Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - After enduring a season marred by a
record-setting amount of losses, the Minnesota Vikings are inching closer
toward capturing what may be the most significant victory in the franchise's
over 50-year history.
A major hurdle to the Vikings' long-term existence in Minnesota was
potentially cleared when both components of the state legislature approved a
controversial plan to construct a new stadium in downtown Minneapolis this
week, though a host of revisions to the initial proposal still has the team's
future residency in the Land of 10,000 Lakes on somewhat thin ice.
The bill was passed by the Minnesota House of Representatives on Monday, but
only after the Vikings' contribution to the estimated $975 million project was
raised from $427 million to $532 million. The Senate voted to ease the club's
burden to $452 million -- still a $25 million increase over the original
agreement -- but tacked on a set of user fees on stadium amenities that would
reduce the team's cut of game-day proceeds while defraying the state's portion
of the cost.
Suffice to say, the Vikings aren't enamored with the legislature's audible,
and they appear to have a reasonable gripe. The $427 million that the Wilf
family, the team's majority owner, had previously consented to paying would be
the third-highest sum of private funds allotted to the construction of an NFL
stadium, and count for roughly 44 percent of the venue's estimated cost.
In comparison, nearly three quarters of the price tag on Target Field, the
beautiful ballpark that became home to Major League Baseball's Minnesota Twins
in 2010, was paid for by public money.
In addition to applying fees on parking, selected team-oriented merchandise
and stadium suite purchases or rentals, the Senate also rejected a stipulation
that would have given the Wilfs a five-year exclusive-rights window to pursue
a Major League Soccer team that would play in the new stadium. The lawmakers
may have drawn the NFL's ire as well after putting in a provision that would
prohibit local television blackouts at the facility in the event a Vikings
game doesn't sell out.
The changes are enough to make a Vikings organization that has been admirably
patient throughout the drawn-out process of trying to build a replacement for
the outdated Metrodome seriously weigh all of its options, and there's one
very lucrative one that could be on the table. Los Angeles has made no secret
of its desire to rejoin the NFL fray by luring an existing team, and the
prospect of having the second-largest market in the United States as part of
its footprint once again is an idea that has obvious appeal to the league as
The NFL would rather the Vikings not be that team, however, which was made
clear by commissioner Roger Goodell's visit to the Minnesota State Capitol
last month to lobby for a revival of the stadium bill. And with the Vikings no
longer bound to the Twin Cities (their lease with the Metrodome expired at the
conclusion of this past season), the fact that the Wilfs have continued to
push hard for a new stadium strongly indicates their willingness to remain in
That preference to stay doesn't seem to be lost on the public officials
trying their best to bleed as much as they can from the Vikings, while
attempting to appease both the proponents and staunch combatants of a very
hot-button topic in the process.
They just better make sure they don't overplay their hand.
No one would have believed in a state where hockey is a religion that the
NHL's North Stars would have bolted Bloomington for the greener pastures of
Texas back in 1993. But a combination of low attendance, a failure to upgrade
existing facilities and an out-of-town owner without any sentimental ties to
the area caused the unthinkable to actually happen.
Nearly two decades later, Minnesota finds itself in an eerily similar
predicament. The Metrodome's age and lack of a sufficient supply of luxury
boxes and club seating have placed the Vikings near the bottom of the NFL in
total revenue, and primary owner Zygi Wilf is a New Jersey native who's not a
resident of the Gopher State.
And after politely allowing their stadium issue to be placed on the back
burner for years while the Twins and the University of Minnesota were each
green-lighted for publicly funded new buildings, it's hard to blame the
Vikings for being a little antsy and ticked off.
"The last governor said in 2006 we'll come back and work on yours next year,"
Vikings vice president of public affairs and stadium development Lester Bagley
told the St. Paul Pioneer Press in April. "That was six years ago. No action
this year is a decision."
The events of the past few days are signs of tangible progress, however, and
the prospect of some sort of compromise being reached seems much more
attainable today than it did a week or two ago.
Still, with plenty of strong opposition to the project despite the economic
benefits (namely, a possible Super Bowl in the future) that both the stadium
and its construction will provide, and the legislature scheduled to adjourn
for the remainder of the year on May 21, the outcome remains very much touch-
In other words, the Vikings are about to run the most critical two-minute
drill they've ever had.
The Sports Network