Six months ago, nobody wanted anything to do with a new Vikings stadium. Whether the collapse of the Metrodome roof had anything to do with the sense of urgency or the end of the 30-year lockdown the state had on the Vikings in a league-sponsored (and signed) lease agreement, the competition to keep the team has become not only fierce, but partisan.
In Saturday's Minneapolis Star-Tribune, political reporter Mike Kaszuba interviewed Gov. Mark Dayton, who said he may not be convinced that the deal cut between the Vikings and Ramsey County may be the best deal for all of Minnesota.
Whether it was a savvy political statement to appease the real movers and shakers of Minnesota politics or a legitimate stumbling block is yet to be determined. While unclear how the questions were phrased – a good question often elicits a good answer – Dayton said he thinks the Vikings got a good deal with Ramsey County to agree to a stadium authority that would have limited power in determinations considering the Arden Hills property.
"I could see why that would be appealing to the Vikings," Dayton said. "I don't know why Ramsey County agreed to it."
Dayton added that he has concerns about the authority vested in as-of-yet unnamed/unmanned stadium commission – would it be a figurehead rather than an active and equal participant? – saying, "The way it is now, this narrow (stadium) authority of five people just deeds it over to the Vikings to run and realize all revenues and everything else."
While the powers of the future stadium authority appear to be admittedly weak, there is a bigger surrounding picture to be considered. Does the Xcel Energy Center (also in Ramsey County) only benefit the Wild? The resounding answer is "no." If you build it, they will come. Building it will provide jobs to get said building done.
Any neighborhood around an NFL stadium is abuzz with business and commerce. If legislators need an example of such an ancillary surrounding development, a Google Map of Lambeau Field should suffice. In almost concentric circles, development around the stadium has built over the years. When Bloomington was the home of the Vikings and Twins, there were vast open spaces in the city. That quickly went away – from the stadium out – with one exception. For years after Met Stadium closed, there was a very modest two-story home visible beyond the center field fence, with what used to be a cornfield attached. The person who sold that property made millions. Not like one, more like eight figures. He was at Sutter's Mill at the right time.
The same would be true with Arden Hills.
The current economic breakdown isn't the Great Depression. The "money men" of Minnesota still have their cash. It would be naïve to think that developers haven't made target inquiries around the proposed Arden Hills site and are looking to gobble up nearby properties because the buzz surrounding a major venue like a stadium that could potentially host a Super Bowl brings with it untold income. A lot of businesses make money as the direct result of having the Vikings, Twins, Wild and, to a much lesser extent, Timberwolves in the local economy. People spend a lot of money outside of the price of a ticket. Nearby bars are full, as people find bar prices more palatable to get their drink on than $8 beers inside the stadium. Businesses with parking lots rake in hundreds of thousands of dollars parking cars at $15-40 a pop. Fans leaving the stadium will fill their gas tanks and drop $25 on "essentials" to get home that the local gas station wouldn't make otherwise. A lot of money changes hands with the NFL a long way from the stadium site itself.
Is Ramsey County sticking its neck out on this deal? As Minnesotans are wont to say, "You betcha." But, considering the revenue that can and will be generated not only on the stadium property but in the surrounding land that is currently not being utilized, questions surrounding the cost of road improvements should be balanced against the revenue that will be generated by developing a currently underdeveloped area.
A singular example: to build one restaurant, an architectural firm gets paid to draw up the plans. Construction workers are employed to move ground and build it. Electrical contractors and their employees get jobs. So does a sprinkler system company, a restaurant supply company, a security camera company and numerous other tradespeople that are brought in to complete the job from the roofing to the flooring. Then the restaurant hires employees. All these people pay taxes off their incomes to the State of Minnesota. And that's just one restaurant.
While Gov. Dayton, who campaigned in part on a pledge to keep the Vikings in Minnesota, may be serving his well-to-do friends in the shadows by hemming and hawing to the local media about a stadium bill, there is a growing belief that the underground political machine may flex its muscles and torpedo the stadium deal.
The price of poker is going up in Minnesota politics. Friday just pulled the noose tighter. The Vikings are now in the middle of a battle that didn't exist until a month ago and they may end up as the biggest loser.
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.