The only time the State of Minnesota has ever kicked in for a stadium was the Metrodome, which was built on the cheap, which could help explain why its roof collapsed in December. With the Twins begging to get a new stadium, the Legislature turned its back on them. It was only after the Twins allowed themselves to be contracted from Major League Baseball that Hennepin County got aggressive and was able to get Target Field built. The state did nothing to help the process.
The Vikings' stadium deal remains contingent on getting the state to kick in $300 million in order to keep NFL football in Minnesota, and likely more for roadway improvements in the area. That proposition may be more difficult than it might appear, especially for those who were popping champagne corks after Tuesday's announcement.
Stadium details are beginning to emerge from the agreement reached with the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners. The stadium would seat 65,000 people and would be scheduled to open in June 2015. It would include 150 luxury suites. The county would buy 430 acres from the U.S. Army and Zygi Wilf would buy an adjoining 170 acres. The complex would include much more than just a stadium. It would also include many of the same amenities that were planned for the Anoka County stadium site four years ago – a series of restaurants, retail stores, a residential area, a movie theatre, a year-round Vikings Hall of Fame similar to the type at Lambeau Field, training facilities that could potentially replace Winter Park and something called a "Festival Plaza" – presumably a food-merchandise area similar to what the team does in Mankato during training camp.
The Vikings would run the day-to-day operations of the stadium (or contract that job out), but a five-member stadium authority appointed by the governor/Ramsey County/City of Arden Hills, would oversee the uses and keep the stadium publicly owned.
Under the proposal, the stadium authority would have the ability to charge seat license fees, which has helped defray some of the public costs of several other NFL stadiums. The Vikings, however, would retain naming rights. Perhaps the most lucrative deal for stadium naming rights came in Los Angeles for a new stadium to lure an NFL team, Farmers Insurance signed a 30-year deal that will pay more than $23 million a year ($700 million total). That is an enormous number, but, given the time frame, in 20 years, that price may be a bargain. It isn't realistic to think the Vikings would get that, but perhaps could lock down a deal similar to the one Pennsylvania-based ketchup giant Heinz paid out to be the home of the Steelers. A $57 million deal has the company locked into a naming rights deal through 2021 that averages a little less than $3 million a year – not huge money, but a nice annual return on an investment, especially given the upward turn in the non-existent L.A. stadium naming rights. Some other annual naming right averages include Carolina (Bank of America Stadium, $7 million annually through 2024), St. Louis (Edward Jones Dome, $2.65 million, 2013), Detroit (Ford Field, $1 million 2042) and Denver (Invesco Field, $6.7 million, 2021).
Under the deal, the Vikings would commit $407 million to the project. If the stadium comes in under budget, the Vikings would realize the first $41 million of savings and team and county would split equally any amount more than that.
The agreement would leave the Vikings responsible for the maintenance of the stadium, but the team would be able to keep stadium-generated revenue, including parking and signage. The team would pay for all public services, including security, traffic control and fire protection.
While the Vikings and Ramsey County have reached an agreement, the state remains the lone stumbling block. However, if there has ever been a scenario under which a state "owes" it to a sports team to help fund a new stadium, it would have to be in this instance.
The state said it wouldn't go 50-50 on any stadium. The Vikings would have to contribute $350 million. They did. In fact, their current number is $57 million above that price tag. They were told they would have to find a local partner. They did. The state said the Vikings and their local partner would have to make sure the state didn't kick in more than $300 million. They did (if you don't count the roadways portion).
Every hurdle the state has put in front of the stadium, the Vikings have met or exceeded. There isn't much more the Vikings can do in order to make it as palatable as possible for the state to sign off. If the stadium dies now, it would be on the Legislature. The Vikings had numerous hurdles placed in front of them and successfully jumped over all of them.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.