets of Zygi Wilf and the Minneapolis Sports Facilities Commission.  It would be presented at the 2009 legislative session.

Now, as I present my opinion on this, remember that I'm not an expert in any way, shape, or form.  I'm not an economist, I'm not a political scientist. . .hell, I'm not even a football expert.  In the grand scheme of things, I'm just some schmuck with a blog that loves his favorite football team.  I'm not a Minnesota resident, nor do I pay taxes in Minnesota. . .my ties to the state at this point are the family members I have that live there and the Vikings.  With that. . .

What in the blue hell is wrong with the Minnesota senate?  For them to snuff out a study that wouldn't have cost John Q. Public one red cent when they know the Vikings' lease expires in 2011. . .well, I agree with Lester Bagley, Vikings vice-president:

"We're disappointed with the signal it sends to the Vikings, to the ownership and to the NFL," he said.

He's right. . .it does send a message.  And that message appears to be "We don't give a damn if you're the most popular franchise in Minnesota and have been ever since your inception.  Feel free to go ahead and leave at your earliest convenience."

And you know what?  For the first time ever. . .I honestly have the feeling that that's exactly what's going to end up happening.  The state of Minnesota has made it clear that the Minnesota Vikings are not a priority.  I understand that the infrastructure of the Minneapolis/St. Paul area needs to be improved, and obviously that should take priority.  But over the course of the last few years, bills have been passed for

-A new stadium for the Minnesota Twins
-A new stadium for the Minnesota Golden Gophers
-A new hockey stadium that now houses the Minnesota Wild
-An expansion for the Mall of America

But the Vikings aren't even going to be allowed to have any substantive discussion for a new venue?  Absolutely, positively, mind-numbingly stupid, if you ask me.

Yes, Zygi Wilf is a rich man. . .yes, Zygi Wilf isn't hurting for money, and there's a very good likelihood that he could build a brand new stadium all by himself.  But Zygi Wilf also isn't stupid.  He knows damn well that if Minnesota won't buy him a new stadium, there will be plenty of places that would be willing to take him with welcome arms. . .places that would be far more profitable to him than extending a lease agreement with the Metrodome.  Cities like Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Antonio. . .hell, even Toronto.

Now, there are the high and mighty types out there that will blow the horn about "not supporting billionaires with their tax dollars."  Those people, in my humble yet slightly biased opinion, can feel free to blow it out their ass.  The people of Minnesota had no problem giving Carl Pohlad some of their tax dollars.  He said that the Twins needed a new stadium to remain economically viable.  Bear in mind, this was the guy that volunteered the Twins for contraction a few years ago.  So he got his new stadium, and the first move he made with his team's newfound "economic viability" was. . .to trade away his team's best and most recognizable player rather than giving him a contract consummate with his value?

Yep. . .meet the new Twins.  Same as the old Twins.  But hey, Carl Pohlad's worthy of millions of Minnesota's taxpayer dollars.  Surrrrrrrrrrrrre he is.

The Vikings want a stadium with a retractable roof on it.  Every plan that has been presented to this point has featured a retractable roof.  Why?  Because the Vikings AND the city of Minneapolis know full well that this building, when built, can't be a specialized facility just for Vikings football.  It needs to be able to be used year-round for numerous different events.  Heck, what's the Twins' new stadium going to be used for during the off-season?  Snowmobile racing?  Oh, and isn't there some big event in St. Paul this summer sometime?  Some Republican National Convention or something like that?  I wonder why they picked St. Paul, of all places. . .it certainly wouldn't have anything to do with that gorgeous new hockey arena that was built there recently, would it?  You know, the one that was built entirely with public funds?

Remember the glorious time of 1991 and 1992 when Minneapolis hosted the World Series, the Super Bowl, the Final Four, the Stanley Cup Finals, and the NBA All-Star Game all in the span of 12 months?  There is absolutely, positively no chance in hell of that ever. . .EVER. . .happening again as long as we have the current facilities that Minneapolis has.  And lest you think that's not a big deal, keep this in mind:

Super Bowl XL, which was held in cold-weather Detroit at their brand new Ford Field. . .in a city that is, quite frankly, not nearly as nice as Minneapolis (your mileage may vary). . .was estimated to have made the city of Detroit somewhere between $250 and $350 million dollars (depending on your source).  Prior to his retirement, Paul Tagliabue all but promised the city of Minneapolis another Super Bowl if they got a new stadium built, and I have no reason to think that Roger Goodell couldn't deliver the same thing.

Is Minneapolis so damn principled and so damn high and mighty that they think their economy couldn't stand to have more than a quarter of a billion dollars pumped into it?  I sure as hell hope not.

To be blunt, folks, this thing needs to get done.  Every year this matter gets put off, it leaves Minnesota one step closer to being sans football.  Every year this matter gets put off, the cost of any potential stadium gets more expensive.  Somewhere, someone's going to give this football team a new facility, and it may or may not necessarily be anybody in Minnesota.  The Minnesota state senate needs to wake up to this fact, pull their thumbs out, and get something done.