With optimism coming from the NFL that it would help contribute to the stadium, Senate Minorty Leader Tom Bakk (DFL-Cook) said it seems clear to those in political power that the Arden Hills site is the only option, but expressed significant doubts that a stadium deal will be approved by the close of the current session May 23.
It's almost laughable that the state still refers to extra time to get their work done as "special." They had two last year, one to pass a budget and another to provide flood disaster relief. They had one in 2007. They had one in 2005 that took nearly two months. They had them in 2003, 2001 and 1998. They had three in 1997, as well special sessions in 1995, 1994 and 1993.
In the last 18 years, the Legislature has called a special session 14 times. At what point do they just change the name to "typical extra session?" When you're batting .778, how special are these sessions? They're expected.
Gov. Mark Dayton has indicated that he won't call a "typical extra session" simply for the stadium issue, but he can't claim a lack of precedence.
Back in 1997, the Gang of 10 Vikings owners were on their way out and it was clear the Vikings were going to get sold. At the time, there was a mini-wave of NFL franchise relocations. From 1964-94, only three NFL franchises had relocated. Crazy Al Davis took the Raiders from Oakland to L.A. The Irsay family moved the Colts out of Baltimore in the middle of the night in 1984 and, in 1998, tight-fisted Bill Bidwell, a man of a Calvin Griffth-type stinginess who never met a dollar he didn't like to keep, held the City of St. Louis hostage to pay all the costs of a stadium and, when that fell felt, he fled to the open arms of Arizona, which helped build him a palace in the desert.
They were owners that were a little too mavericky for their time, but, in the end, Oakland, St. Louis and Baltimore all got NFL teams back. Minnesota might not be so fortunate without a stadium. But, in 1997, there was a Wild West mentality taking over.
After witnessing just three franchises move in the previous 30 years, four teams moved in three years. In 1995, the Raiders headed back north to Oakland and the Rams moved to St. Louis. In 1996, Art Modell was burned in effigy in Cleveland after letting the city keep the names and colors, but moving the players they loved to Baltimore. In 1997, Houston, one of the financially strong NFL franchises left there to go to Tennessee with the promise of untold riches.
The Minnesota Legislature met from Oct. 23-Nov. 14, 1997 in special session, ostensibly to discuss funding for a baseball stadium. Instead, the only resolution adopted was to support a national effort to repeal antitrust statutes that would greatly prevent sports franchises (private businesses within the borders of the United States and Canada) from having the ability to leave a community. What follows is what they wrote into law:
WHEREAS, professional sports can play an important role in the social and cultural atmosphere of a community; and
WHEREAS, various communities seek to have professional sports franchises; and
WHEREAS, the use of public resources to encourage professional sports franchises to relocate from one community to another is a form of counterproductive economic competition that produces overall detriment to all states, while providing potential unjust enrichment to the owners of these franchises; and
WHEREAS, community ownership of professional sports franchises have the potential to maximize the social, cultural, and economic advantages of sports franchises to a community, while minimizing threats of relocation that result in counterproductive economic competition; and
WHEREAS, certain professional sports leagues and associations have adopted policies that prohibit or restrict community ownership of professional sports franchises; and
WHEREAS, federal laws and policies, such as exemption from antitrust laws, contribute to economic inefficiency and to wasteful use of public resources;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Legislature of the State of Minnesota that it strongly urges the Minnesota congressional delegation to support legislative efforts in Congress that will:
(1) discourage movement of professional sports franchises, including prohibiting the use of public resources in connection with this movement;
(2) prohibit professional sports leagues from forbidding community ownership of professional sports franchises;
(3) tax benefits that are provided by the public to professional sports franchises; and
(4) repeal antitrust exemptions for professional sports.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED by the Legislature of the State of Minnesota that it strongly urges the governors and legislatures in the other states to promulgate this message.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Secretary of State of the State of Minnesota is directed to prepare copies of this memorial and transmit them to the President and the Secretary of the United States Senate, the Speaker and the Clerk of the United States House of Representatives, the governors and the presiding officers of both houses of the legislature of each of the other states of the Union, and Minnesota's Senators and Representatives in Congress.
Presented to the governor November 3, 1997
Filed with the Secretary of State November 5, 1997
While their decision seemed a little heavy-handed, it made no mention of a new baseball stadium or its funding – as the rationale for calling the session was explained by the state's Office of the Revisor of Statutes. It was pointed directly at the Vikings and the growing franchise movement in the NFL. No Major League Baseball team had relocated in the previous 25 years. Four had already gone in the previous three years and the Vikings looked be next.
At the time, the Vikings ownership group was splintering and then-head coach Dennis Green was creating a buzz with the writing of a too-soon autobiography about his chance to buy the Vikings through a lawsuit and an unknown money cartel that may or may not be hypothetical.
The Legislature was in a panic. It fired off as big a bomb as it owned to keep the 10 local businessmen from being wooed away – Los Angeles was without a team and the Lakers were proof it could happen. However, in between the rhetoric and the venom comes the one point that shouldn't be missed.
Check out those "WHEREAS" statements again. They spell out in state resolution form how important professional sports are to a community. To them. Hopefully some of them will review that resolution and get on the ball or, as they have done in the past, call a special session to discuss stadium funding before the Vikings lease at the Metrodome runs out.
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.